Navigating the Holidays with Food Allergies

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The holidays are a time full of indulgent food and drink, parties and get-togethers. This makes it delicious but also especially difficult for those with food allergies or intolerances. Your normally well-controlled, practiced routine of avoiding your offending allergens is all of a sudden scrambled by holiday get togethers, office parties and travel schedules. Food allergies are especially hard to deal with for children, when eating a special diet when everyone else is eating the same thing could make them feel more separate and different from their peers. We found some helpful tips on CNN and wanted to share them with you. We hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving – including the food, family and friends!


For hosts

      Hang on to labels. Keep food labels for everything used to prepare a festive homemade holiday meal so an allergic guest may double-check the ingredient list.
      Suggest alternatives. Request flowers, wine or holiday-themed napkins and plates if guests want to contribute to the party and someone with a food allergy is attending.
      Look for “natural” turkey. Some pre-basted turkeys contain soy, wheat, and dairy. Instead, look for turkeys labeled “natural,” which by law must be minimally processed. Some free-range, all-natural, fresh turkeys are free of antibiotics, hormones, and allergens.
      Avoid cross-contamination. Care with utensils and surfaces when preparing foods is a must. Rinsing a knife that chopped walnuts is insufficient — thoroughly scrub all utensils and surfaces with soap and water and wipe clean. Even trace amounts of a food can cause a reaction for highly allergic people.
      Use color coding. How about trying color-coded cooking utensils this year? A bright red silicone spatula or a nifty lime green serving spoon is sure to alert food-allergic guests. Many large box stores stock seasonal arrays of themed and brightly colored utensils in advance of the holiday season.
      Consider donating. If a guest brings a food item that contains allergens, and there’s an allergic diner at the table, you could accept the item if it’s well-sealed and donate it later to a friend or a soup kitchen. Some cities even have volunteer organizations dedicated to alleviating hunger. After a free phone call, their volunteers, who deliver sometimes more than 10 tons of food a week to agencies feeding people in need, will pick up your donation.

For guests

        Put thought into contributions. When in doubt, beautiful fresh flowers are always a welcome hostess gift instead of a pie from a bakery when you’re just not sure about the allergy safety.
        Ship ahead. If you’re allergic and flying to visit friends or family, make some simple allergy-free foods that travel well and ship them to your host’s home a week or more in advance, so you’re sure they’ll arrive in time for your visit.
        Bring an allergy-free host gift. If your host has food allergies, you can always bring a gift of unpeeled fruit or a prepackaged seasonal safe food, with ingredient lists approved by your host.
        Bring a safe dish. If you’re food allergic and even if the party you’re invited to is not a potluck, why not offer to bring a safe dish or two so there’s definitely something you can eat. Your host will be thankful not to have to prepare separate food items, and sharing dishes that are allergen-free will delight everyone there.
        Check in beforehand. If you are allergic, always let your host or restaurant where you’re celebrating know in advance — don’t assume they will remember. Even a restaurant where you frequently dine may not immediately remember you and your medical condition at holiday banquet tables with prix-fixe meals. Be sure to remember to always carry your rescue medication just in case of emergency. And here’s to your good health.

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