Thanksgiving is an important time to connect with friends and family and to reflect on all you have to be thankful for. There is no more food-centric holiday than Thanksgiving. Friends and family gather with the turkey as the centerpiece and a bountiful complement of side dishes and desserts. If you have food-allergic guests or family members joining your Thanksgiving celebration this year, we're here to help you make sure the holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
Approximately 8% of children and 5% of adults have a food allergy. The most common food allergens include: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, and soy. Keep in mind that in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, the most likely allergens are dairy, nuts, wheat, and soy. Fortunately, there are safe substitutions or alternative ingredients that you can use in your recipes.
Thanksgiving Allergy Safety Tips:
- Wash hands before and after eating or handling food.
- Prevent cross-contamination in preparation and serving.
- Read the labels of all food ingredients.
- Prepare and cook safe meals first. Seal them, and set aside. Then make unsafe foods.
- Keep unsafe foods away from safe foods when preparing, serving, and storing.
- Use separate serving utensils for each dish. Be careful not to mix them up.
- Wash all prep areas and eating areas with a paper towel and commercial cleaner. (Sponges and rags can be a source of allergens.)
- Make a plate for anyone who has food allergies before the meal is served to avoid cross contact.
- Keep unsafe foods out of reach of young children with allergies.
- If food will be served and eaten throughout the house, bring packages of wipes to keep near the food and encourage everyone to wipe hands after eating, though encouraging them to use soap and water is the best!
- Spread the word about guests’ allergies. That way if multiple people are contributing to the meal, they’ll know what ingredients to steer clear of.
- Don’t make food the only thing to get excited about. Offer board games, crafts, sports, and perhaps a fun family outing.
- Provide safe choices. You don’t have to strip every dish of food allergens, but make sure that there is a decent selection of foods that guests with allergies can enjoy worry-free.
- Let guests with allergies fill their plates first. This could prevent people from moving serving pieces from one dish to the next, facilitating cross-contamination.
- For severe allergies, make sure that you have an EpiPen ready just in case.
If you have food allergies and are eating outside of your home for the holiday, you can come armed with an allergy-free meal. Dish it up on a plate, wrap it securely and take it on the go so you can be sure that you will have enough safe food to eat.
Be sure to ask all members who will be attending your Thanksgiving feast if they have any food allergies. Food allergies can develop over time so it is very important to ask if anyone has developed a new allergy to food. Be sure to inform your guests of what you will be serving as well as what foods you will not be serving. You can still include unsafe foods but have plenty of safe options for those with allergies and label them clearly so everyone knows.