Picture of prepping Thanksgiving foods to cook

A registered dietitian shares 5 tips for navigating Thanksgiving with a food allergy

Medically reviewed on November 8, 2022 by Morgan Spicer, Medical Communications Manager. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

In case you missed every section of the grocery store becoming sprinkled with pumpkin spice everything, we’re here with a friendly reminder that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Not only is Thanksgiving the unofficial-official kickoff to the holiday season — it’s arguably the most food-centric holiday of the whole year.

For the 32 million people with food allergies in the U.S. (about 10.8% of adults and 7.6% of children)[1], this means the holiday can pose some challenges. Since many traditional Thanksgiving menu staples often contain at least one major allergen such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy, navigating the dinner table can be tricky.

Luckily, there are certain precautions you can take to help prevent food allergy accidents and safely enjoy yummy foods with your loved ones. Below, read some tips registered dietitian nutritionist and Everlywell Consultant, Heather Hanley, shared on how to safely navigate the food-focused holiday:

1. Plan ahead.

If you’re eating Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere, it’s important to let the host know ahead of time of any food allergies. This way, you can work together on coming up with safe alternatives or accommodate with just a few simple substitutions. Hanley said doing this can also help avoid any hurt feelings when you decline the “favorite family recipe” due to allergies. In addition to chatting with hosts, Hanley said it’s important to remember to bring along your Epi-Pen, or other epinephrine injectable, in case of an emergency.

2. Avoid cross contamination.

Cross-contact occurs when an allergen is inadvertently transferred from a food containing an allergen to a food that does not contain the allergen. To avoid cross-contamination, all prepping areas, equipment, and utensils need to be cleaned with hot, soapy water before being used to prepare allergen-free food.[2]

“Depending upon the specific food that you’re allergic to, cross contamination may be a big factor,” Hanley said. “A soy allergy may be easier to manage than a gluten or dairy allergy, for example.”

3. Come prepared.

“Ask [the host] about ingredients,” said Hanley. “If they contain allergens, this could mean making simple swaps like making mashed potatoes with olive oil and a plant based milk.” In addition, when you talk to the host, you can let them know that you’d like to contribute to the meal and bring some foods you know you can safely enjoy. Whether you make your favorite to share with others or not, you’ll be able to have peace of mind about what’s on your plate.

4. Know the ingredients.

“Thanksgiving is a time when people like to make family recipes or try new ones,” said Hanley. “But a harmless dish of brussel sprouts may be a disaster for someone with a soy allergy if the sprouts are coated with a miso glaze, for example.” Because a lot of dishes are made from scratch, it’s important to know what’s going in them and be prepared to ask questions. This also means looking at ingredient labels for pre-made foods.

5. Rethink traditions.

Outside of food traditions, it’s helpful to remember that Thanksgiving is a time to come together with friends, family, and loved ones to enjoy one another's company. Whether it’s watching the parade together, playing games, or simply writing down what you’re thankful for, by thinking outside the box of food-related traditions you get to define what the holiday means to you.

Want to learn your IgE reactivity to common food allergens? The Everlywell Food Allergy Test may be right for you if you:

ave experienced mild symptoms shortly after eating food, but haven’t been diagnosed with a food allergy, which may include:

  • Tingling or itching of your face, lips, mouth, tongue, or throat
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Hives or skin rash, or itchy skin
  • Runny nose, sneezing, congestion
  • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Have a parent or sibling who has a known allergic condition

While testing alone cannot be used to diagnose a food allergy, your healthcare provider can use your test results, in combination with your symptoms, medical history, family history, and a physical exam, to determine the likelihood of a food allergy and the right next steps for evaluation and treatment. Learn more about the Food Allergy Test here.

1. Allergy Facts and Figures. AAFA. URL. Accessed November 10, 2022.
2. Avoiding Cross-Contact. FoodAllergy.org. URL. Accessed November 10, 2022.

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