When it comes to food-focused holidays, none are as pronounced as Thanksgiving. The celebration centers on gathering around a table piled high with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. This may be perfectly enjoyable for most people, but the holiday can be a challenge for those with food allergies.
Then, there are the environmental factors that come with traveling and sleeping at a family member’s house. You appreciate their hospitality, but you might fear that the dusty guest room and furry dog will trigger an asthma attack.
Thankfully, you have plenty of options for enjoying the holiday just as much as your friends and family members who don’t have allergies. You simply need a plan in place to ensure an allergy-friendly Thanksgiving.
Address Thanksgiving Food Allergies
Help avoid an allergic reaction at the dinner table with these tips:
- If you’re a guest, call the host well in advance and ask about the menu. Explain your food allergies, and ask if you can contribute a dish that would be safe for you to eat. Request easy modifications on a dish or two, if it’s not inconvenient for the cook, such as choosing an organic turkey and using chicken broth in the mashed potatoes instead of milk.
- If you’re hosting, let your guests know what entrees you’ll be serving. If you intend to skip any dishes that everyone would expect to be there, such as wheat rolls or stuffing, consider delegating contributions from your guests. This divides up some of the cooking responsibility and prevents you from preparing foods you’re allergic to, which could be dangerous.
- Don’t arrive starving. If you’ve made the proper preparations, you should have access to some safe food, but you might not be able to load up your plate like everyone else. Have a hearty allergen-free breakfast or snack to tie you over in case you have to skip more entrees than you anticipated.
- If you have a child with a food allergy, make sure they know which foods are safe for them to eat and which ones to avoid.
- Request that the meal not be served buffet-style to prevent cross-contact between safe foods and those you’re allergic to.
- Don’t assume that traditional ingredients are always used in certain dishes. For instance, seemingly innocuous cranberry sauce could be prepared with pecans, and gravy could be thickened with peanut butter. Double-check the ingredient list with the cook before scooping anything onto your place.
- When in doubt, bring your own trusted meal. Handle this discreetly, and focus on enjoying time with friends and family. This gives you peace of mind, knowing that you won’t accidentally eat anything harmful.
- If you have an epinephrine prescription, carry two auto-injectors at all times, just to be safe.
Modify Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes
Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner or looking for a few allergen-free recipes to contribute that you know you can eat? You have more options than you might realize for transforming traditional holiday dishes into allergy-friendly foods. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Avoid self-basting turkeys, which may contain soy, wheat, and dairy. Opt for an all-natural organic turkey instead, which is required by law to contain nothing but turkey and water.
- Make stuffing from gluten-free bread.
- Make allergen-free mashed potatoes with chicken broth or coconut milk instead of cow milk, and swap out the butter with margarine or olive oil.
- Thicken gravy with cornstarch, potato starch, or rice flour instead of wheat flour.
- Skip the slivered almonds on the green bean casserole. Serve them in a side dish for those who want to sprinkle them on top.
- Make pumpkin pudding instead of pumpkin pie to avoid the wheat crust.
Work Around Environmental Allergies
If you’re sensitive to environmental factors, keep your allergies at bay when traveling for Thanksgiving with these tips:
- If you’re prone to allergic contact dermatitis, pack your own hand soap, body wash, shampoo, and other toiletries you know are safe.
- If you’re allergic to dogs or cats, politely ask your host to prevent their pet from sleeping or spending a lot of time in the bedroom where you will be staying. Then, to combat existing dander in the air, arrive with allergy medications in your system and bring more to take throughout the trip. You can also use an anti-allergy spray that denatures the allergy causing protein in pet dander, mold, and dust mites.
- If dust mite triggers your asthma, pack your own pillow or hypoallergenic pillowcase.
- If you are allergic to mold and your bedroom smells moldy or musty, ask to be moved.
Do you think you might have allergies or asthma, but you’re not sure? The experts at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM can help diagnose and treat your condition to improve your quality of life on Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the year. To learn more, please call 610-825-5800 or schedule an appointment at one of the eight locations in the Philadelphia area.