Living life with food allergies can often feel restrictive – especially for those who developed their allergies later in life. However, as allergy awareness grows and the push for better options is demanded, plenty of food replacements and allergy-safe brands are beginning to emerge.
That said, there is still one time of year that remains difficult for people with food allergies - the holidays. Navigating your way through a holiday meal can be as difficult as walking through a minefield. Whether it be because your relatives aren’t sensitive enough to your sensitivities, your friends don’t understand your situation's severity, or you really miss that meal you used to enjoy pre-allergy, holiday meals can be hard. This time of year is amongst the most beautiful of times, and everyone – with an allergy – should be able to enjoy themselves.
Perhaps the easiest way to take control of the menu is to offer to cook at this year’s holiday party. Instead of driving your relatives crazy by inspecting every package of every ingredient, take some initiative and cook up your own – allergy-safe – holiday favorites. Allergenic food is not bad food, so there is no shame in offering to bring a couple of your favorite dishes. This year give your family a delicious treat that you can be sure to enjoy.
Give a Heads Up
Hosting isn’t always an option for everyone, and that doesn’t mean that those people shouldn’t get to share a wonderful holiday meal with the people they love. Whether you have a small apartment, questionable cooking skills, or a complete lack of motivation to host your entire family, you can still have a safe and enjoyable holiday meal. In this case, the most important part is that you be a good and responsible guest and provide your host with a substantial warning. Make sure to reach out to your host as soon as possible and explain to them your situation. Through this, not only are you able to be clear about your concerns, but you are also allowing the opportunity for a conversation to open up regarding the dangers surrounding food allergies.
The Fear of Cross Contamination
One of the biggest fears at a big holiday dinner (for those with food allergies) is cross-contamination. Even if you have a full menu packed with allergy-safe food, it is still difficult to monitor your guests and keep them from accidentally contaminating the safe dishes. While most people mean well and would never contaminate the food on purpose, the truth remains that those who do not suffer from food allergies may not be in tune with their dangers. Given this, the solution to cross-contamination at a holiday party goes much further than just education and open conversation.
One of the best solutions to cross-contamination is maintaining physical boundaries. To keep the allergenic food clean, keep those dishes separate from the rest of the meal. One idea may be to put the allergy-safe food on a separate table. Another may be clearly labeling specific areas and utensils - ensuring that the guests know to be careful and watchful in those areas.
Keep Your Holiday Favorites
Just because you have food allergies does not mean that you shouldn’t enjoy your favorite holiday meals. While they may need to be tweaked and altered, there are still plenty of hearty and delicious options for those looking for allergenic dishes. Below are many popular foods with their allergenic alternatives, keeping your holiday meals safe and delicious.
• Milk – Cow’s milk can be replaced with coconut milk. With its thick texture and unique flavor, coconut milk can serve as the perfect replacement for any number of hearty recipes.
• Eggs – Potato-based egg replacements are a wonderful egg replacement. This allergenic option makes baking significantly easier for any allergy-safe family. While these replacements can’t be scrambled, they can be used to make that perfect holiday cookie.
• Peanuts – Peanuts have been enjoyed in multiple different forms throughout history. However, with peanut allergy becoming more common, other options have started appearing. Almonds and sunflower seeds both have delicious butter that can be used in any number of recipes, keeping your favorite recipes creamy and delicious while still allergy safe.
• Tree Nuts – Nuts are a staple in most kitchens. They can be used as part of a recipe, topping to your favorite meal, or as a delicious snack to keep you full. For those with allergies, seeds can be a wonderful replacement. Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds can all be the perfect crunch in that delicious salad.
• Wheat – Many people with gluten allergies fear that they will never be able to enjoy their favorite cake again. However, that is not the case. Today, several alternative flours can be used in cooking and baking. Coconut flour, almond flour, out the flour, and rice flour, to name a few.
• Fish – Fish can be a great source of lean protein; however, it is by no means the only source. Grass-fed meat, organic poultry, lentils, and black beans are all wonderful fish alternatives when looking for delicious protein food.
• Soybeans – Soy is used as a great replacement for most people following vegan and vegetarian diets. However, there are other options for those attempting those lifestyles. Lentils and quinoa are both also great options for protein-rich foods that are completely animal-free.
• Seeds – Seeds are often used as a fun decoration for some of your favorite foods. However, they do much more than adding a bit of flare. Real seed lovers know that different seeds provide different flavors and textures to foods. The simplest answer when it comes to finding a seed replacement is a different seed. Replace sesame with poppy or sunflower with flax. However, another option can also be nuts. Assuming you don’t have a nut allergy, they can add the perfect crunch and flavor to all your meals.
It’s no mystery why the holidays are such an amazing time of year: friends, family, and food. However, for people with food allergies, this time of year can also be consumed with fear, worry, and anxiety. Enjoying the holidays should not come at the expense of your health, especially as it doesn’t have to. With the proper preparations, knowledge, and education, this holiday season can be delicious and completely worry-free.
During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.
After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.
Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.
We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.
T.M., Chicago, USA
We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!
We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.
My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!
It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)
We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!!
Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA
My family ordered a week's worth of food from Food Allergy Concierge during the most recent lockdown. Having the food on hand, and knowing that it was safe for everyone in the family to eat, helped turn the lockdown into a stay-cation! We were still able to take a break from cooking and worrying, and we look forward to using FAC's services again in the future.
We are so lucky we found this company to help us while our son was traveling. They provided allergy-safe baked goods and delivered them to his hotel so he could have bread and pastries on his month-long Israel trip. It was very easy ordering and communicating his needs. I would definitely use the food allergy concierge again the next time he travels to Israel.