As hard as it is for me to believe, Thanksgiving is coming – and soon!
For most of us, Thanksgiving meals conjures up feelings of gratitude, warm memories of time spent with family, laughter and friendship. But to families dealing with food allergies, large potluck style dinners sometimes look like a minefield. To them, Thanksgiving and other holiday meals are fraught with anxiety, awkwardness and a fierce sense of protection.
Food allergy families often feel out of control at large holiday meals, worried about ingredients in – and cross-contamination of – dishes, navigating the endless amount of preparation and education needed to keep their children safe, and ensuring their child feel included in the festivities.
So, what can food allergy families do to best prepare for Thanksgiving next week?
1. If you are going to a friend or family member’s house, offer to bring a dish that would be the most difficult to find safely. For example, my son can almost always eat the Thanksgiving turkey. But desserts almost never show up peanut, tree nut and dairy-free. So, I offer to bring Dairy-Free, Egg-free, Nut-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (which both smell and taste AMAZING). It’s fun to watch guests reactions when they hear what ISN’T in the cookies!
2. Take stock in what will be served in case you need to do a little prep work. Ask the host and consider bringing small portions of sides, rolls, etc to accommodate those in your family with food allergies.
3. If you’re having your meal with family or close friends, consider sending an easy-breezy email offering yourself up to questions. Something like, “As you know, my son is allergic to peanuts. If you could let me know what dishes you’re planning to make so that I can offer him a safe alternative, that would be so helpful. And, as always, if you have any questions I’m always happy to answer.” This may be enough to alert and remind others of your family’s food restrictions. I’ve even had friends offer to use dairy-free butter or omit nuts after receiving an email!
4. Food is at the center of so many holiday traditions. But it doesn’t have to be! In order to make the holiday extra special for your family, create new traditions! Pass out a pre-dinner scavenger hunt or a Thanksgiving dinner questionnaire. Crafts are a fun way to get food allergic kids involved. And, of course, donating your time to volunteer is a fantastic way to define the season and start a meaningful conversation.
5. Don’t forget to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors to dinner. They should travel with your food allergic child always and Thanksgiving is no exception.
If you’re looking for some delicious Thanksgiving recipes, try:
Or, order now from one of the many fantastic allergy-friendly bakeries across the country, in Canada and the UK: