4 Allergy Free Thanksgiving Alternatives for People with Special Diet Needs

Allergy Free Thanksgiving Food
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Food is always the center of attention at most family gatherings, so holiday season especially can be a challenge if you or a family member has food allergies. Thanksgiving Dinner usually contains several common allergens, including wheat, milk and egg. However, you can enjoy the holidays despite this hurdle.

Food Allergy Research and Education Inc (FARE) estimates that up to 15 million Americans have a food allergy, and that number appears to be growing. But we don’t have a clear answer as to why. Some studies have suggested that the “Hygiene Hypothesis” explains the current allergy epidemic. This hypothesis states that excessive cleanliness interrupts the normal development of the immune system and this change could lead to the development of allergies.

Another theory is diet-related. Our poor quality “Western diet” has made us more susceptible to developing allergies and other illnesses. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that those eating a Westernized diet full of fat and sugar do not have the right balance of gut bacteria as do those living in less developed nations who consume a more wholesome diet of vegetables and whole foods.

The body sees an allergen as a toxin or poison. For most people, eating a peanut is just a nutritious food source. But for some, the immune system reacts as if the peanut is a “germ” to destroy. IgE antibodies are released to fight the “enemy” by releasing histamine and other chemicals which trigger symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, including a potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis.

In the United States, food allergy symptoms send someone to the emergency room every three minutes.

This Thanksgiving, even if you have a favorite recipe handed down from several generations, you can still tweak it to accommodate someone in the family with a food allergy. Just keep in mind that allergic reactions are not dose-dependent – even just a little can be life-threatening.

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FARE offers these tips for keeping food allergic people safe in your home this holiday season:
• Learn how to read food labels and make sure anyone else preparing food knows how as well. Do not rely on the manufacturer to point out potential allergens – read the label thoroughly yourself and know what terms to look for.
• All family members should wash their hands before and after eating to avoid the transfer of food allergens.
• Scrub down counters and tables after food preparation and after meals. To effectively remove food protein from surfaces, wash the surfaces with soap and water.
• Practice proper food preparation to avoid cross-contact. Thoroughly clean counters, cutting boards, knives, slicers, spoons, measuring cups, mixing bowls and other food prep equipment between foods. Have separate sets of utensils for handling safe and unsafe foods. Some families use separate dishes (usually designated by different colors), too.
• Separate safe and unsafe food by designating specific shelves in the pantry and refrigerator and storing all foods in sealed containers.
• Label either the problem foods or the safe ones — whichever is easier.
• Create allergen-free zones in your home, or restrict eating to the kitchen and dining room only.
• Beware of airborne allergens when cooking; keep a safe distance from the cooking area and allow the air to clear for 30 minutes afterward before entering the room.
• You should always have an emergency kit on hand that includes your medications, auto-injector, and a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan.

For your Thanksgiving meal this year, here are some recipes and tips for wonderful allergen-free food.

Turkey Tips: Make sure the turkey does not have any additives that might cause an allergic reaction. For example, for those allergic to wheat, a turkey may have broth added to it which often contains wheat starch. If the label isn’t clear, call the company directly.

Milk Substitutes: Try using soy milk, rice milk or almond milk instead. For a dairy free version of evaporated milk, mix ½ cup of potato milk powder with 1 cup of hot water. To make this into sweetened condensed “milk”, over medium heat, dissolve 1-1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the mixture.

Egg Substitutes: Try Flax Seed Meal, a mixture of baking powder, water and oil, or unflavored gelatin. Instead of marshmallow cream for a pie topping (which often contains egg whites), just top a dessert with mini marshmallows.

Bread Stuffing (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free)
*Makes enough to stuff a small turkey.
5 slices gluten free bread
3 small apples, chopped finely
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dairy-free margarine (melted) or oil
1 cup wheat-free chicken broth
1 tspn poultry spice
2 Tbsp Egg replacer Powder (optional)
1 tsp salt
Toast bread two times and chop into small pieces. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together and stuff into turkey.

Resources:
Food Allergy Research and Education Inc (FARE)
Kids with Food Allergies: Celebrate Thanksgiving
UCLA Food and Drug Allergy Care Center: Why are Allergies Increasing?
CNN: Why are Food Allergies on the Rise?
Eating with Food Allergies: Thanksgiving with Food Allergies

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