Surviving Thanksgiving with Food Allergies and Insensitive Relatives

Posted by Lisa Ragan on

Whether your holiday gathering resembles a Norman Rockwell painting or the Griswold’s from National Lampoons Christmas vacation, having a food allergy or Celiac family member adds a whole different dimension to planning gatherings no matter what the size.

From the gluten in the stuffing to the dairy in the mashed potatoes or the pecan pie, it can feel like a rattle snake is sitting on the dining room table ready to strike at any moment. It’s such a fine balance between trying to keep things “normal” yet being hypervigilant over something that could be a matter of life or death for someone you love. 

I'm sure you have heard the words before from that annoying relative who means well, but just doesn't get it; "OMG...How do you do it?  I could NEVER survive eating gluten-free."  Or, that good friend who knows nuts could kill your child, yet they bring peanut brittle to the party.  You wonder to yourself "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!". "Really"...???  What don't you get? How could you be so reckless and insensitive?  It still baffles me to this day...  But then I force myself to take a deep breath and remind myself what I tell our nut allergic and Celiac daughter all the time, EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING!! And someday that person is going to have to deal with a hardship, disease, food allergy... Maybe they don't get it now, but someday they will be forced too.  

So, I speak up when I need to and bite my lip when I can.  It's just part life for us and maybe someday we will get used to it, hopefully, maybe. In the meantime, I continue to remind myself and our daughter that we do ALL have something and it could be much worse.  We just need to hang in there, be sure to always help others, be compassionate to their situation and always carry two Epi Pens!  In the meantime, we need to educate and inform, but in a way that they can understand.  The sad part is that food allergies and issues with gluten are becoming more common every day.  

More and more people are being impacted, so people in general are starting to understand it a little better, I hope.  But we still have a long way to go and we still need to be full time protectors and advocates.  We have to. Their life depends on it... 

So how do we survive Thanksgiving?  First, DO NOT hesitate speaking up and telling everyone what food items are safe to bring and which are not.  TOO BAD if they are put off by it.  Someone’s life and health is FAR more important than appeasing ones taste buds. Next, prepare and prepare early!  Especially with the pandemic going on, the grocery stores are certainly out of stock of so many items. 

I’ve noticed that really does also apply to allergy friendly and gluten free items too. If you are going to some one’s house, bring your own food!  This way you can trust what you are eating AND you will have your own leftovers!! 

Google has also become such a friend to those with food allergies and Celiac Disease.  To start with, did you know that some turkeys actually contain gluten, here is a link to gluten free turkey brands sold in the stores.

As for all of the other Thanksgiving dishes, Spokin is such a tremendous help to those in the food allergy community.  If you haven’t already downloaded their app or follow them on social media, it’s a must!! They have put together a list of allergy friendly Thanksgiving dishes, so you won’t need to go far or spend a lot of time searching products and their ingredient lists because here it is.

When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and severe nut allergies at the age of 3, I decided there wasn’t going to be a type of food she couldn’t eat.  Maybe it wouldn’t have all the same ingredients or look exactly the same, but at least it would be close and hopefully not make her feel left out.  With that, we baked ALL the time!  We made cakes, donuts, waffle cones, cinnamon rolls, etc.  You name it, we tried to make it, minus gluten and nuts.  Over time, my daughter became quite the baker!  Now, instead of being sad because she can’t eat that Tiramisu, she learns how to make it using safe ingredients she can eat.  It’s fun and you learn how to be creative very quickly! 

Here is a link to allergy friendly cookbooks to help get you started!

Allergy Friendly Cookbooks

If you are just needing a quick desert idea, here’s a twist to one of Thanksgivings favorite desserts – Nut Free Pecan Pie!!

When all is said and done, the most important thing to remember is that everyone leaves Thanksgiving safe and healthy. Nothing else really matters in the end…

Even though it can be overwhelming, just remember to hang in there and that  YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!! 

You are not alone… Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Tammy Rhodes, Guest Blogger


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