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Hosting for the holidays? Here's how to keep guests with food allergies safe

For many people, it's hard to enjoy the traditional holiday dishes on our table each year because of food allergies.

Posted: Nov 27, 2019 6:22 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)— It's the day before Thanksgiving and so many of us are looking forward to the delicious comfort food. Although for many people, it's hard to enjoy the traditional holiday dishes on our table each year because of food allergies.

The most common food allergies are grouped together as "the big eight." That group includes wheat, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soybeans, fish and shellfish. These are the foods identified on food labels, but there are close to 200 food allergies that have been identified.

If you think about it, these eight food allergens are present in so many traditional holiday dishes. Wheat in stuffing, dairy in the whipped cream on pumpkin pie, etc. It's hard to know what is safe to eat.

If you do have a food allergy and are attending parties this holiday season, here's some ways to keep yourself safe.

Pay attention to cross contamination. If a serving spoon is being used for multiple dishes, don't hesitate to ask for a new utensil. Dinah Dalder, a Registered Dietitian in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University, said not to be afraid to communicate. Whether that's with the host of the party, or the person who will be doing all the cooking.

Dalder said if you do suffer from food allergies, you should never feel like you are asking too much or being a burden.

If your child has a food allergy, you can tell them to always ask an adult if a food is safe to eat before helping themselves to a serving. The more people who know about someone's allergy, the better.

Dalder emphasized just how important this is. 

"This is not just something to brush aside as somebody being difficult or annoying," she said. "It's a matter of life and death for some individuals."

If you are hosting a holiday meal this year, Dalder has some tips on easy ways to make dishes allergen-free. It's a good idea to have different options so everyone is sure to find something to eat. However, there are simple switches you can make for traditional recipes.

Dalder explained it's all about those extra ingredients. She said to ask yourself, 'Is it really necessary?' when it comes to ingredients such as nuts in a dessert, a sprinkle of cheese or breadcrumbs on top of a casserole.

If the ingredient is not crucial to the recipe, then you can skip it. Not only could it make the dish a little healthier, but it could create another food option for someone with an allergy.

Dalder says to ask questions and don't be afraid to over communicate when it comes to the ingredients in a dish. And if you are hosting, don't take any questions about the food personally. 

"It's important to remember as the host or the person making the food, not to be offended if somebody asks about an ingredient," Dalder explained. "Because allergies are a life threatening condition." 

It is extremely difficult for people with food allergies to eat outside of their home. Every time they do, they are taking a risk. If you do have a food allergy, it is never a bad idea to come prepared and bring your own dish just in case.

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