Thanksgiving Guests with Allergies

I had the honor of writing a guest post on my friend Carol’s blog:  Buttercup Counts Her Blessings (which is being posted today and you might want to check out).  So welcome to anyone who has read that post and is now visiting my blog.

As you can imagine from the title of my blog, I am gluten-free and dairy-free.  In fact, I’m Paleo which means no grains at all (not even gluten-free products), no dairy, no beans, no white sugar, and ideally no processed foods.   This makes me a nightmare of a guest, especially when you add in the fact that I’m known as a great cook and am an award-winning cookbook author.  Only my closest friends and family are comfortable inviting me to their tables.

I clearly sympathize with anyone who has to cook for someone like me.  Generally it takes at least 4 phone calls or emails checking to see


if there are any ingredients I can’t eat in the recipes they are planning.


Or worse for me, is when hosts don’t do any special cooking leaving me to try to find something they are serving that I can eat.  To be fair, I usually tell hosts not to worry about me because I can always find something to eat – so I create my own dilemma.  So what’s a person to do?

As a Host:

1.  Ask guests if they have any food allergies or restrictions.  It’s also important to know the extent of the problem.  A guest with celiac disease needs more than just gluten-free food, the gluten-free food must be cooked in a gluten-free environment to avoid cross-contamination.  That means you can’t reuse the knife or cutting board you just sliced bread on to the chop vegetables for a gluten-free dish.   Everything must be freshly washed and dried with a clean towel (there might be a gluten crumb lurking in a used towel) .  I usually line my counters with foil and do all my gluten-free cooking before I start my non-gluten free dishes.


Other guests with sensitivities may just need to avoid certain foods but do not need special preparations.  If your guest is a vegetarian or vegan, plan for one of the side dishes to be substantial enough to be an entree for the vegetarian or vegan – like the Fruited Quinoa Salad with Fresh Ginger Dressing with added beans or chickpeas for extra protein.

2.  Ask the guest to bring a dish for the whole group, thereby ensuring they have something to eat.



3.  Read labels carefully.  Did you know there is wheat (a product with gluten) in soy sauce?  Allergens can be found in the most unexpected places.

Hellman’s Mayonnaise, for example.


When you read the ingredients it’s clearly stated that it is a gluten-free product.  But it will be a problem for guests with soy or egg allergies.


If you see the word “parve” on a label that means the product is dairy-free.  Not all dairy-free products have that word in which case you still have to read the ingredients.


Even after reading the labels you may want to…

4.  Ask.  Call your guest – they will know or you can google the product in question.  There are also sites/blogs that will list foods that are allergen free

DAIRY ALLERGY SAFE FOODS LIST – jennifermendelsohn

Though this all sounds complicated, it’s not as hard as it seems; it’s an act of love for someone you care about.

For Guests:

If you have a food allergy you have probably been coping with this for many years and know the routine.  Your best bets are:  bring a dish for everyone, bring your own food, or eat before you go to the event.

It’s not just about the food.  Enjoy the company and the event – you can always snack when you get home. 






  1. Good, clear advice. As a GF guest, I often ask what the host is planning to serve and sometimes can offer small accommodations to make the entire prep GF. For example, once the host was planning to marinate the main course in soy sauce. I offered to bring over my bottle of GF soy sauce in advance. Instead she just purchased some GF soy sauce and used that. It made the main course acceptable to everyone. Another time I was invited to a BBQ. The host purchased a GF sauce for me intending to use it just for my portion. He liked it so much that he used it for everyone. “That’s great sauce” he said. It’s true, some GF products don’t taste as good as as “regular,” but some are even better. I often offer to bring a dessert. I like to bake and have a few of my old favorites that I have adapted easily.

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