Holiday planning can be challenging for anyone, but for friends and family members of kids with food allergies, it can be especially difficult. So I reached out to my colleagues in our allergy clinic and the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders to compile some helpful hints for hosting or attending an allergy-friendly holiday party.
TAKE THE FOCUS OFF OF THE FOOD
Having a food allergy can feel isolating for some kids. Taking the focus off of the food can help with this tremendously! Create non-food traditions such as ice skating, watching a favorite holiday movie, crafts, or singing karaoke. There are many possibilities that can feel inclusive for everyone.
It’s helpful for both the host and the guest to have a discussion about the menu ahead of time – that way, no one is surprised and there is time to make adjustments.
- Hosting: If you’re the host of the party, ask about allergy concerns when you invite the guests. Inform any concerned guests of the menu ahead of time. Ask if they would like to bring a dish that’s safe for their child, or if they need the menu or food preparation modified based on their child’s specific allergies. They will appreciate this offer greatly!
- Guest: If your child has a food allergy, you may find it helpful to feed your child before the party, that way he won’t be tempted to eat something he’s allergic to. Also, if you plan to bring a dish that’s safe for your child to eat, make it a hearty one, in case that’s the only thing that’s safe for your child to eat.
When preparing the food, be mindful of cross-contamination. To avoid this:
- Wash all surfaces, pots, pans, and utensils with hot, soapy water before preparing food.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling each ingredient.
- Use designated serving utensils for allergy-friendly and non-allergy-friendly dishes.
- Keep allergy-friendly food covered and served away from foods that contain allergens.
- Look at what modifications you can make to allergen-containing menu items.
When serving the food, avoid cross-contamination by yourself or guests by:
- Providing separate or disposable serving utensils.
- Keeping safe and unsafe utensils separate.
- Washing eating surfaces with hot, soapy water before guests arrive.
- Saving all ingredient labels of the food you prepared so that guests can read them, if they wish.
- Keeping foods that contain the allergen out of the reach of young children.
- Reminding your child that she is to only take food from you or other adults who are familiar with your child’s allergies.