Milk this Thanksgiving for all it's worth.


Almond milk in disguise.

When I did my Thanksgiving shopping earlier this week, I brought my grocery list as usual, but this time I also had paper coupons, and electronic coupons saved on my Hannaford app. I bought almost twice as many groceries as usual, and it took me twice as long, but hey, I saved $20.

The next morning, I poured a little almond milk in my morning coffee, as usual. The almond milk was “Silk,” a new brand that I hadn’t tried before, but I had a coupon for a free carton, and who can turn down free? I saved myself a whole $3.29.

I took a few sips from my mug. It was delicious. Silk was much sweeter and thicker than my usual Hannaford brand. I took another sip. Mmmm. I’d definitely buy it again, coupon or not. 

Just before lunch, I started getting pain and discomfort in my gut. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a very delicate digestive system. In fact, about 90% of the foods on this earth bother it, and that’s on a good day. My gut is always a mess,  even when I eat the things I think are “safe,” so I didn’t suspect anything unusual. And since almond milk is a “safe” food, I continued to drink it throughout the day, around two cups worth.

Suffice it to say that it was a L-O-O-O-N-G day.

It wasn’t the kind of day you want a few days before Thanksgiving.

The next morning, again I poured my almond milk into my coffee. It was just as good as the previous day.

I picked up the carton to confirm that it had no added sugar. Nope, it was unsweetened. It said so right on the label. See it there in the picture? Don’t think I don’t like sugar, as I LOVE it, but sugar doesn’t like me back.

I’m a big label reader as a result of my food sensitivities, so I turned the carton around to take another look at the ingredient list. I was curious what type of thickener was used. No guar gum listed; that was good. 

As I continued to read, this caught my eye: “Allergen statement: Contains soy.”  Huh? Soy? In almond milk? That’s a problem, as soy is a known trigger for my symptoms.

I turned the carton around to look at the front. Out loud, to no one in particular, I announced, “This isn’t almond milk. It’s soy milk!”

It wasn’t laughable then, but it is now.

My husband and I came to the easy-to-draw conclusion that the soy milk was the culprit for my ten-times-worse-than-usual symptoms. Then I came to the hard-to-defend conclusion that I may as well finish my coffee, as there was such a tiny amount of soy in it. 

Are you as incredulous as me that I would even consider taking another microscopic sip? That I would risk my enjoyment of Thanksgiving? My priorities were clearly messed up more than a gravy stain on a lace tablecloth.

Dumping out my coffee felt like a waste—of coffee, time, money, food, resources. I hate waste. I was brought up never to waste food. Poor people are starving, after all.

But my wise husband stopped me before I made a regrettable mistake.

 “Karen—throw it out,” Michael insisted. “We have more coffee.”

He was so right. I dumped the coffee and emptied the almost full carton into the sink.


Actual almond milk, undisguised.

The soy didn’t kill me. I’m alive and well enough to type and laugh about it. I had an unopened carton of almond milk in the fridge (don’t worry—I triple checked the label) to salvage my fresh cup of morning joe

It was more delicious than I remembered.

And here are the lessons of Thanksgiving  I learned:  

1. Listen to the wise people in your life. If it’s a spouse or partner, thank them effusively.

2.  However you celebrate this day of thanks, and even if you don’t celebrate, focus on what really matters and don’t sweat the small stuff. I was willing to let $3.29 ruin another 24 or 36 or 48 hours for me. It wasn’t worth it.

3.  Dump any toxicity from your life, and replace it with things or people that make you feel good.

4. When you don’t follow steps 2) or 3), laugh about the mistake and be thankful that you’re human.  

5.  What doesn’t kill you teaches you a lesson. If it’s not obvious, dig deep—it’s there. 

6.  If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Be thankful. If you laugh today, be doubly thankful.

7.  If your hands have ever picked up something other than what your eyes saw, read labels very carefully today. Be mindful. You’ll thank me later. 

8.  Enjoy this day. Milk it for all its worth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have your hands ever picked up something other than what your eyes saw? Will you share your story here?


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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No Comments

  1. Gail Boenning on November 22, 2018 at 12:25 PM

    Happy Thanksgiving Karen! With so many options in our grocery aisles, it’s easy to grab the wrong thing. I’ve done it! Enjoyed your story much—especially your conclusions.:)

    • Karen DeBonis on November 23, 2018 at 2:45 PM

      Thanks Gail- good to know I’m not alone! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  2. Jack Herlocker on November 22, 2018 at 1:40 PM

    Happy Thanksgiving, Karen! It’s not what we don’t know that will kill us; it’s what we do know that ain’t so… 😉

  3. Ruth Bilodeau on November 22, 2018 at 4:07 PM

    Karen, Happy Thanksgiving to you, Michael, and your boys! As always, I enjoyed your post. I especially like how you remind us all of “lessons” we can take from our everyday experiences and that we need to focus on what is really important.

    • Karen DeBonis on November 23, 2018 at 2:47 PM

      Thanks for your comment, Ruth, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too!

  4. Pat rampolla on November 22, 2018 at 5:59 PM

    I am so glad you survived the soy milk. It is easy to pick up the wrong product especially when you are focused on using coupons.

    • Karen DeBonis on November 23, 2018 at 2:49 PM

      I think that’s it, Pat – just too many things on my mind at once. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Penny Bonesteel on November 23, 2018 at 1:04 PM

    Aww!! Poor Karen!! I feel your pain! I’m in the same boat with milk and nuts and seeds!! Things that never bothered me before! Live and learn is how I roll these days with the foods I consume as well as the company I keep. If either cause a bad feeling in the gut it’s time to let it go (although it is harder letting go of ice cream the most and milk for my cereal more than toxic
    I have learned to accept the things we cannot change and move forward. Happy Thanksgiving!!

    • Karen DeBonis on November 23, 2018 at 2:51 PM

      So true, Penny – our guts are wise, indeed, about many aspects of life, and the more we listen to them, the better!

  6. Catherine Lanser on November 26, 2018 at 1:29 PM

    Funny how that stuff morphs. I just noticed we have a can of coconut creme (what’s that?) instead of coconut milk for the curry later this week. I was annoyed that I had to head back to the store, but I’ll live. :)

    • Karen DeBonis on November 27, 2018 at 11:32 AM

      Coconut cream is super sweet with added sugar to boot. I know that because I’ve picked that up by mistake, when reaching for coconut milk, too! lol. Enjoy your curry, Catherine!

  7. Michelle Dellene on November 28, 2018 at 7:58 PM

    Oh my word, soy is one of my triggers too (well it was until I got a handle on things). I still can’t have too much of it, though, or my mast cells rebel big time. Glad you survived it! :)

    • Karen DeBonis on November 29, 2018 at 11:43 AM

      Thanks for you comment Michelle! Mast cells, huh? My functional medicine doc thinks I might have a mast cell problem. May I ask how you “got a handle on things?”

  8. […] I’ll end up. On the way, I’ll continue to tell you of coffee floods, and buying the wrong milk, and my people-pleasing backfiring, and other silly and not-so-silly trials of […]

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