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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in social (3)


Parents: How to Talk Turkey (and Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving

This guest article continues our series on Thanksgiving with social tips to help dicuss food allergies with family and friends.



Phew!  Halloween has come and gone and you managed to  A) Keep you child with food allergies safe and sound while  B) actually enjoying the Halloween events – the class party, perhaps some Trick or Treating, and maybe a spooky Haunted House too!

Now, it’s November, and just as you find an allergen-laced Snickers™ bar hiding under the living room couch, the phone rings and it’s Aunt Apathy.  You know, the one who doesn’t seem to care about your kid’s life threatening food allergies?  “Allergies?” she questions you.  “Can’t you just give your kid a pill for that?” 

UGH!  You were dreading this call.  The entire extended family is gathering for the traditional Thanksgiving feast at Aunt Apathy’s.  Here we go – another holiday and another celebration with the potential to hurt your child, little Elsa, who is severely allergic to peanuts and intolerant to several other common foods.  

In this three part series, we will be addressing how to  1) Prepare your relatives for the cautions necessary to keep your child safe, 2) deal with the emotions when other adults just don’t “get it” and3.) Enjoy the big day while focusing on what Thanksgiving is really all about:  Gathering together with thankful hearts.

Here’s what you know for sure:
1.    You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
2.    You don’t want to skip Thanksgiving or the memories.
3.    You need to keep your child safe.
4.    Again, you need to keep your child safe.

Accept the invitation, thank her and hang up.  Review 1, 2, 3 and 4.  Those three points are what you want to accomplish when you call her back.  So, write a script and call her back within the next 24 hours.  Open the conversation with “Have I caught you at a busy time?” so you are assured she is present and truly listening, then smile the entire time you are chatting with her on the phone.  People can hear you smile.  Be calm, yet friendly  – pretend you are in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.  There’s never ever family drama there.

Here are a few scripts that might fit into your personal scenario:


The key phase here is “Would that be helpful?”

Everyone in our family is so excited to be coming to your house for Thanksgiving!  Elsa can’t stop taking about it! (This points out how important it is to Elsa and makes Auntie feel important in Elsa’s life, which she is.) I know it’s tricky to plan such a big event when someone with a food allergy is attending, so I wanted to offer to help in any way. (Keep talking so she can’t insert a “Oh No DEAR, that won’t be necessary”)  I would be happy to make a side dish or two that everyone could enjoy and Elsa could eat easily.  Would that be helpful so that you can prepare all the traditional dishes that you do so well?  

Now…onto the cross contamination topic…

Your concern (Open with this, even if she never seems concerned) about Elsa accidently being exposed to an allergen is always appreciated.  You don’t have to worry about her touching dairy products – she just can’t eat them or she will get pretty sick.  But, she can’t touch peanuts.  That’s the one you need to worry about the most, but it’s okay, I can be helpful with that.  Gosh, I can’t think of anything that you might be serving with peanuts though, can you?  OH, I just thought of one –my neighbors fry their turkey in the gigantic turkey fryer in the back yard – and I just learned they use peanut oil.  I would never had thought of that – peanuts in turkey!  There are so many hidden sources.  This might be helpful, save me the wrappers from any food and I’ll look over the ingredient list and we can decide then if Elsa can have it.   Or, would you like me to come and help the night before or early that morning?  (Now you have given her options to accept your help.  She maintains some power over her big event while you keep your child safe.)

When a traditional dish is ALWAYS part of the feast in your family, but your kid is allergic to it.


One of the things I am looking forward to are your famous sweet potatoes with that amazing buttery, maple sugar sauce!  It’s such a wonderful memory from my childhood! I know it won’t be a yummy as the one that you will make that day, but how about I bring a similar dish of sweet potatoes for Elsa?  That way, we can still have the tradition of your dish that means so much to all of us, and Elsa can have her own version too.  It is just really important to me that Elsa shares that memory with you.

Try these recipes for squash,  and for sweet potatoes.

When your child has a new or unanticipated dietary restriction...

I just wanted to give you the heads up that we took Nicholas off sugar 3 month ago.  It’s the first time that his immune system has done its job!  He didn’t catch any of those nasty start-of-school bugs that kept him home for weeks last year.  His doctor has encouraged us to keep it up (always good to insert an authority figure, like a doctor), even through the holidays.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings if we bring him something sugar-free for dessert.  Or, would it be helpful if I brought  two or three of those fabulous sugar-free pumpkin pies from Molly’s Allergen-Free Bakery?
These conversations aren’t always easy: Aunt Apathy just isn’t going to see life the way you do, because food allergies are a new phenomenon for her generation.  But, deep down, we all have the same purpose for Thanksgiving.  It’s about gathering family and friends together, creating memories and establishing traditions.  If the two of you focus on those intentions, you have a common goal.  That means you care about the same thing.  Next thing you know, you’ll have to start calling her by her real name.  But for now, just call her “Auntie” and send her flowers the next day to thank her for all of her hard work and  for creating memories for your child will always cherish.


More Article for Parents

For more tips on dealing with schools, read:  How to Feel Less Stress With a Food Allergic Child in School.

Read Aimee's Story:   Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.


About The Author

Melanie Potock, M.A., CCC-SLP of My MunchbugMelanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, of  Melanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.


Aimee's Story: Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.

Welcome to Aimee B. Smith, our new guest blogger and parent of a food allergic child.  This post is part of a series about dealing with food allergies in social situations -- this series will discuss handling Thanksgiving.  

Upon Arrival

From the moment I step out of our car on-to the snow-packed drive of my aunt’s house, my nose catches a whiff of the delicious aromas of roasted turkey, baked stuffing and homemade pumpkin pies.  The smell takes my mind and taste buds back, evoking all the warmth and nostalgia of Thanksgiving. But before my belly has a chance to rumble with the anticipation of gorging on the holiday spread, a sharp pain stabs my gut. Anxiety overtakes me: Will we be met with sly glances or unpleasant teasing again?  Will my daughter’s food intolerances consume the dinner table discussion? Will I be slammed repeatedly from every direction with questions like, “I forget, what gluten is exactly?” and, “Now tell me again, why can’t she eat this?” The knot wrenching my stomach tightens. Am I prepared to handle the slew of well-meaning but perpetually clueless references of, “I don’t understand…” and “Don’t worry so much, a little won’t hurt her.”?

Second Thoughts

I am having second thoughts about being here. Maybe our family’s dietary baggage is too great a burden to others.   Should we even have come to this dinner? This is as bad as, maybe worse than taking Raina to her friend’s pizza party or attending a neighborhood picnic. I’m scared for her safety, afraid she may ingest the wrong foods.  But it’s not just the allergens, disguised in mouthwatering dishes and desserts that I fear. My concern goes deeper –what if my daughter feels like an outcast, or that she feels somehow less of a person because she can’t eat what others are indulging in? 

Giving Thanks

My eyes turn to find Raina. She’s skipping up to the steps with glee. My Uncle Bob opens the door as full of high spirits as my little, bouncing girl. My aunts push him aside and run out with open arms and wide, glowing smiles to welcome and hug Raina tightly. I relax for a minute; my fears are subdued watching everyone’s joy. 

I remember the lessons that Melanie Potock, Raina’s feeding therapist, taught us: Eating should be enjoyable and relaxed.  It’s as much about the act of sitting down and enjoying each other as it is the food.  We aren’t here just for the food. 

I take a deep breath, allowing myself a break for just that instance from the overbearing stress I put on myself to manage these sorts of situations. As I let out a deep sigh, I remind myself of the pressure I place on myself to ensure Raina’s safety and that I’m doing a great job.

As I waddle up to the steps, laden with bags of my own allergen free pumpkin pie, gluten/egg/dairy free, green chili cornbread and homemade gravy I think perhaps this year can be better. I inwardly repeat my daily mantra, “It’s getting easier each day.  It’s getting easier each day…”  

Aunt Margie jolts over to grab a bag and, peaking in, says, “Oooh, look as these goodies! Your cousin, Lizzie, will be so happy. She’s on some crazy diet, off the dairy and gluten as well.” 

“Really!” I reply in shock then burst out a big smile, eager to greet my cousin, our new comrade on our allergen-free team. 

While I can’t always have faith that my family or friends will understand Raina’s needs or bend over backwards to accommodate her, I can hope that each year will improve as we all grow. I’m certain Raina will someday grow to be her own advocate and we, as a family, will find improved ways to cope with our stresses. Now that, is something to be thankful for!


About Aimee

Aimee B. Smith is a mother to four year old Raina, her miracle girl who was born a micro preemie at 24 weeks gestation. Aimee and her family embarked on an allergy-friendly journey after discovering Raina suffered from multiple food intolerances. The process has opened up a whole new adventure of cooking, shopping, dining and socializing for her and her husband. She is an avid writer, who finds inspiration for her art through her strong spirited daughter and the challenges and triumphs of motherhood. 




The Tender Foodie in Women's Lifestyle Magazine

"Me" in The Leonard at Logan House chef's kitchen - an historic Bed and Breakfast in Grand Rapids, MII was very honored to be interviewed and profiled in Women's LifeStyle Magazine for their October Issue.  The issue is all about "home", a timely topic as we draw in, bundle up and find sanctuary from the business of life. 

Click to read the full article, "Making Tasteful Choices" and to visit Women's LifeStyle Magazine's e-edition.


“Food is the center of social gatherings. At first, I would try to hide my food allergies,” explains Veltman, who would call ahead to order meals when meeting clients or attending parties at restaurants. “In doing so, I realized I was not alone.”
Food allergies are not just a health issue – it becomes a social issue.