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Holiday Eating

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The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will soon arrive, and with them large meals full of possibly dairy-laden foods. Here are a few tips to help get you through the meals, either at home or when youíre at somebody elseís table. The tips are tested and proven. Your relatives I canít do anything about.

You may have heard that some turkeys are pre-basted using injections that may contain butter. This is quite true, but itís nothing that those with LI should worry about. Those who are severely dairy-allergic, however, would be wise to eat no turkey except those you check out personally at the store. Any use of dairy may not be readily apparent on the label either. Get reassurances from someone as high up in rank in the store as possible, or call the manufacturer if it is a brand name turkey. Or else get a kosher turkey, because they must be dairy-free. Kosher turkeys are available in specialty butcher shops that attract a Jewish audience, and also in most supermarket chains, although you may have to call to find which particular stores in your area stock them.

Stuffing and mashed potatoes are two other holiday staples that are often made with butter or milk. Either one will work well with chicken broth instead, even low-fat broth if youíre watching fats or calories. A milk-free margarine can be substituted for the butter. For those who like their potatoes rich and creamy, think about using a milk substitute like Coffee-mate or Farm Rich, or one of the plain (not flavored) soy or rice milks. In moderation, these should not change the taste significantly. Of course, a 100% lactose-reduced milk can be substituted directly for regular milk in any recipe.

The same advice works for gravies as well. Stock, water, or a milk substitute of any of the kinds mentioned above should produce a thick, rich gravy. If you donít want the hassle of getting out the drippings, several firms make milk-free canned or jarred gravy, like Franco-American Slow Roast Turkey Gravy.

I know all families have their own specialties at the holiday table, so just use the same general advice and work out substitutions. Note that yogurt can also pass as sour cream; starch or flour can be used as a thickener for gravies and sauces; oil will often pass for butter; and many liquids can take the place of milk: water, fruit juice, even beer in certain recipes.

Desserts are tough. Although some substitutes work just fine in recipes, unless youíre a good cook, it can be hard to make the daintier and more delicate delights come out right. Again, a kosher bakery can help. The one closest to me even makes a completely milk-free pumpkin pie that tastes great. I couldnít duplicate that with a truckload of pumpkins and a yearís time.

Eating out in restaurants is a little safer than it used to be. The better the restaurant, the more likely they are to work with you to create milk-free foods. This is more easily done for those with LI than those with allergies, of course. The chances of cross-contamination from another dish are still high. But donít be afraid to ask. Make sure the waiter or waitress understands your needs. I canít count the times Iíve asked for milk-free foods only to be given bread and butter a minute later. The clearer and firmer you are, the better the chance your meal will be what you ask for. Just be sure to be polite; holidays are harried time for wait staffs as well.

If youíre ever in doubt, take lactase pills with the first bite of any food you think might include milk. Have them with you always, and donít hesitate to use them.

And remember this: overeating in and of itself can cause the kind of gas and pain that LI does, so donít be too quick to blame everything on dairy. Like it or not, moderation wins every time.

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