Gingerbread houses, gum drops, and candy canes.
Eggnog, hot chocolate, and apple cider.
Baking sugar cookies at Grandma’s house.
Cutting open a Yule Ham.
Smells like the holidays!
But there’s one thing that can be easy to forget in all the hustle and bustle of holiday anticipation: food allergies.
With the office holiday parties and family dinners, it’s easy to forget that 32 million Americans and 1 in 13 children have food allergies.
That means it’s likely that you or someone you know has to think twice before reaching for the cookies and milk.
The good news is it’s 2019 and there are plenty of delicious holiday treats for those who have food allergies.
You or your kids don’t have to silently suffer while everyone else stuffs their faces. We’re here to give you some tips on how to navigate food allergies.
The most common food allergies responsible for 90 percent of all allergic reactions to food are wheat, dairy, egg, soy, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.
These reactions can be as mild as a skin rash and as severe as anaphylactic shock.
For children, having food allergies during the holiday can make them feel lonely and frustrated.
They may feel like they are being punished when they see other kids eating foods they can’t eat.
Whether it’s a holiday party at school or at a friend’s house, dropping your kids can feel worrisome.
- Parents should talk to the school nurse, teachers, and other parents about their child’s food allergies.
- Suggest the teacher send out an email to all class parents reminding them not to bring treats that may contain allergens or be cross contaminated with those allergens.
- Let the child’s teacher know what symptoms to watch for if an allergic reaction occurs.
- It may not be feasible to tell other students not to bring in certain holiday sweets that everyone except your child can enjoy, so bake something with your child and have them bring in an allergen-safe option that everyone can enjoy. This way they won’t feel left out.
If you are hosting a holiday party, have allergen safe options for your guests. There are plenty of gluten and dairy free treats that taste just as good as any other treats.
It may mean doing a little research and a trip to a grocery store that has those options.
To save money, check out some allergen-free holiday recipes.
- Always label the food and tell guests not to eat the allergen-safe food until those with allergens have eaten enough. It’s best to label each dish using the eight allergens listed above as a guide. For example, if you bake a pie, you may write a label that reads “Contains wheat, dairy, egg, and tree nuts.” If you bake a special pie, you can write “gluten and dairy free but contains soy.” You can offer that guests do the same with their dishes.
- Don’t throw away the labels with ingredients of the food you prepared in case someone at the party has a food allergy and wants to see a label.
- If you are cooking, beware of cross contamination. For someone that has celiac disease, even trace amounts of gluten can make them extremely sick for days.
- Use separate serving utensils for each dish.
- Ask your guests to bring over non-food items such as drinks, cups, plates, napkins, and utensils.
If you are not hosting but you or your child has a food allergy, don’t fret. You can still attend and enjoy the party.
- RSVP as soon as possible and let the host know about you or your child’s food allergy. If you let them know ahead of time, they may be able to make some accommodations.
- If the food allergy is severe, ask the host to request that guests wash their hands after eating food that contains the allergens.
- Educate your host about food allergies and cross contact without sounding demanding.
- If accommodations can’t be made, bring your own allergen-safe food to the party. If it’s a potluck, cook an allergen-free baked good that you and other guests with food allergies can enjoy. It’s likely that you or your child won’t be the only one with food allergies at a party.
- If your kid has food allergies, talk to them before the party about food safety. Tell them not to eat any food unless they have checked with a parent first.
- Ask the host about ingredients, double check labels, and carry medications for your child in case they have an allergic reaction.
- If you have a very small child, parents should take turns supervising during the party. Keep a close eye on your child, especially around bowls and plates of open food such as candy, chocolates, and cookies.
It is always better to be extra cautious and over prepared when it comes to food allergies. Even if your nut allergy prevents you from eating roasted chestnuts on an open fire, you can still have a delicious holiday.