You walk into the holiday party or family Thanksgiving and are surrounded with tables covered with delicious dishes — but what if you couldn’t eat any of them?

Most of us can choose to indulge when it comes to a holiday feast, but that’s not the case for the tens of thousands of Americans with food allergies and restrictions. Imagine Thanksgiving without wheat, dairy, soy, eggs or all of the above.

It may sound like a death sentence for many of us. For those living with food allergies, it can be a cause for extreme anxiety this time of year.

How do you explain to Grandma that her famous green bean casserole will make you sick?
How do you tell Great Aunt Millie that you’re going to need her secret recipe if you want to indulge in her amazing stuffing?

Ken Scheer owns Rock A Healthy Lifestyle, a consultancy dedicated to helping people living with food allergies. “Be prepared and give hosts as much advanced notice as possible because if they need to make accommodations for you they need time,” says Scheer. “Tell them everything you need’ don’t leave anything out.”

He says if you have food allergies and are going to a loved one’s home this holiday season, take a deep breath and follow these tips:

  • You must ask what ingredients are in every dish.
  • Don’t take any chances, if you are unaware, play it safe, and don’t eat it.
  • Ask how they prepare the food. If they don’t have separate utensils and cookware you shouldn’t eat it, because there could be cross contamination.
  • Ask if you can bring your own food or bring dishes that others can try.
  • Relax and enjoy the holidays with others.

If you are hosting a loved one with food allergies, you could also be dealing with some anxiety. Kirstin Carey, owner of Nourish Restaurant in Scottsdale, has a number of food allergies herself and feeds people with allergies and restrictions every day in her restaurant.

Carey offers these tips for hosts:

  • Don’t panic when feeding a food restrictive person.
  • Ask the person for a list of common places the restriction or allergy is found. (For example, wheat is found in soy sauce.)
  • Ask for a recipe from the person if you don’t know what to make.
  • Don’t make something special just for that person and make a big deal about it. No one likes to feel like the odd man out or like they made things more difficult for the host.
  • Take the food restriction seriously. Just because the person isn’t rushed to the hospital with a closed throat after eating the restricted food, doesn’t mean that they aren’t impacted negatively by the food.

A pumpkin torte will be featured on the "Freaksgiving" menu.Carey and Scheer have come together to help reduce the food stress people often feel around the holidays. Based on the term, “Freak at the Table” (a self-given name to describe the person who has a food restriction (vegan, food allergy, special diet) and has to ask a bunch of questions every time they eat), they created Freaksgiving.

Freaksgiving is a two-day event created for the gluten-free-and-more community. All dishes on the special holiday menu are gluten, dairy, soy and egg-free. Patrons will also have a choice of traditional, paleo, raw and vegan meals.Also on the "Freaksgiving" menu is a roasted root vegetable salad.

A complete recipe book of all the holiday dishes will go home with each patron, giving them enough time to shop and cook for Thanksgiving. For those that don’t want to cook or are hosting, you can even order the meals for pick up or delivery.

“It will allow the ‘Freak’ to feel safe and not like the oddball at the table,” says Carey. “It will take the spotlight off the person and let them simply enjoy their meal and their night.”

Freaksgiving is being held November 19th and 20th at Nourish in Scottsdale.

7147 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale
(480) 684-2233