NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Food Allergies Anyone?

Food Allergies Anyone?

Almost 50 million Americans live with a food allergy.  You may know someone with a food allergy – a family member, a friend, your child’s classmate, or a co-worker so there’s a good chance that your holiday guest list might include someone with dietary restrictions. With a growing number of people affected by food allergies, especially children, knowing how to safely manage a menu can be challenging.

The most common food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, pecans and walnuts), milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. People who live with allergies on a daily basis will tell you that these allergens can be in many foods and sometimes in foods where one might not expect them.

People with food allergies must avoid whatever food or ingredient they are allergic to in order to be safe, so they will appreciate a host or hostess who is concerned.  Here are few tips that will allow guests to celebrate without having to worry.

Talk to your guests. Two-way communication – those with food allergies can generally quickly describe their situation -is the key to keeping guests safe and hosts relaxed during holiday meals. It’s good policy to check with family and friends to see if they or their children have food allergies when you invite when them to dinner. No one expects you to rewrite your whole menu in light of their allergy, but making a few dishes without the offending ingredients will make your guests feel welcome.

If the party is going to include guests that you don’t know very well or unexpected guests, consider serving a variety of foods so that even those with food allergies will have some items they can eat.

Many possible dietary changes are easy to do.  For simple vegetarian changes, use vegetable broth in place of chicken or turkey broth when cooking.  For gluten-free cooking, choose from a variety of stuffing mixes or recipes that rely on gluten-free grains such as corn and/or rice. For non-dairy menu changes, baking and cooking with one of the many popular non-dairy beverages, available sweetened or unsweetened, can work well. Be sure to have a non-dairy option for sour cream or whipped cream if need be. A quick check of dairy and freezer cases will show display a variety of  alternate options.

The store-bought soups, sauces and stuffing and dip mixes that go into many holiday recipes may contain ingredients that some people are allergic to. Be sure to check the ingredient labels for allergens. Just a small amount of an allergen can cause life-threatening health problems for some.

Take extra precautions in the kitchen to separate foods containing allergens from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Thoroughly clean equipment, utensils and work surfaces between uses to prevent allergens from being transferred from one dish into another.  Peanuts and peanut oil residue can easily cross-contaminate to other foods.  Keep each food dish in a separate serving tray and have one serving utensil per dish.

If you make a dish that contains ingredients that are common allergens, make festive labels for each dish that lets people know it contains the ingredient. For instance, if a dish contains wheat and eggs, have a label that says, “This dish contains wheat and eggs!” If it contains almonds, have a label that says, “This dish contains almonds!” One easy way to do this is to print the messages on paper labels and tape them to toothpicks or wooden popsicle sticks that can be inserted into the dish.

Consider serving your holiday meal buffet style. This will keep each food item separate and please all of your guests as well as introduce new food choices. Buffet-style meals are ideal for setting out small cards, like place-card settings that include the name of the dish and the ingredient listing. Even if your meal is not buffet-style, your guests will surely appreciate a quick, private rundown on the dishes that meet their specific needs and those that don’t. Remember, not all of your dishes need to meet everyone’s requirements.

Be ready for an emergency.  Know the signs of an allergic reaction (e.g. hives, redness, difficulty breathing).  Be prepared to call 9-1-1 or local emergency services right away.

One option for a dairy free choice of an old favorite follows.


Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie


2 cups pumpkin purée

2 eggs

1/3 cup maple syrup, honey, or rice syrup

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 (14 ounces) package silken tofu

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 425°F. Put pumpkin, eggs, maple syrup, salt, pumpkin pie spice and tofu into the blender and purée until smooth. Pour pumpkin mixture into unbaked pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F and bake an additional 45 minutes, or until set.

Nutritional Info: Per Serving:  Serving size: 1 slice, 170 calories (70 from fat), 8g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 10g sugar), 5g protein

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