Thanksgiving and Food Allergies
Holidays are always a fun time of year, but as we all know holidays come with stress too. Having food allergies just piles on even more stress. Here are a few tips to help navigate this Thanksgiving if you or a loved one has food allergies.
1.) Be on the look-out for hidden food allergens.
The top 8 food allergens are cow’s milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. These account for more than 90% of all food allergic reactions in the US. Some of these seem easier to spot than others, but with some recipes you never know. It is always best to ask how the meal is prepared if you did not make it. Here are some common “sneaky” food allergens in traditional Thanksgiving cuisine.
Turkey. Turkey seems like it would be the safest option. It is clearly not one of the top 8 allergens. While it seems hard to hide food allergens in turkey, they can be hidden in the baste or gravy. The baste or bouillon cubes often contain soy. Many people add wheat to their gravy.
Potatoes. Most mashed potato recipes use some kind of cow’s milk in it whether it be milk, cream, or some kind of cheese. Sweet potato casseroles will often have nuts in them. Sweet potatoes can also have marshmallows which contain gelatin. Gelatin is made from the bones, ligaments, and tendons usually of cows or pigs. Some people who have an alpha-gal allergy (allergy to mammalian meat) can react to marshmallows.
Stuffing. Stuffing is bread-based so obviously contains wheat. Sometimes butter is used in stuffing. Egg can be used to bind all the ingredients together. Depending on the recipes sometimes soy or tree nuts may be used. Make sure to ask what was used in the stuffing or just avoid it to be safe.
Vegetables. Green bean casserole can be staple in some households for Thanksgiving. (You won’t find it in mine. My husband will eat anything but green beans. Lol!) Milk or cream of mushroom soap is often used to prepare this. Some people top green bean casserole with breadcrumbs. If there is a hollandaise sauce for asparagus or other vegetables, this contains eggs.
Cranberry Sauce. Cranberry sauce is most likely to be the safest out of the traditional Thanksgiving fare. Usually this will contain cranberries, sugar, and water. Some people will add nuts or other unusual ingredients so make sure to ask first.
Pies and Dessert. Pie crusts often have wheat, eggs, and dairy. There are ways to make allergy-free versions. Obviously, pecan pie has tree nuts, but other desserts can have nuts as well. Pumpkin pie can contain condensed milk. Cheesecake is dairy based.
You can check out the following websites for allergy-friendly recipes:
2.) Safety Tips When Preparing the Meal at Home
Read the labels in all the food ingredients. You can even take a picture of the labels if you are having guests over just in case anyone asks.
Consider making the safe foods first and then putting them in a separate area before making any unsafe foods.
Use separate utensils for preparing and serving the dishes to avoid cross contamination.
Clean all prep areas and eating areas thoroughly to make sure there are no residual food allergens present.
Consider making a plate for your food allergy child ahead of time to be safe. Alternatively, let people with food allergies serve themselves first to lessen the chance of cross contamination.
3.) Be Prepared When Eating Outside Your Home
As always, make sure to have your epinephrine autoinjector 2 pack with you wherever you celebrate Thanksgiving.
You can call the host in advance to discuss the menu.
Feel free to make allergy-safe food to bring.
Don’t arrive hungry. Snack or eat before you go so you will not be tempted to snack on foods you are not sure are safe.
Lastly, consider bringing a separate meal for whoever is allergic. It does not even have to be Thanksgiving foods.
4.) Try to Make Thanksgiving about more than the Meal.
Consider adding other activities to the day or creating a new family tradition, so that Thanksgiving is not just about the meal itself.
Make sure to have everyone tell what they are thankful for.
Make a Thanksgiving craft such as a hand turkey placemat.
Have the kids write and perform a Thanksgiving play.
Play a family flag football game.
Run in a turkey trot.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Have the children take polaroid pictures or print digital ones from the day and make a scrapbook.
Watch a Thanksgiving movie.
Watch or go to a Thanksgiving parade.
Tell the story of your favorite Thanksgiving and why.
Gina M. Lee, M.ED. Tips to Safely Celebrate Thanksgiving with Food Allergies. https://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/media/1663/thanksgiving-with-food-allergies.pdf
Food Allergy Research and Education. https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/tips-and-takeaways-your-teal-thanksgiving-2021