The holiday season is here. Time to deck the halls, trim the tree, and most importantly, fire up the oven. For most Americans, the holidays mean chestnuts roasting on an open fire, homemade pumpkin pie, and turkey with all the trimmings. But what if you must cook for a family plagued with food allergies? What if you have one yourself? Does your holiday feast have to be a bland, flavorless affair? And if not, is it inevitable that you (or someone) must suffer the decidedly unfestive fate of being stuck at a dinner table full of foods that you can’t enjoy?
Of course not, says food allergy expert Terry Traub. She insists that your annual family feast doesn’t have to diminish your holiday spirit. For people who must live with food allergies or for the families who must prepare safe, nutritious meals for them, all it takes is the right recipe and a little bit of planning to create a dinner that is both delicious and safe.
“The trick to cooking allergy-free is not to make a separate meal for the family member who is allergic,” says Traub, author of the new book Food to Some, Poison to Others: The Food Allergy Detection Program (Frederick Fell Publishers, July 2008, ISBN: 978-0-8839117-1-6, $14.95). “The secret is to find safe recipes that the whole family can enjoy. No one should spend her entire holiday cooking separate meals for everyone. Find something that works for each family member, and everyone at your table will leave happy and satiated.”
Traub speaks from personal holiday cooking experience. A dental hygienist and the mother of two sons with Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance) and one with lactose intolerance, she wrote her book and created her website—eattobeallergyfree.com—to help families and individuals who struggle with food allergies.
The first step, of course, is getting educated. Traub’s book helps people to figure out what’s causing their distressing symptoms—food allergies can take the form of runny nose, coughing, asthma, itchy throat, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive sweating, mucus in the chest, eczema, constipation, and/or vomiting—and provides a wealth of recipes, pantry lists, and meal-planning menus to combat the condition.
Once you’ve eliminated the offending foods from your diet, you’re free to start focusing on the delicious, nutritious meals you can enjoy. And now, as we gather ’round the table for another holiday season, it’s the perfect time to try out some new recipes.
“People commonly assume that cooking allergy-free is complicated or more time-consuming than preparing traditional recipes,” says Traub. “But all it really takes is being aware of the right ingredients and having a cooking schedule that works for you. If you do your shopping and prep work ahead of time, you can spend more time enjoying your family over the holiday season and less time fretting over the stove.”
The best part? Your guests will never know the difference. “Cooking allergy-free doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or quality,” explains Traub. “I’ve even found that my guests often prefer the meals that I’ve prepared with gluten-free ingredients to those that don’t. The holidays are about family—and the meals you share during this time of year are special. Making sure that it’s a time that everyone can enjoy safely is worth more than every gift underneath the tree.”
by, Terry Traub