Many families in America will be sitting down this Thanksgiving dinner with loved ones and friends who suffer various food allergies and food intolerances. If your family doesn’t have to contend with any, count yourself lucky. If you – or guests coming to your holiday dinner – are facing food allergies/intolerances related to dairy, gluten, eggs, soy or more, check out the tips below, based on two decades of experience. I also have recipe help for you: remakes of traditional favorites that you and your guests will LOVE … and no one will be able to tell they are “free” of anything!
Tips for Holiday Dinner Hosts
Parents and grandparents who have hosted holiday dinners for years and are unfamiliar with food allergies may suddenly have to contend with new family members (in-laws or grandchildren, for example) who have a dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, egg allergy, etc. (or some or all of the above and more).
What to do?
- Openly communicate. Ask your family and any guests if they have any food allergies or issues you need to be aware of. Sometimes people are shy to speak up and either suffer the consequences (such as those with lactose intolerance) or eat like birds at others’ holiday dinner tables.
- You don’t have to remake the entire holiday meal. I promise you: just one side dish and one dessert that I can eat without suffering is incredibly appreciated. If it’s homemade, that’s great. If you can find store-bought, pre-made items that are allergen-free, that’s fine too!
- Let guests bring a dish. I am always happy to bring a side dish and dessert to share that I can eat because it’s dairy-free.
- If guests are flying in, ask what products you can buy to help them make a dish. With my dairy allergy, just a dairy-free butter and a dairy-free milk alternative (like almond milk) make a really big difference. Gluten-free bread might be the big difference maker for someone with a gluten issue.
- If the guest or family member is new to your home/family, make sure they know they are welcome in your kitchen. Those of us with food allergies or children with them will most likely need to make some special things while we’re visiting. Getting a warm invite to make ourselves at home is helpful.
Tips for Those with Food Allergies or Parents or Significant Others Who Love Them
- Openly communicate. I developed my dairy allergy as an adult, so even my own mom still forgets sometimes. If I’m shy about reminding her before I fly in for a visit, I may have slim pickings during mealimes. It’s easier when it’s your own mom … harder if it’s your mother-in-law or soon-to-be-in-law or someone you’ve never met yet. Still, speak up for yourself, your child or your significant other.
- If possible, bring a dish or two to share that you or your child can eat.
- If you’re flying in, plan ahead by either packing ingredients, asking your host to pick up special ingredients and/or planning for time to run to a grocery store once you’ve arrived.
- Did I mention this? Speak up. The worst option is silence and being in a position where the host had no idea and feels bad … and you can’t eat anything except the turkey. Almost been there, almost did that.
- If your host makes an attempt to make something or buy something special for you, thank them. It’s often a whole new world for them and possibly a recipe they’re scared to try but tried anyway. I’ll never forget the first time my mom and dad bought almond milk for me and my dad proudly made me eggs with it. It was the kind flavored with vanilla. Vanilla and scrambled eggs aren’t the best combo (yuck), but I gladly ate them (and kindly mentioned, later, that next time the unflavored would work better). 🙂
Allergen-Free Holiday Side Dishes
- Dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan creamy mashed potatoes
- Dairy-free, gluten-free classic green bean casserole
- Dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, vegan swiss chard and butternut squash gratin (the colors scream Christmas side dish)!
- Dairy-free, soy-free cornbread
- Dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free french bread
Allergen-Free Dessert Recipes
- Dairy-free, soy-free pumpkin pie
- Dairy-free pie crust (can also be made soy-free)
- Dairy-free lemon pecan pie
- Dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, vegan cherry lime cookies (aka cherry pie cookies)
- Dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan lemon almond wine cookies (a great, easy dessert for someone with a lot of allergies … or none)
Other Food Allergy Friendly Recipes
If your guests are staying for several days or a week, you’ll have more than just the holiday dinner to navigate. Here are some other recipes everyone will enjoy and are free of the noted allergens:
- Make ahead breakfast muffins (can be made dairy-free and/or gluten-free)
- Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, vegan raspberry oatmeal bars
- Dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, vegan easy red thai curry gnocchi
- Chicken and shrimp jambalaya (dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free)
- Easy crockpot chicken tortilla soup (dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free)
- Dairy-free, gluten-free king ranch chicken casserole
Find more at www.kitchengonerogue.com
Always Read Labels and Investigate
I have a friend who, like me, will get miserable but won’t need hospitalized if she ingests a little of the food she’s allergic to, yet I know others who have life-threatening food allergies. If you’re the host, find out which one you’re dealing with. If you’re the guest, let the host know.
Best wishes for a joyous and tasty holiday season!