Gobble Gobble- It’s that time again! Thanksgiving is arguably the kickoff of the holiday season. Whether it's "Turkey Day," Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, however you celebrate, the holiday season is a time to enjoy family, togetherness, and most notably, food- heaps of it! In fact, Americans were estimated to eat around 1.4 billion pounds of turkey during Thanksgiving in 2019. From green bean casserole to grandma’s pumpkin pie, food is a holiday staple. However, the holidays can also be a place for those sneaky top nine food allergens to hide in plain sight. Don't fret - with proper planning and the right tools, you can celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays 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.
- Coming soon: Currently under development, you’ll have epinephrine available to you when you need it with Alerje’s patented smartphone-attached Omniject auto-injector.
In addition to keeping auto-injectors handy, be sure to have an action plan ready ahead of your Thanksgiving or holiday festivities.
2) Avoid “Sneaky” Allergens
With the cornucopia of food that the holidays bring, 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.
- Read the LA Times’ Guide to choosing a turkey for more insight on “all-natural” turkeys, which usually only include turkey and water.
Steer clear of dishes such as green bean almondine (which contains almonds) and mashed potatoes, which are often made with dairy ingredients such as milk or butter.
Having clear information about ingredients available to you is necessary to avoid reactions. The holidays are 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 dinner. However, you may find it more comfortable choosing to do the cooking 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 or holiday dishes. One great substitute for eggs in a dish includes 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 or avocado. Read more substitutes in this resource from FARE.When shopping for ingredients, consider products or brands made in dedicated facilities, such as Hungry Harry’s, whose all-purpose mix makes 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 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 is not 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 with our friends at FAACT.
4) Making Every Moment Count
Out of all these tips to celebrate the holidays or Thanksgiving with food allergies, remember to choose whichever options are the best for you to feel safe and successfully prevent food allergy reactions. You've got this, and at Alerje, we are here to help you Make Every Moment Count! Be sure to check out Alerje's current and upcoming innovations to stay safe during this holidays season and beyond. Remember, the holidays are about time spent together. What matters most are the people you share it with, as spending time together is always allergy-friendly! For more tips on thriving with food allergies or therapies such as Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), join our Facebook group, Alerje True Grit, and be sure to follow Alerje on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
From the team at Alerje, we wish your family a happy, safe Holiday Season!