What do you think of when I say the word “Thanksgiving?” The turkey that’s never done yet. Grandma’s pumpkin pie. Yoga pants after dinner. The emergency room. I know what you’re thinking- the emergency room?! It’s true. And I’m not even talking about those guys who set a backyard shed on fire trying to deep-fry a turkey. No, I’m thinking of the parents of the nearly 6 million kids nationwide with food allergies. These parents have the challenging task of having an allergy friendly Thanksgiving and keeping their children out of the ER on this most food-laden of holidays. No easy feat when you consider Thanksgiving is pretty much an allergy extravaganza.
With Thanksgiving’s potluck-style fare, the only near-assurance some parents have that the food is safe is preparing every last dish themselves- or cooking a separate meal altogether. And there’s always some hold out, like Aunt Mavis who absolutely refuses to make her award-winning stuffing without walnuts. Or gizzards for that matter.
When it comes to food allergies, eight foods are responsible for nearly 90% of all food allergies. They are crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. That rules out nearly every traditional Thanksgiving dish. Except for maybe cranberry sauce.
If you’ve got little ones (or big ones) with allergies coming to dinner this year, don’t stress. Here are a few tips for ensuring the best feasting experience for your guests to have an allergy friendly Thanksgiving:
- Ask attendees ahead of time about potential allergens. Consider whether or not you will only prepare “safe” foods that don’t contain any potential allergens.
- Research recipe adjustments that will allow you to offer familiar favorites with substitutions or modifications. I’ve got a few at www.ohmynosh.net/blog including a family favorite, gluten-free quinoa stuffing pictured above.
- Encourage guests with allergies to bring safe dishes they might enjoy. This is a great way to discover new recipes too!
- Wash hands and surfaces thoroughly before and throughout food preparation.
- Be mindful of cross-contaminating safe foods with allergenic ingredients while preparing food.
- Prepare and serve safe foods first. Use separate serving utensils and be sure they don’t get mixed up with utensils for unsafe foods.
- Designate safe foods at the serving station with tent cards. Keep them isolated from unsafe foods, perhaps at another serving station or at the opposite end of the buffet line.
- Ensure little ones with allergies cannot reach unsafe foods and ingredients (even those discarded in the trash!).
- Serve guests with allergies first.
A happy, safe, and healthy Allergy Friendly Thanksgiving celebration to you all!