Healthy Living Blog

Allergy-Friendly Holidays

Tina Miller, MS RDN Meijer Healthy Living Advisor,


Tina Miller 2011Research estimates that nearly 15 million Americans have a food allergy.  In children, food allergies effect 1 of every 13 children. (FARE-Food Allergy Research and Education,  Eight foods cause most food allergic reactions in the United States: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and crustacean shellfish. Here, we focus on three key allergens: Gluten, Dairy and Tree Nut.

A food allergy is an immune response to a component found in a particular food(s), typically a protein. Mild reactions such as a rash to severe reactions such as anaphylaxis (life-threatening reaction than may include closing of the airway) can happen when the allergen is ingested.  Epinephrine is used to stop the immune reaction and prevent a life-threating event.

A food intolerance does not involve the immune system.  Symptoms can cause discomfort such as stomach pain, gas and diarrhea but are not life-threatening.  An example is lactose intolerance where the enzyme that digests lactose is missing and this results in uncomfortable side effects from drinking milk or consuming lactose containing dairy products.

Tips for planning an allergy free meal:

  1. Plan menu with allergy free foods
  2. Read food labels
    1. Read ingredient list carefully (read every time you purchase since manufacturing processes can change)
    2. Look for allergen information
    3. Visit manufacturer’s website and/or call
    4. When in doubt, don’t use the product
    5. For more information:
  3. Let guests read your recipes, view products
  4. Follow safe food handling practices
    1. Wash hands, surfaces frequently
    2. Avoid cross-contamination with non-allergen free foods
    3. Cover prepared foods to decrease risk
  5. Tips on label reading ( from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American. Labels on foods regulated by the FDA must list ingredients which contain one or more of the major food allergens in one of two ways:
  • The common or usual name of the major food allergen must be followed by the food source in parentheses in the list of the ingredients. This will occur the first time the major food allergen is listed and does not have to be repeated each time the name of the specific food allergen appears.

Examples: “lecithin (soy),” “flour (wheat),” and “whey (milk)”

  • There may be a section after or near the ingredient list called “Contains”. After the word “Contains”, there must be listed the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived.

Example: “Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy.”

A “contains” statement is not required on a food label.   Also, the common English name may only be listed in the “contains” statement and not in the list of ingredients. Therefore, you must read the list of ingredients and any “Contains statement” carefully.


What is Gluten?  Gluten is a name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected, such as “Natural Flavors”.

Thanksgiving Turkey Tips:

  • Check your turkey to make sure it is gluten free (not injected with gluten free flavor enhancers)
  • Keep gluten containing stuffing separate. Proteins from the stuffing in the cavity of the turkey can cross contaminate the meat.
  • Make gluten free versions of holiday favorites.

What about Diary?  Milk allergy is a food allergy, which is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein (most commonly casein or whey). When ingested, the food trigger an allergic reaction that may include a range of symptoms from mild symptoms (rashes, hives, or swelling) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, or loss of consciousness).

Diary Free Thanksgiving Tips:

  • Use milk substitutes and dairy free alternatives such as soy, rice or coconut milks.
  • Non-dairy is not necessarily dairy free – milk derivatives may be used so read labels carefully.
  • Cooking tips: try using broth instead of milk in mashed potatoes, use a “vegan” or dairy free spread in place of butter.

Tree Nut Allergy Awareness:     There are many varieties of tree nuts from common nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans to less common such as lichee or pine nut, tree nuts come in many shapes and sizes. Tree nuts, along with peanut and shellfish allergies, are most often linked to serious allergic reactions that can include anaphylaxis.  A tree nut allergy usually lasts a lifetime; fewer than 10 percent of people with this allergy outgrow it.

Peanuts are legumes, not to be confused with tree nuts.  However, 25% to 40% of those with a peanut allergy also have an allergy to tree nuts.

Nut Free Thanksgiving Tips:

  • Nuts are typically optional in recipes and can often be eliminated without a replacement
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good, crunchy substitute for nuts
  • Flaxseed meal can be added to baked goods for a nut-free “nutty flavor”

Allergy Friendly Recipes:

Gluten Free Rice Stuffing with Cranberries

Serves 6


2 tbsp. Earth Balance® Original Buttery Spread

½ cup chopped celery*

1/3 cup chopped onion*

1 ½ cup or 2 bags Minute® Multi-Grain Medley, Gluten Free (brown rice, red rice, wild rice and quinoa)

1 ¾ cup True Goodness® by Meijer™ Gluten Free Chicken Stock

½ cup True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic Sweetened Dried Cranberries

1 tsp. McCormick® Rubbed Sage

½ tsp. True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic Ground Paprika

½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds


  1. Melt spread in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add celery and onion; cook and stir 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  2. Add rice to skillet. Stir in stock, cranberries, sage and paprika. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 12 minutes or until stock is absorbed and rice is tender.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in pumpkin seeds.  Fluff with fork before serving.


Source: Adapted from


Time-saving tip: Pick up pre-cut onion and celery in Meijer Produce department


Nutrition Information (per serving): 254 calories, 10g fat, 11mg cholesterol, 176mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein


Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Serves 8


2 cups crushed Schar® honey-grams

¼ cup butter – softened *For Dairy Allergies use vegetable oil non-dairy spread

¼ teaspoon True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic ground cinnamon.


Ingredients for the pie filling:

1 can (15 ounces) Meijer pumpkin puree

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated skim milk *For Dairy Allergies substitute 1 1/3 cups vegetarian non-dairy milk such as soy or rice milk

2 True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic eggs

1/3 cup, packed True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic brown sugar

1/3 cup True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic cane sugar

½ teaspoon True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic ground nutmeg

½ teaspoons McCormick® ground allspice

1 teaspoon True Goodness® by Meijer™ Organic cinnamon.



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Crush gram-crackers into a fine meal. Cut in the butter.
  3. Add cinnamon. Mix until dough forms a coarse meal. Press into the bottom of a Cheesecake Spring Form Pan or pie pan.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while mixing the pie filling.
  5. In large bowl beat eggs until frothy. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  6. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
  7. Let cool before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: Dr. Schar USA, Inc.






Gluten Allergen Caution: Gluten in a protein found in wheat, rye and some other grains.

  • “Natural Flavors” can contain gluten (and/or many other potential allergens)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Bread — any type made with white flour,
  • wheat flour; bread crumbs
  • Bulgur
  • Cereal extract
  • Couscous
  • Cracker meal
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer — also known as farro
  • Farina
  • Flour — atta, club, common, durum,
  • einkorn, emmer, farina, graham, kamut,
  • maida, semolina, spelt, triticale, triticum
  • Flour — all purpose, bread, bromated,
  • cake, enriched, high gluten, high
  • protein, instant pastry, phosphated,
  • plain, soft wheat, steel ground, stone
  • ground, self-rising, unbleached, white,
  • whole wheat
  • Fu
  • Gluten — wheat gluten, vital gluten, vital
  • wheat gluten, fu
  • Kamut® — khorasan wheat
  • Malt, malt extract
  • Matzo — Matzo meal (also spelled as
  • matzoh, matzah, or matza)
  • Noodles, pasta
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Tabbouleh
  • Triticale
  • Triticum
  • Wheat, whole wheat — wheat berries,
  • wheat bran, whole wheat bread, whole
  • wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat germ
  • oil, wheat protein isolate, wheat starch,
  • wheat sprouts, sprouted wheat
  • Wheatgrass
  • Artificial flavoring, natural flavoring
  • Caramel color
  • Dextrin
  • Food starch*, gelatinized starch,
  • modified starch, modified food starch,
  • vegetable starch
  • Glucose syrup
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Monosodium glutamate, MSG
  • Oats**
  • Soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, teriyaki sauce
  • Surimi
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Vegetable gum

Dairy Allergen Caution:

  • Natural flavors may contain milk derivatives
  • Non-dairy products may not be dairy free. Some contain Casein or Whey, proteins found in dairy (such as sodium caseinate)
  • Milk — acidophilus milk, buttermilk, buttermilk blend, buttermilk solids, cultured milk, condensed milk, dried milk, dry milk solids (DMS), evaporated milk, fat‐free milk, fully cream milk powder, goat’s milk, Lactaid® milk, lactose free milk, low fat milk, malted milk, milk derivative, milk powder, milk protein, milk solids, milk solid pastes, nonfat dry milk, nonfat milk, nonfat milk solids, pasteurized milk, powdered milk, sheep’s milk, skim milk, skim milk powder, sour milk, sour milk solids, sweet cream buttermilk powder, sweetened condensed milk, sweetened condensed skim milk,whole milk, 1% milk, 2% milk
  • Butter — artificial butter, artificial butter flavor, butter, butter extract, butter fat, butter flavored oil, butter solids, dairy butter, natural butter, natural butter flavor, whipped butter
  • Casein & caseinates — ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed casein, iron caseinate magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, sodium caseinate, zinc caseinate
  • Cheese — cheese (all types), cheese flavor (artificial and natural), cheese food, cottage cheese, cream cheese, imitation cheese, vegetarian cheeses with casein
  • Cream, whipped cream
  • Curds
  • Custard
  • Dairy product solids
  • Galactose
  • Ghee
  • Half & Half
  • Hydrolysates — casein hydrolysate, milk protein hydrolysate, protein hydrolysate, whey hydrolysate, whey protein hydrolysate Ice cream, ice milk, sherbet
  • Lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate
  • Lactate solids
  • Lactyc yeast
  • Lactitol monohydrate
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactose
  • Lactulose
  • Milk fat, anhydrous milk fat
  • Nisin preparation
  • Nougat
  • Pudding
  • Quark
  • Recaldent
  • Rennet, rennet casein
  • Simplesse® (fat replacer)
  • Sour cream, sour cream solids, imitation sour cream
  • Whey — acid whey, cured whey, delactosed whey, demineralized whey, hydrolyzed whey, powdered whey, reduced mineral whey, sweet dairy whey, whey, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey powder, whey solids
  • Yogurt (regular or frozen), yogurt powder

Tree Nut Allergen Caution:

  • Almond
  • Beechnut
  • Brazil nut
  • Bush nut
  • Butternut
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Coconut*
  • Filbert
  • Ginko nut
  • Hazelnut
  • Hickory nut
  • Lichee nut
  • Macadamia nut
  • Nangai nut
  • Pecan
  • Pine nut
  • Pistachio
  • Shea nut
  • Walnut
  • Almond
  • Almond paste
  • Anacardium nuts
  • Anacardium occidentale (Anacardiaceae) [botanical name, Cashew]
  • Artificial nuts
  • Beech nut
  • Brazil nut
  • Bertholletia excelsa (Lecythidaceae) [botanical name, Brazil nut]
  • Bush nut
  • Butternut
  • Butyrospermum Parkii [botanical name, Shea nut]
  • Canarium ovatum Engl. in A. DC. (Burseraceae) [botanical name, Pili nut]
  • Caponata
  • Carya illinoensis (Juglandaceae) [botanical name, Pecan]
  • Carya spp. (Juglandaceae) [botanical name, Hickory nut]
  • Cashew
  • Castanea pumila (Fagaceae) [botanical name, Chinquapin]
  • Castanea spp. (Fagaceae) [botanical name, Chestnut (Chinese, American, European, Seguin)]
  • Chestnut (Chinese, American, European, Seguin)
  • Chinquapin
  • Coconut*
  • Cocos nucifera L. (Arecaceae (alt. Palmae)) [botanical name, Coconut]
  • Corylus spp. (Betulaceae) [botanical name, Filbert/hazelnut]
  • Filbert
  • Fagus spp. (Fagaceae) [botanical name, beech nut]
  • Gianduja
  • Ginko nut
  • Ginkgo biloba L. (Ginkgoaceae) [botanical name, Ginko nut]
  • Hazelnut
  • Heartnut
  • Hickory nut
  • Indian nut
  • Juglans cinerea (Juglandaceae) [botanical name, Butternut]
  • Juglans spp. (Juglandaceae) [botanical name, Walnut, Butternut, Heartnut]
  • Karite (shea nut)
  • Lichee nut
  • Litchi chinensis Sonn. Sapindaceae [botanical name, Lichee nut]
  • Lychee nut
  • Macadamia nut
  • Macadamia spp. (Proteaceae) [botanical name, Macadamia nut/Bush nut]
  • Mandelonas
  • Marzipan
  • Mashuga nuts
  • Nangai nuts
  • Natural nut extract (for example, almond extract)
  • Nougat
  • Nu-Nuts®
  • Nut butters (e.g., Almond butter, Hazelnut butter, Brazil nut butter, Macadamia nut butter, Pistachio nut butter, Shea nut butter, Karike butter, as well as other nut butters)
  • Nut meal
  • Nutella ®
  • Nutmeat
  • Nut oil (e.g., Walnut oil as well as other nut oils)
  • Nut paste
  • Nut pieces
  • Pecan
  • Pigñolia
  • Pili nut
  • Pine nut
  • Pine nut (Indian, piñon, pinyon, pigndi, pigñolia, pignon nuts)
  • Pinon nut
  • Piñon or Piñon nut
  • Pinus spp. (Pineaceae) [botanical name, Pine nut/piñon nut]
  • Pistachio
  • Pistacia vera L. (Anacardiaceae) [botanical name, Pistachio]
  • Pralines
  • Prunus dulcis (Rosaceae) [bontanical name, almond]
  • Shea nut
  • Sheanut
  • Vitellaria paradoxa C.F. Gaertn. (Sapotaceae) [botanical name, Shea nut]
  • Walnut (English, Persian, Black, Japanese, California)
  • Artificial flavoring
  • Baked goods
  • Mortadella
  • Natural flavoring
  • Nougat
  • Pesto


Source: Kids with Food Allergies,