Holidays are filled with memorable family gatherings. And, as warmly anticipated as most of them are, if you are hosting a guest with food allergies it can bring up some anxiety. How will you make your guest feel included while keeping them safe? What does it mean to be a good host to someone with food allergies? How far will you need to stray from your familiar recipes to make the meal safe for sharing?
Never fear! As a parent of a food allergic child, I can tell you there are a few simple steps you can take that will alleviate your anxiety and win over your guests:
1. Have a conversation with the food allergic family.
- Find out what the allergies are so you can do your best to substitute or exclude them from recipes.
- Ask them what their biggest challenges are when it comes to the type of meal your serving, whether that be Thanksgiving, breakfast, desserts, etc…
- Discuss cross-contamination in relationship to cutting boards, baking dishes. Most of the time, a simple cleaning either in the sink or dishwasher suffices, but it’s important to talk to the food allergic family as everyone’s food allergy triggers are a little different.
- If you are hosting this family overnight, get the brand names of a couple of snack foods that are safe for the food allergic child/individuals. It’s important to stick with these particular brand names because recipe, manufacturing equipment, and methods can make something as simple as a pretzel go from safe to unsafe very easily.
2. Search Allergy Shmallergy, FARE and other blogs for allergy-free substitute recipes. For example, Shmallergy’s You’ll Never Miss It Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes are easy to make and are a crowd favorite at every table we sit. Keep your recipe handy for the guest family to review. You may never understand how touching a gesture like this is to us. Safe mashed potatoes from a host can make my son’s whole day!
3. Brush up on the signs on anaphylaxis (among them: hives; itchy lips, tongue, throat; swelling of tongue, lips; wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath). Watch this video (less than 2 minutes) to familiarize yourself with how to use an EpiPen (one common type of epinephrine autoinjector). Your guests will appreciate you taking their allergies seriously.
4. Keep ingredient lists of the food your cooking with for reference. I can’t tell you how many times I read and reread new brand ingredients to be sure they are safe for my son. And the peace of mind it gives me is more than appreciated.
The best ways to be a host to a food allergy family is to create a warm, welcoming environment – as with all guests. The time you share together will define your memories. And the effort you make to keep all your guests healthy will surely be one of the fondest ones of the season.
Food Allergy families: what would you add to this list? Please add your suggestions below!