Eating with food allergies can be difficult in general. Now, let's add the holidays on top of that.
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of year filled with cheerful parties, joyful gatherings, and lots of food. However, those with food allergies and intolerances tend to find it more filled with cautious partying, fearful gatherings, and minimal food options.
At this very moment, you may be feeling the stress and emotional overhaul that typically comes with the restriction territory - I know I am. Or maybe you are someone hosting a holiday gathering and trying to learn how you can make your event safe for someone with food allergies. Either way, you have come to the right place!
How can we Plan for Holiday Gatherings with Food Allergies?
A situation I run into often is planning ahead of time. A lot of the people in my life do not typically have to deal with restrictions, so they are unsure how to handle a person with food restrictions and tend just to assume I will handle these things on my own without the need to communicate.
If you are hosting a holiday gathering and have someone attending with food allergies; please, please, PLEASE communicate with them! Reach out to that person, or parent of the child with food allergies, and inform them of the food you plan on serving. This is important, especially for those who have airborne allergies.
You can also find out what you can do to make their holiday experience at your house safe and enjoyable, such as picking up a safe store-bought product they can have or just simply letting them know you will be taking their food allergy seriously by taking all the measures you need to make to ensure they are safe. Gestures like these can go a long way.
However, please do not be offended if the person with the food allergies says they will be bringing their food or still feels uncomfortable in certain situations. Just know they are not trying to personally offend you but need to look out for their well-being and, in some cases, their life.
I know with my numerous restrictions, there isn't much other people can do for me in terms of food and that it is safer for me to bring prepared food with me. That being said, when I am attending someone's house and receive a message or call from the host inquiring if there is anything they can get or make for me, I do appreciate the gesture and it creates a feeling of safety. Just that one form of communication eases some of my anxiety because I now see the host is taking my health seriously and is aware that my situation needs attention.
For my foodies with food allergies, my biggest tip to you is...
BYOD - Bring Your Own Dish. Making your food will be safer, but there is no reason you have to feel left out due to this suggestion. That is why communication with the host is so important. I always inquire what dishes are being served that day for two reasons: to make sure nothing is being served that I am airborne allergic to and so that I can create a entree that matches (or is close to matching) what everyone else is having.
I know from experience how awkward it is to have something completely different from everyone else. Matching your dish to the ones being served at the gathering you are attending can ease this awkward feeling and relieve some underlining anxiety of not fitting in.
Here are other tips to help you through this holiday season:
Be the first! If you aren't bringing your own food, ask if you can serve yourself, or your child, first to avoid cross-contamination.
Eat beforehand! The holidays tend to feel food circulated, but it doesn't have to be and it shouldn't be. I recommend eating beforehand if the gathering you are attending is not a sit-down dinner or a place you feel comfortable bringing your own food. Not only will you have more time to spend with family and friends, but you will also be able to do it without fear of a reaction.
Be the host! If your space allows for this, host the holidays yourself! This will keep you on top of all the preparations and allow you to accommodate food allergies your way.
For more helpful tips to keep your food allergy family and friends safe during the holidays (and always), check out our Instagram post below:
Have a happy and safe holiday!
Hugs & Cookies