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Handling food allergies for Thanksgiving

Here’s how to be prepared so that no one with allergies feels left out, and you aren’t caught off guard this Thanksgiving.

Family cooking Thanksgiving dinner

Stress not this Thanksgiving when you learn that your young nephew has to follow a strict gluten-free menu, or your Uncle Al is allergic to shellfish, and you planned to serve shrimp bisque. Food allergies do not have to create anxiety. With a few extra steps, you and your family can be prepared for Thanksgiving!

Some view it as a “trend” or a “hype” while others view it as a medical condition. The Thanksgiving dinner table is not the time to get into a debate with your family and friends about allergies and whether they are true or a myth. (No one wants to hear how sick you once got, while you are eating.) So what can you do to ensure that no one has an allergic reaction because of something you placed on the table?


Be thoughtful ahead of time. Call and email everyone who will be at your home for Thanksgiving meals. (Or ask the host if you are bringing a dish to someone else’s home). Ask if anyone in the family has any food allergies. You want your family (and friends) to feel welcome in your home and by making them feel safe, they will feel welcome.

Try these delicious gluten-free Thanksgiving desserts and vegan Thanksgiving side dishes >>

Dairy allergy? Learn how to substitute for dairy to make any recipe dairy-free >>

Plan accordingly

If you know that there is a nut allergy, perhaps pecan pie is not the best idea for your dessert table. Or, just offer another option for those with a nut allergy, so they do not feel left out. Same goes for gluten-free diet needs. You will need to eliminate foods that contain wheat, barley, rye and triticale. (Very important note — read labels carefully!) Offer at least two side dishes that are gluten-free for those guests. You can serve beans, rice, fruits and vegetables (without added flours) and most dairy products. Or try our Thanksgiving recipes for gluten-free baked potato soup and butternut squash risotto.

Feel free to ask for help

Just because it is your home, you do not have to cook the entire meal by yourself. If your brother has a soy allergy and your sister-in-law offers to bring a dish, graciously say yes! Maybe your uncle makes a great gluten-free dressing/stuffing dish and your aunt and uncle are both following GF diets. Do not feel that by asking them to bring this you are imposing. You might be surprised that your guests would rather bring something they know they can eat, than to show up hungry and have to leave hungry.

wine bottleRemember the wine

Sadly, with some family members, the more wine, the less whine. So offer several selections of your favorites, their favorites and even some unheard of selections. These are the times to be thankful for what we have, and count our many blessings. Weird relatives and all.

Some holiday wine pairings for your Thanksgiving table >>

More on food allergies

Entertaining kids with food allergies
Are food allergies real or hype?
Do you have a food allergy?

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