It’s the time of year when holiday parties, and family gatherings can make allergen avoidance more problematic. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or follow no particular tradition here are some suggestions – or reminders – for helping children with food allergies eat well and safely during this season’s festivities:

  • Be The Host. The safest option is to be in charge of what food is served, and in control of how it’s prepared. You might ask guests not to bring any food items, or be specific about what they should bring, or let them know what foods are never allowed in the house. If you’re serving foods that contain allergens, designate a separate table or area for those items.
  • Modify Favorite Recipes. Our favorite holiday recipes can still be included by swapping problematic ingredients for “like items,” such as sunflower seeds or soy nuts for peanuts, or nondairy milk for cow’s milk. The Internet makes it easy to search for substitute ideas. Since ingredient substitutes can change a food’s taste, texture, or baking time it’s a good idea to give altered recipes a trial run before serving them to guests.
  • Cook From Scratch. Making meals from largely whole, unprocessed foods involves more measuring, peeling, and chopping but also cuts down on the presence of allergens.
  • Though prep time might be longer, we eliminate having to scrutinize the ingredient lists on highly processed foods. There are, after all, no allergen surprises in a squash, pear, onion, carrot, or cup of quinoa.
  • Preventing Cross-Contamination. Being the cook, and the host can put your mind at ease about cross-contamination during food preparation and allow you to encourage frequent hand washing.
  • Kid Patrol. If snacks or foods with allergens are served, designated caregivers might take turns keeping an eye on small children with allergies—half-hour shifts work well.
  • Check Every Label. Food formulas can change, so even if a food is familiar and has “always” been allergen-free, read the label.
  • Help The Host. If you’ve been invited to a party or dinner consider offering to help plan the menu, or shop for the ingredients. Or, you can ask the host to keep the ingredient labels so you can check them over. Another option is volunteering to bring the snacks and desserts as they are often the culprits in food allergy reactions.

It’s true that cooking for those with food allergies requires extra planning and cautious preparation, but when “you think in terms of cooking for those with food allergies, you really get to the heart of what cooking is all about – creating meals using wholesome ingredients that you and your loved ones can truly enjoy together.” ~ Jennifer Bruning, MS, RDN, LDN

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