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Celebrating Thanksgiving – Focus on the Day, Not on the Food

 by Tami L. Pyles


My family manages food allergies on a daily basis - and our job becomes even more important as we head into the holiday season.  As we begin our preparations for Thanksgiving we have many reasons to be thankful. 


We are thankful that:

  • Our 4-year-old daughter, who has a severe peanut allergy, is already so aware and engaged in managing her allergy. 
  • When my youngest daughter was also diagnosed with food allergies this year, we had food allergy experience under our belt, which helped as we added new allergies to manage for our family 
  • We are able to cook and bake so many healthy foods at home instead of spending money to eat out. 
  • There are so many great nut-free products and companies that we can use. 
  • When my daughter had a reaction this summer we were in close proximity to medical care and she was fine after a visit to the emergency room. 


Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and recognize the good things in your life, and we will do that this Thanksgiving.  We will also be developing a plan to keep our daughters safe during this very food-focused holiday.  Every family celebrates Thanksgiving in their own unique way- sometimes filled with special foods and traditions.  Each family living with food allergies must decide on their level of comfort in dining with family and friends and/or serving traditional Thanksgiving fare which can be allergy laden.  As you begin to think about your Thanksgiving food plan, here are a few different options from KFA that can help your family have a safe and fun Thanksgiving.


The Meal:

  • Host the Thanksgiving meal at your house and serve only safe foods.
  • Prepare a safe meal for your child and bring it with you to your Thanksgiving celebration.
  • Coordinate closely with your Thanksgiving host and offer to bring one, or several, safe dishes.  Also, discuss ways to prevent cross-contact in the kitchen.


Focus on the Day, Not the Food:

  • Plan fun events, instead of a big meal - flag football, special crafts, or a walk in the fall weather.
  • Help those less fortunate - do something nice for a charity: volunteer at a shelter or making a donation, or create holiday care packages that could be sent to local shelters.
  • Find a unique way to showcase what you are thankful for this year- draw pictures, create a Thanksgiving collage, or take turns telling stories about the things you are most thankful for this year.


Planning ahead and preparing for the holiday will go a long way to relieve some of the stress associated with a food-focused holiday like Thanksgiving.  Begin your planning now so that when Thanksgiving arrives you can spend your day being thankful.   Don’t forget to always stay prepared during this season – carry your action plans and your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors with you, always.  Reinforce label reading, prevention of cross contact, and not consuming foods unless you confirm that it’s safe for your child.


This holiday we will be prepared and be thankful for the nut-free recipes we will enjoy at our Thanksgiving feast.  We will be thankful for our family who has fully embraced the seriousness of our children’s food allergies.  We will be thankful for organizations like KFA that provide so many wonderful ways to navigate life with food allergies.  What will you be thankful for this year?


For more information on how to have a safe and fun Thanksgiving visit:



Tami L. Pyles is the mother of two food allergic children.  She has worked in higher education for the last 15 years and is also a freelance writer who frequently writes articles to promote food allergy awareness.  Tami has had food allergy awareness articles published in local magazines and national newsletters.  She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband and two daughters, ages 4 and 2. 






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  • Baking Allergy-Free Holiday Treats: Visit our blog to read about celebrating Thanksgiving with food allergies

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Good Morning!   I'm a Mom of 2, ages 3.5 and 18 months.  In our household we have an anaphylactic dairy allergy and a corn allergy.  I am the one with the anaphylaxis and I've lived WELL with this allergy all my life. I'd just like to say that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and if there is extended family  and friends who will cooperate with your food allergies, you can have a safe and delicious Thanksgiving.  It's about trust... and about education... and possibly about providing recipes and substitute ingredients.    Or, you can host yourself. 

So, please don't fear the holiday and ignore the food.  Singling your food-allergic child out and "changing the focus of the Holiday" can be a confusing thing for the entire family.  Believe me, food allergic people already know they're different. 

My suggestion:  Get involved in food preparation.  Get your kids involved in food preparation.  Educate them.  The sooner they can navigate and appreciate things for themselves, the better.  Both for their safety, and for the parents' sanity.  And it's fun.  And flavor and food memories are some of the most poignant, and longest lasting/bonding human experiences one can have.  Offering nourishment on so many levels.


For a bunch of Dairy-free Corn-free Thanksgiving-related recipes, see my blog:


Robyn Pollock Peterson
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