Food allergies affect about 50 million Americans. Some cases are so severe that they can be life-threatening. If you’re cooking for guests with wheat, dairy, or nut allergies, don’t stress—simply adjust your menu and food preparation techniques to help you host an allergy-free holiday dinner.
As soon as you find out one or more guests have food allergies, you can adjust your dinner menu accordingly. Planning ahead takes the stress out of preparing food when the big event arrives. Here’s what to do:
Communicate with Your Guests
Not all guests speak up about their allergies and preferences because they “don’t want to inconvenience you.” However, as a courteous host, you should contact all your guests and ask about any allergies. If the dinner is a potluck, remember to tell anyone contributing dishes about the allergies among the other guests.
Read Ingredient Labels
About 90% of all food allergies fall into one of these eight categories:
- Tree nut
It can be daunting to check ingredient labels for all potential allergens, so just keep your guests’ specific allergies in mind. Even if you’re confident a product is allergen-free, double-check the nutrition label. After all, a manufacturer may process nut-free cookies on the same machinery as peanuts. Contamination concerns like this should be identified on the label.
Try New Allergy-Free Holiday Recipes
You may have go-to favorites you return to year after year, but this is a good excuse to try out some new recipes. If you’re having trouble finding certain products without allergens, consider making your own from scratch. Use the following recipes and helpful hints to ensure your holiday dinner is safe, healthy, and fun for everyone in attendance:
There are plenty of allergy-free alternatives to the traditional cheese-and-cracker appetizer. Here are some ideas:
- Rice crackers topped with chutney, hummus, olives and roasted red pepper, or sunflower seed butter
- Wild mushroom tartlets
- Quinoa-stuffed mushrooms
- Baked sweet potato chips
No holiday dinner is complete without several tasty side dishes. Choose from these crowd-pleasers:
- Apple and orange slices
- Roasted vegetables drizzled with balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard
- Mashed potatoes made with non-dairy milk
- Gluten-free stuffing
- Gluten-free gravy thickened with cornstarch
- Butternut squash or pumpkin soup
- Vegan green bean casserole
On to the main event! Ensure your guests enjoy allergy-free entrees by selecting poultry, ham, pork, lamb, or tofu made without marinades or sauces, which could contain allergens. To prevent skimping on flavor, create your own marinades with fresh herbs, orange juice, and lemon zest. Here are some allergy-free recipes to try:
- Honey lemon chicken
- Pepper-crusted beef tenderloin
- Skillet pork chops
- Glazed roast turkey breast
- Honey-baked ham
There are plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about food allergies. Here are some tasty ideas:
- Pumpkin pie with a gluten-free crust
- Pumpkin muffins made with tapioca starch and coconut flour
- Pineapple, apple, or berries dipped in melted, allergy-free chocolate chips
- Baked apples with cinnamon, dairy-free butter, and allspice
- Chocolate mousse with coconut milk and mashed avocado
- Eggless chocolate cookies
- Sugar cookies with coconut oil
- Gingerbread cookies made with dairy-free spread and quinoa flour
- Gluten-free apple pie
- Vegan cheesecake
Once you’ve picked out your recipes and bought all the ingredients you need, it’s time to get cooking! These tips can help ensure a smooth, stress-free process:
The kitchen can become a chaotic mess during holiday dinner prep. However, if you’re serving dishes designed to be allergen-free, you need to avoid cross-contamination. To do this, set up a safety zone to help limit allergens to a corner of the kitchen. Don’t mix utensils or cutting boards, and cover freshly cooked dishes to prevent stray allergens from drifting in.
Make Allergy-Free Dishes Ahead of Time
One effective way to avoid cross-contamination is to cook allergy-free dishes on a different day than the rest of your menu. Spread out your cooking a week or more in advance and freeze casseroles until the day of your holiday meal. Then, stick them in the oven when you’re ready to bake, being sure to allow for a longer cooking time. If you have fridge space, you can also fully prepare things like soups and pies one day ahead without impacting the taste.
Don’t let food allergies stop you from enjoying holiday dinners this season! If you or someone you know struggles to keep their allergies under control, reach out to Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM, the regions most experienced allergists for high risk food allergy testing and challenges. The team can help identify undiagnosed food allergies and offer care to reduce adverse reactions that impact your quality of life. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, please call 610-825-5800 today.