The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time to begin thinking about holiday meals with family and friends. For many people, the appearance of the Holiday Season is a mixed bag. One could suggest it’s similar to a visit from a beloved old friend who shows up at the door with several of their less-than-relaxing friends. In this case, those “friends” would be Holiday “Rush,” Holiday “Prep” and Holiday “Stress.” And, when envisioning the preparation of a Thanksgiving meal that is both allergen free and full of “traditional dishes,” the mere thought can send some parents’ heart aflutter.
The following simple steps can help take the rush and stress out of the equation and put a pep in your holiday meal prep.
1. Use whole foods
Possibly the best way to control what’s in your child’s food is to eat mainly whole foods, like apples, cranberries, spinach, potatoes, meats from the butcher and other foods that are not precooked or prepackaged in spices, sauces and the like. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well it can be. But the thought of cooking from scratch might also be a source of anxiety to some. However, because food intolerances and allergies, along with other food issues, have become more prevalent in American society, more information has also appeared detailing how to make quick, healthy meals made from whole foods.
Take for instance this quick recipe for amazing homemade cranberry sauce. It takes three ingredients – organic cranberries, organic brown sugar and orange juice. And it only takes about 15 minutes to make. You simply mix all three ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce and simmer until the cranberries pop. It’s that easy.
Simply conducting a Google search on the terms “organic,” “paleo,” ”primal” or “vegetarian” plus “homemade (insert your favorite dish here)” will yield a surplus of delicious recipes made from whole foods for you to choose from.
2. Make Your Own Bone Broth for Gravies, Stuffing and Soups
Once you make and eat your own bone broth, you may never go back to canned again. Homemade bone broth is packed full of nutrients and does not contain any allergens that are often found in canned broths like soy, corn or gluten. Bone broth is also easy to make and takes only a crockpot or stockpot, beef or poultry bones, water, apple cider vinegar and some veggies from your refrigerator. Like the cranberry sauce, you simply combine all the ingredients into your pot, set on med/low on the stove top or low in the crockpot and let it cook for 24-72 hours. All you need to do is periodically stir and add more water if needed. In a few days you will have enough broth to make gravy, stuffing, a few side dishes and still have leftovers for soup! Homemade bone broth can be refrigerated for up to 7 days or frozen for much longer storage.
3. Search for Organic, Paleo, Primal and Vegetarian Recipes
Searching on the Internet for “allergy free” recipes is doable, but it could be a bit cumbersome, yielding recipes that may eliminate individual ingredients you don’t need eliminated based on your child’s allergy (like eliminating dairy when you need to eliminate soy). Searching instead, as a start, for paleo/primal or organic Thanksgiving recipes could narrow the search some. The reason for this is that paleo, primal and organic diets tend to focus on food in its whole natural state, before it has been interfered with. These recipes readily tend to weed out many allergens that are routinely found in processed foods, such as gravy and soup packets, canned foods, etc. While this is a good place to start, it’s still important to carefully read the ingredient lists of substitutions. For instance, a recipe that eliminates wheat may call for almond flour as a substitute, which is not safe for children with nut allergies. However, many recipes also offer several possible substitutions to help alleviate this issue.
On the other hand, searching for vegetarian recipes helps those who are allergic to meat or simply wish to eliminate it from their diets. Either way, these sites all steer away from more unhealthy, allergen-laden versions of the same food made in a traditional manner.
At first the notion of cooking a holiday meal from scratch might seem impossibly time consuming and labor intensive. On the contrary, most dishes take the same, if not less, time to prepare as their less allergy friendly counterparts. Additionally, those recipes that “take longer” to cook usually do so in a crockpot while you are at work or, better yet, asleep.
Below are some commonly altered holiday dishes that are easily found on the Internet in allergy free and healthier versions, as well as commonly substituted ingredients:
- String/Green Bean Casserole
- Cranberry Sauce
- Various versions of Sweet Potato Casserole,
- Sweet Potato Pie and Candied Yams
- Mashed Potatoes
Substitutions for Flour – Coconut flour, almond flour, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch.
- Substitutions for Milk – Coconut milk, almond milk, soymilk.
As always, check with your doctor or allergist to determine which substitutions are right for your child’s allergy needs.