Allergy Friendly Thanksgiving: From our Table to Yours

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is right around the corner! 

Is it just me or do you feel like things speed up this time of year?  I’m still snacking on leftover Halloween candy and now it’s time to baste the turkey. 

I must admit, while I have some recipes that are old standbys such as macaroni and cheese that I do not and will not change, I enjoy perusing recipes like those on Our Fave Recipes…Yum! to find new dishes to prepare.  Sharing a meal and stories with family and friends is fun for me and something I enjoy.

I realize that this is not so for everyone.  In fact, some people would rather….well never mind.  To some the thought of celebrating Thanksgiving is scary and stressful, especially if it involves eating away from home, keeping your children with food allergies safe, and visiting relatives who don’t understand the seriousness of food allergies.

Holiday feasts don’t have to get your turkey in a twist!  Here are a few tips from our table to yours…

As the mother of two children with life threatening food allergies who has experienced the last 12 Thanksgivings with friends, extended family and children with food allergies, I thought I would share some words of advice with you that have helped us over the years.  I also asked my boys what advice they have for other kids and my parents, who have cooked many allergy friendly meals, what advice they have for those preparing the meal.

Here are our lists-

From my boys:

  • Ask your mom or dad to make something special to take.
  • Ask your grandparents if they can cook something you can eat.
  • If there is something you can’t have, don’t eat it even if it looks good!
  • Ask your grandparents about the ingredients in the food.
  • Even if you don’t feel like going because you can’t eat all of the food, go anyway and hang out with your cousins.

From my parents:

  • Find out what allergies your guests have and adapt recipes to accommodate them.  For example use cream of chicken soup in macaroni and cheese or a small can of creamed corn in cornbread to replace eggs.
  • Ask if they have ever had a reaction to a food.  Either don’t prepare that item or place it away from the allergic person.
  • Find out what kind of food they like and what foods they eat at home so that you can prepare some of their favorites.

From me:

  • If you are dining at someone else’s home, call them as early as possible to inquire about the menu and inform them of your child’s allergies.

Ask what they would like you to bring.  If they are understanding of your child’s allergies, you may want to go over the ingredients of certain dishes with them to determine if safe.  If they are hesitant, consider bringing your child’s food and/or eating beforehand.  If you do not feel that your child will be safe, it may be best to visit after the meal or at another time.

  • Bring food that is safe for your child.

If we are going someplace where I don’t know if the food is safe for my children, we eat before visiting or I bring a main dish and a dessert that is safe for my children and enough for others to enjoy.  This way, they are included and I know that they will have a safe meal.  For example, I just had a milestone birthday party for my mother which included a beautiful cake from the bakery.  I made safe Oreo Truffles and doubled the recipe so that I had enough for everyone and they were a huge hit!

  • Consider hosting the event at your home so that you have more control over the food. 

I have been hosting holiday dinners for years which is much more comfortable for me, our guests and my children.  Although my mother and I cook most of the food, our friends and extended family bring dishes as well.

When they ask what to bring, I suggest beverages, side dishes with minimal sauces such as mashed potatoes and green beans or appetizers such as shrimp cocktail.  I ask for the ingredients of the food beforehand and we discuss what is safe.

If they are contributing a packaged food,  I request that they bring the bag or the ingredient label.  If the guest is someone who is not as familiar with allergies and they insist on bringing something, I only request that the item is nut free and instruct my kids not to eat it.  I do allow desserts with eggs to come into my home; however I put them at one end of the table and inform my kids to avoid them.

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I hope these hints from my family have given you some ideas.  With time, you will find what works for you and your family.  Put the snack sized treats away (unless they are really good!), and enjoy the sweet and savory flavors and time honored festivities of the holiday season.

Wishing you and your family a safe and

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice based on your experiences? Have I overlooked anything?  Share your thoughts in the comments below…

Donna DeCosta, MD ( @foodallermomdoc ) is founder of FoodAllergyMomDoc an online community dedicated to supporting the Food Allergy Circle with tips, ideas and resources.

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