Being a Gracious Guest with a Food Allergy

By Heather Legg

Thanksgiving is next week and I can’t believe it. People all over the US are planning their menus, deciding what to have from the decadent to the organic to the vegan to the catered. They are also planning their guest lists and trying to accommodate for the vegetarians, the lactose intolerant and those with food allergies. As a guest, what’s the best way to be a gracious guest while ensuring your safety with food and food contaminants? How do you know the food is safe from allergens?

Thanksgiving menus are often full of food allergens, cream in the sweet potato soufflé, walnuts in the stuffing, wheat in the bread, pecans in the pecan pie. Even if nuts or milk or whatever it is isn’t in every dish, it’s pretty much all been prepared in the same kitchen. How do you handle going to someone’s house and enjoying yourself? Here are a few tips….

• Let your hosts know of any allergies. Don’t wait for them to ask, tell them upfront. “Oh, thank you we would love to come join you. I have to let you know, though, Brad has a nut allergy and can’t eat anything with or that has been near nuts.”
• Ask about the menu. Be specific. It’s not rude if food can be dangerous.
• Offer to bring something but don’t take over the whole menu. Bring a dish or two that you know is safe and that will hold you or your family member over even if it’s the only thing safe to eat. If you know the desserts are going to be nutty, bring something nut safe to share. If shrimp cocktail is the appetizer, bring a veggie tray if you can’t have shrimp.
• Give suggestions. If your hosts always make stuffing with nuts inside of the turkey, ask that they cook it separately this time. If they tend to cook with lots of milk, butter and cream say in the potatoes, and that is a problem, ask that they leave one potato plain for you or your child.
• Prepare your own plate (or your child’s). There can be a lot of cross contamination with serving utensils, but you will know what to do if you’re doing it. Ask for a separate spoon and serve away.
• Stay vigilant. Sometimes at big food gatherings, people can stray and not be as careful. Don’t forget about your safety precautions.
• Enjoy yourself and have a good time!

Happy Thanksgiving to all. We all have so much to be thankful for!

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