With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for all the delicious foods and family fun that comes with this holiday. While this is an enjoyable time for many, it can be a more complicated holiday for those with food allergies or intolerances.
Luckily, at Allergy & Clinical Immunology, we’ve put together some tips to help you enjoy Thanksgiving while avoiding hidden food allergens in some of the most common Thanksgiving dishes.
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is a medical condition where the immune system triggers a severe reaction to non-toxic substances, including many of the common Thanksgiving food staples and their ingredients.
The most common food allergens you are likely to find on the Thanksgiving table include eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, and wheat. These allergens may be hidden in a variety of Thanksgiving dishes.
Thanksgiving Dishes That May Contain Allergens
Since this can be made in a variety of ways, it is important to ask what ingredients were used. Some recipes could call for wheat, soy, nuts, and even eggs. Be sure to check with the stuffing maker before scooping it onto your plate.
Before eating this Thanksgiving favorite, be sure to check with the host to see how the potatoes were prepared. In many mashed potatoes recipes, you will find milk, cheese, and cream, and in sweet potato dishes, nuts are often used as a garnish. So before diving in, be sure to check the ingredients with the chef.
While this is a tempting Thanksgiving main course, it can be dangerous for those with food allergies, depending on how it was prepared. Some may prepare their turkey with basting broths or bouillon cubes that can contain soy. Others prefer to deep fry their turkey in peanut oil, so be sure to check on how it was cooked.
Typically steamed or raw veggies are a safe choice but be cautious of those that have been tossed with spices, sauces, or other ingredients. Be sure to ask how they’ve been prepared if you’re not sure. Thanksgiving veggie classics such as green bean casserole can call for dairy products, while others may call for tree nut products.
Sauces, Gravies, and Desserts
Sauces, gravies, and desserts are other staples of Thanksgiving dinner, but many of them may contain allergens. Be sure to check that the gravy is free of wheat flour before smothering the turkey in it. Cranberry sauce recipes can vary widely and may contain certain fruit, tree nuts, or alcohol that could cause an allergic reaction. While dessert is the best way to finish off a Thanksgiving meal, many desserts contain peanuts, tree nuts, and dairy.
For store-bought desserts, check the label for ingredients. If the dessert is homemade, find the baker and have them go over the ingredients with you to see how it was prepared.
Tips for Navigating Thanksgiving Dinner
If you are going to a family gathering or a friend’s home for Thanksgiving, here are a few tips to help you safely and politely navigate the dinner:
Talk to the Host and Help Them Plan
If you or your child suffer from food allergies, you may consider contacting the host early before the holiday arrives. You can tell them about the foods you or your child can’t eat and then work with them to come up with easy solutions that will account for your allergies.
For example, you can bring a dish you have prepared, or the host may be able to tweak their recipes to make them allergy-free. In some cases, family or friends may not fully understand how severe the risk can be for you or your child with food allergies. Supplying them with this information prior to the dinner can help them better understand.
Consider Bringing an Allergy-Free Meal
If there is any doubt about what ingredients are included in a dish, it is best to skip over that dish. If you think this method will leave your plate looking bare, we recommend that you bring along an allergy-free meal for yourself that you can enjoy with your family.
Try Something New
Search for allergen-free desserts and pick one that sounds like a delicious crowd-pleaser! Being allergen-free can be tasty, and there are plenty of recipes out there to help you find the next big hit at your Thanksgiving dinner. You may even spark a new family tradition with your allergen-free dessert!
Have Questions About Food Allergies? Contact Allergy & Clinical Immunology Today!
If you have a question about food allergies before Thanksgiving or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today!