Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving Gatherings

Today, as I was driving around town running errands, I drove past the city park and workers were already putting up holiday lights. It was a little bit of a shock – the sun is shining, the weather is still warm, my husband had to mow the lawn again yesterday… It doesn’t feel like the holidays are approaching. But then I realized Thanksgiving is next week.

How did that happen?

Like it or not, the holidays are, indeed, on their way. And with the holidays come family gatherings, parties, and traditional feasts. And as if there isn’t enough pressure surrounding large family gatherings, when you throw food allergies into the mix, the holidays can sometimes feel like a field of land mines.

To help prepare for Thanksgiving, we had our November meeting of the Davis County support group last week. Our first order of business was to welcome a new member to our group! We spent quite a bit of time discussing safe foods and how to find them, such as chocolate chips, granola bars, cereals, cake mixes, brownies, cookies – all those foods we love to indulge in but have to be especially careful of when we shop and cook for food-allergic family members.

We also exchanged some allergen-friendly Thanksgiving recipes, such as the Salt Lake Tribune’s recipe for Apple Crisp, found here. (Just substitute safe margarine for the butter, and gluten-free flour if necessary.)

When it comes to holiday survival techniques, we talked about a few ideas that have worked for us. One survival technique many of us have used at family gatherings is to simply bring our own food for our food-allergic kids. I used to carry safe chicken nuggets everywhere we went when my son was younger. I still tuck a couple of safe granola bars in my purse even now, just in case we can’t find anything at a party for him to eat – at least that will tide him over until we can make a graceful exit and find him some safe food.

Another tip is when going to a potluck, always volunteer to take the dessert. When people bring desserts, they bring their fanciest creations, which for some reason almost always seems to ensure they will include nuts, chocolate, and dairy ingredients. So volunteering to bring a dessert will cut down on some of that risk, and will ensure that your food-allergic family member gets something sweet to look forward to at the end of the meal.

We ended our meeting by sampling some tasty treats from Enjoy Life! Foods, who graciously sent us a sampling of goodies, such as four flavors of granola bars, two flavors of cookies, chocolate chips, and their latest product – scrumptious Boom Choco Boom chocolate bars! Enjoy Life! Foods makes products that are free of the top 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish). Locally, we can find their products at Smiths, Dan’s, and Whole Foods Markets, as well as others. Check out their website here.

It was a good meeting, and we enjoyed sharing tips and ideas with each other.

Next week, I’ll be exercising my favorite Thanksgiving survival technique – escaping. I’ll be as far from electronic devices as possible, so I won’t be posting a blog entry next week. But I’ll be back after Thanksgiving, so look for a new blog entry when I return!

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