Keeping Food Allergies in Mind During Thanksgiving

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by: Angela Tague
Whether you're dining at a restaurant, a family member's house, or enjoying dinner at home, use these tips to stay mindful of life-threatening food allergies during your holiday meal.

Thanksgiving, a holiday focused on feasting, can be worrisome for those who must avoid peanuts, gluten, shellfish, or any other food they can't tolerate. Whether you're dining at a restaurant or enjoying dinner at home, the people preparing the food and consuming it need to stay mindful of allergic reactions and how to prevent a possible interaction. When you have life-threatening food allergies, every meal causes concern.

"Food allergy affects an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. While there's no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older," according to the Mayo Clinic.

Be Prepared to Educate

If a child in the family has a food allergy, be ready to thoroughly explain the situation to catering companies, restaurant servers, or friends who are hosting a holiday meal. It can be helpful to create a small, shareable card that lists foods that must be avoided, including common names that people might not be aware of. For example, if your child has Celiac Disease, they must avoid any grain containing gluten. The most common are wheat, barley, and rye, but derivatives of these ingredients can have several names, including malt flavoring and modified food starch.

Thanksgiving at Home

Photo Source: Flickr / Nathan Yergler

Dining at Home on Thanksgiving

When you have a family member with a food allergy, it's probably easiest to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at home and invite family and friends to join you. Since you're mindful of food preparation daily, cooking a holiday meal is really no different. Just be sure to label the allergen-friendly dishes.

If you make several pies for Thanksgiving, consider skipping pecan pie if someone has a nut allergy. Instead, offer pumpkin and apple. If someone brings a nut-based pie as a hostess gift, politely store it in another room, away from the dining area to avoid cross contamination.

If the host seems confused or overly concerned, offer to bring an allergen-safe meal that can be warmed in the oven and served along with the main meal. It's always better to plan ahead than to assume the meal will be safe to eat.

Thanksgiving Dinner in Restaurant

Photo Source: Flickr / Franklin Heijnen

Eating at a Restaurant

Spending Thanksgiving at a restaurant means less preparation and clean up, but it also creates concern for those with food allergies. Before you leave, check the establishment's website. Many restaurants have nutritional and allergen data sheets available so you can pre-plan what to order. Then, explain the food allergy to the server so they can be extra aware of your food's preparation. Sometimes menu items change, especially when a restaurant is hosting a specialty meal for a holiday.

Enjoying Thanksgiving with a food allergy may take some planning and education, but it's completely worth the extra effort to enjoy a safe, healthy meal with those you love.