I spent all afternoon today watching Food Networking. With Thanksgiving on our heels here in the U.S. it’s all I can think about! Food Network was having a LIVE special today where they answered a ton of Thanksgiving food related questions.
One thing Food Network never covers, which I can understand somewhat why since they don’t have any chefs who cook allergy free, is how to eat allergy free during the holidays.
I remember when I first found out I was allergic to gluten, I had NO idea what to do over the holidays and my mom (years later) still asks me questions about things she can make and what she should do when it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner for me.
Here are a few tips you should follow if you’re attending someone else’s holiday feast:
1. Always let people know you have some food allergies – I think it is so important. Several times before I even had allergies, if I was hosting a party or cooking dinner for friends, people never let me know they had food allergies. And then when it came down to the food, they could only eat one or two of my dishes because of their allergies that I would then find out about.
So, wanting to be a good host, even though my friends with food allergies didn’t mind they couldn’t eat much, I would want to run around and make sure everything was perfect.
No, every host will not be as generous as I am and most of the time they won’t know what to do when it comes to your allergies and it’s probably better if they don’t try to make anything crazy due to the risk of cross-contamination, but it’s always good to just know in advance so they’re not alarmed when you don’t eat.
2. And along those lines, offer to bring a dish or two you can eat - I always offer to bring a dish, no matter what… and you should too – especially if you have allergies. Then at least you know you can eat SOMETHING and you host won’t feel bad if you can’t eat.
Sometimes I even bring snacks in my purse just in case I get hungry. It can never hurt!
3. Eat before you arrive - If you’re attending a holiday event or cocktail party always eat something before you go. You may be able to eat everything, or you may be stuck sipping on wine, but at least you won’t be starving if you had something light before the party.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask people what the ingredients in their dishes are - I used to feel bad about this, but people really love to talk about their food and what they make. Just let people know what they made looks delicious and ask them if you can know what’s in it because you have a few food allergies. Don’t make it a big deal because most people will be really understanding as long as you ask.
I’ve even gone to far as to ask people what brand of chicken stock or taco seasoning they used to make sure it was a brand I know is safe for me.
5. Know off hand what foods and brands you need to stay away from - This really only comes with experience and a little research. If you have a smart phone, it helps. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve Googled foods and food brands during parties to make sure I could eat them.
Obviously, don’t do this if you’re in the middle of a formal dinner! Also, know what foods could be potential hazardous to you – for example, some companies inject their turkeys with gluten to make them juicy.
If you’re close with your host, feel free to ask them where they normally get their turkey because of your allergies… if it’s family, how easy is it to just ask or have another relative find out for you? It’s better to be safe than sorry and really, people will NOT mind. My family has been so supportive and once they found out I had allergies they went out of the way to help me.
My mom will make me a separate turkey breast if she wants to stuff the turkey and they’ll even make dishes leaving the sauce on the side for people to pour on or put salad ingredients in separate bowls so I’m safe.
And if your host is annoyed by your effort (offering to bring dishes, asking simple questions without being pushy), do you really want to eat with them anyway?
Happy Thanksgiving and Holidays!!!