How to Survive Thanksgiving with Food Allergies

Two Methods:Know Your “Evils”Create a Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Menu

As your friends and family dive headfirst into turkey and its trimmings on Thanksgiving you typically have to sit by eating your “allergy approved” meal. Although you may usually be fine with your own fare, you may want to cut loose and indulge on the same vittles as everyone else this holiday season. While you may never be able to eat the same kind of turkey as everyone else you can still have your turkey and eat it too--even if you have allergies.

Method 1
Know Your “Evils”

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    Identify what you can and absolutely cannot consume. While you may be tempted to “tempt” fate getting sick or, worse heading to the ER on Thanksgiving (or any holiday) may not be the way your friends and family hoped to spend the occasion.
    • Scrutinize every recipe. Especially if you are cooking, segment which parts of each recipe could cause you harm and consider how you can substitute.
    • Ask the chef about particular foods. For example, if you have a peanut allergy give the cook a heads up about your concern so he/she can address your allergy and ensure that nothing you consume includes a damaging ingredient.
    • Offer to bring your own food. Why compromise everyone else’s taste buds if you can just cook at home and bring your own? You can devise recipes that are so delicious, some of the guests who don’t have a food allergy may opt for trying your fare instead.
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    Consider what would happen if you consumed food that could cause a reaction. While some people go into full blown anaphylactic shock others may only experience a mild irritation that could be treated with medication.
    • Avoid any foods that could cause you to make a trip to the ER. Anything more severe than mild skin irritation is never worth it. Avoid at all cost any food that will cause serious danger or harm.
    • Carry allergy medication with you to combat possible food allergies. If you experience mild skin or gastrointestinal issues and you can combat these problems with medicine, consider taking your medication beforehand and indulging.
    • Have an EpiPen or emergency plan on hand at all times. This includes off-holiday events as well.
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    Explore your taste buds. If you have a dairy allergy, for example, what other foods can be just as delicious but do not include dairy. Long before the holidays experiment in your own kitchen with different recipes and foods to uncover what may be a tasty substitute.

Method 2
Create a Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Menu

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    Select healthy but tasty appetizers that allow you to indulge along with the rest of your guests.
    • Raw vegetables and dip are always a hit. In addition to being healthy and typically allergy free, providing raw veggies as a snack will satiate the palate without filling the stomach.
    • If you have a dairy allergy and don’t want to have a ranch or milk-based dip, try hummus. You can create a sesame-free recipe (if that’s an issue) by simply omitting tahini.
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    Serve a green salad as a starter as a crowd pleaser. This is also a “free” starter as many green salads are safe for those with food allergies. Be sure that you select a dressing that does not contain any allergens. If you can have lemon, simply squeeze an entire lemon and 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil into a dish. Whisk together, add sea salt and pepper for a refreshing, delicious dressing.
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    Go for the gluten free turkey. Many turkeys offer broth/dressing that contain wheat, which may be dangerous to some.
    • If you have purchased a regular turkey from your grocer, omit the gravy packet (which typically includes wheat) and make your own gravy from scratch using “safe” ingredients.
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    Watch for heavy cream and butter in the mashed potatoes. Part of what makes this dish especially delicious, heavy cream and butter will wreak havoc on someone with a dairy allergy.
    • Substitute dairy ingredients with chicken broth, rice milk, olive oil and salt and pepper. You can also add butter flavored grapeseed oil to give the potatoes that traditional butter flavor.
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    Use wheat-free bread when creating the stuffing. In many cases, the pre-seasoned stuffing is often created from white bread cubes, but read the back of the package to ensure none of the seasonings will pose a danger to you.
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    Opt for a “natural” dessert. While it may be tempting to reach for the store-made cupcakes with unnatural flavoring and coloring, consider serving fresh fruit or a pie that contains no wheat, eggs, dairy or nuts.


  • Be sure you fully communicate your allergy to the chef, however let that communication be the end of it. Avoid constantly bringing it up during dinner and instead focus on the glory and feast of the day.
  • Consult with your allergist for recipes and ideas on how you can best approach the holidays.
  • When traveling to someone else’s house, let the host know that you don’t want the chef to alter the menu (if that could pose a problem) and that you are happy to bring your own food. Find out where you can reheat dishes and maintain your food during the celebration.
  • Don't forget about drinks especially specialty drinks during the holidays. Some (like eggnog) have certain elements that you are allergic to but may not be overtly obvious.

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Categories: Thanksgiving