Thanksgiving and Food Allergies: Tips to Celebrate Safely

Make Every Moment Count! Alerje's tips to safely celebrate Turkey Day and other holidays with food allergies.

Gobble Gobble- It’s that time again! Thanksgiving is (arguably) the kickoff of the holiday season and is a time to celebrate family, togetherness, and most notably, food- heaps of it! Americans were estimated to eat around 1.4 billion pounds of turkey during the holiday in 2019. From green bean casserole to grandma’s pumpkin pie, food is a Thanksgiving staple. However, Thanksgiving can also be a place for those sneaky top nine food allergens to hide in plain sight. With proper planning and the right tools, you can celebrate Thanksgiving with food allergies safely!

1) Be Prepared

Preparing in advance is one of the best ways to prevent reactions. Informing or simply reminding your loved ones of what foods you must avoid for your food allergy can help keep unsafe foods and ingredients off the menu. Be prepared to ask questions about what will be on the menu, from where (homemade vs. store-bought), as well as what others may bring if it is a potluck-style dinner. Read more about preparing for a potluck and other social situations in our blog!

If deemed necessary, you can also bring your own allergy-friendly dishes prepared in advance. It is never rude to do what’s safe for you. In addition, always have your epinephrine auto-injector with you, which is the first-line treatment at the sign of anaphylaxis.

In addition to keeping auto-injectors handy, be sure to have an action plan ready ahead of your Thanksgiving festivities.

2) Avoid “Sneaky” Allergens

With the cornucopia of food that Turkey Day brings, it is important to follow certain precautions to prevent unwanted food allergy reactions. For starters, if something looks “fishy” to you, ALWAYS ASK. If the ingredients in a dish appear unclear to you, your safest bet is not to indulge. Upon first glance, some allergens may be present immediately, like pecan pie for those with a tree nut allergy or stuffing for those with a wheat allergy. However, some sneaky allergens can hide in plain sight. For instance, "Plain” veggies or sides can be tossed in mystery oils, seasonings, or butter.

As noted in this article on hidden allergens during Thanksgiving, dishes such as Green Bean Casserole can often contain allergens such as soy (soy sauce) and dairy (cream of mushroom soup or milk). Pre-made or pre-basted turkeys can often contain allergens such as dairy, soy, and wheat.

Steer clear of dishes such a green bean almondine (which contains almonds) and mashed potatoes, which are often made with dairy ingredients such as milk or butter.

  • Pro tip:  Scan the label with the Alerje Lifestyle Mobile App’s ingredient scanning feature, available for iPhone and Android.

Having clear information about ingredients available to you is necessary to avoid reactions. Thanksgiving is NOT the time to try Aunt Janice’s “Secret Recipe” for Pumpkin Pie. If you are the host this year, have a list of “safe” ingredients and foods for guests to bring if you opt to have a potluck-style Thanksgiving. However, you may find it safer to opt to cook yourself.

3) Cook Allergy-Friendly

Cooking this year or opting to bring your own allergy-friendly dish to the table? Try allergy-friendly substitutes for your favorite thanksgiving dishes. One great substitute for eggs in a dish is aquafaba, the juice leftover from canned or cooked chickpeas. 2 tablespoons of the liquid is equivalent to about one egg white.

There are also other allergy-friendly substitutes to use when cooking, such as applesauce and avocado. Read more substitutes in this resource from FARE. When shopping for ingredients, also consider “safe” brands made in dedicated facilities, such as Hungry Harry’s, whose all-purpose mix makes a delicious, allergy-friendly stuffing.

You should always read EVERY label when shopping for your ingredients.

Avoid Cross Contact

Whether you are a host or a guest this year, it is also important to take steps to avoid cross-contact, described as when a food allergen transfers from one dish to another (ex. reusing a serving spoon from a dish that isn’t allergy-friendly). Keep foods that may contain allergens separate, and utilize practices such as washing surfaces, utensils, as well as hands with soap and water. Read more on how to avoid cross-contact from our friends at FAACT.

4) Making Every Moment Count

Out of all the tips to celebrate Thanksgiving safely, remember to choose whichever options are best to prevent food allergy reactions this Turkey Day. With Alerje, we are here to help you Make Every Moment Count. Be sure to check out Alerje's current and upcoming innovations to keep you safe this Thanksgiving and beyond. Thanksgiving is about time together and what matters most is the people you share it with, as spending time together is always allergy-friendly.

From the team at Alerje, we wish you and your family a happy, safe Thanksgiving!

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