FOOD ALLERGIES AT FAMILY GATHERINGS
Whether it’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, big family gatherings are the highlight of the holidays and who wouldn’t love to bond with family over a night of food and drinks? You get time to chat it up with other adults while the kids have fun running wild with their cousins. That all sounds great until you throw in a couple of food allergies. You know what I’m talking about. That’s when we allergy parents bury our head in our hands and muster up the energy to stand guard to keep our allergic kids safe all night. Handling food allergies at family gatherings is no walk in the park.
It can be done. Our family has been doing this for 13 years and while we’ve had a few mishaps, we have learned a lot along the way. It’ll never be perfect, but our experience will bring YOU a step closer to a more stress-free and food-safe night.
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Here’s our tips.
- Remind others of your child’s allergies. Talk to your host and remind them of your child’s allergic foods. Trust me, many people mean well, but they cannot remember exactly what your child is allergic to. So remind away. Email out a reminder of your child’s allergic foods to the whole invite list and ask that they do not bring or use any of the allergens in their dishes. Definitely offer substitutions for the offending foods so that they have options when creating their dishes. Olive oil instead of butter. Rice or soy milk instead of milk. Omit nuts and sesame seeds from recipes. Substitute eggs with Ener-G Egg Replacer. On the day of the event, be vigilant and don’t expect that everyone will follow your request.
- Keep the packaging. Request family members to keep any packaging of prepared foods so that you may read them to see if it’s safe for your allergic child.
- Remove appetizers with allergens. At the get-together, if you see any appetizers or early finger foods that have allergens, ask to remove them and explain how allergens on fingers can be very dangerous for your child. People without any allergies tend not to see the complete picture of how the cross contamination trail happens. For example, when there’s a bowl of nuts or variety pack of chocolates, people eat with their fingers, then touch (thus contaminating) the table, chairs, toys, TV remotes, etc. Then your allergic child touches that item and is now in danger of an allergic reaction.
- Always have backup food. Whether your family get-together is a pot luck or not, there’s going to be a lot of food… But there’s always room for more! So bring a dish or two to share (for ex. spam musubi (pictured above), fried rice, spaghetti) that can serve as a meal for your allergic child. Make sure to bring a serving spoon and label it. Apologize to others and serve your kid’s food first so you know it’s safe and uncontaminated.
- Always bring a dessert. Desserts are hard for kids (and adults) to say no to, but this is often where the allergens are. I’m not exaggerating when I say every dessert will have at least a drop of milk, some nuts sprinkled on top, or baked with eggs. So bring some safe desserts for all to share and again serve your child first (or set some aside) so it’s not contaminated. We like to bring jello, allergen free cake, Soft Baked Snickerdoodles from Trader Joe’s, Oreos (Original or Double Stuf), or graham crackers (Kinnikinnick) and Cherrybrook frosting with sprinkles (for cookie decorating). The Festival brand of sprinkles are from nut-free lines.
- Don’t borrow high chairs. Kids are extremely messy and the high chair will likely be covered in allergens. Have your allergic child sit at the table with the adults where it’s cleaner and you can keep an eye on them.
- Remove unsafe toys. Survey the toys in the house and hide any that require mouth blowing such as balloons, kazoos, whistles, harmonicas, toy instruments, etc.
- Watch your kids like a hawk. Always keep a watchful eye on your kids. Depending on their age, you’ll grow to trust their food decisions. When they are young (0-4 years), they may put anything into their mouth. You know your child best and you’ll have to judge how much you need to hover over them. As they get older, they’ll hopefully speak up if they see any dangerous allergen situations.
- Consider being a food allergy buddy. Strength in numbers! Join your allergic child to only eat foods that are safe for him. This small act will make him happy that someone else is also restricted in what they can eat.
- Lastly, remember to bring your emergency medicines.
BE SUPER PREPARED WITH THIS CHECKLIST!
Broken down into 2 easy sections:
Items to do BEFORE and Items to do DURING the gathering.
Preparing ahead of time for food allergies at gatherings is the key to success. Everyone will be happier. You can worry less and your child can concentrate on having fun. Families are usually understanding and will be happy to help you keep your allergic child safe. This is what has worked for us.
For more snack ideas, visit our Nut-free Store on Amazon.
Please comment below and share more tips that have worked for you!
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