Christmas is the time of year where we come together and celebrate with family and friends. For most of us, these festivities usually involve food. Children with food allergies can often feel left out during this time, but there is no reason for them to miss out on all the fun. With a little forward planning, they too can enjoy the holiday celebrations, while keeping safe and healthy.
When attending a party, let the hosts know about your child’s allergy ahead of time. While you may have told family and friends about your child’s allergy in the past, don’t assume that they will remember to provide allergen free foods. While you live with the allergy on a daily basis, your hosts may not be in the habit of checking ingredient lists for every food.
When attending a party at a friend or relative’s house, start off with a conversation about your child’s food allergy prior to the get together. It is important to discuss the foods your child is allergic to plus any safety precautions that are required. Depending on the situation, you may want to work with the host to create an allergen free menu. Alternatively, you may choose to bring a range of allergen free foods to share at the party. In this circumstance, make sure you ‘plate’ your child’s foods before everyone else to avoid cross contamination. Another option is to bring a separate allergen free meal for you child. This way there is no need for the host to make any alterations to their menu. Why not try our allergy friendly ginger bread cookies?
Hosting a party at home can alleviate some of the stress of Christmas gatherings as you will have complete control over the menu. You may choose to create a menu that is completely food allergen free or you may want to include some dishes with allergen containing ingredients. If the menu is to be completely allergen free, let your guests know prior to the party. If family and friends want to contribute, ask them to bring along non-food items, like napkins, paper plates, decorations or ice. Alternatively, allocate guests to bring specific allergen free foods like fruit or soft drink. When preparing the dishes, remember to always read the label of all ingredients for each dish. For more information on reading labels, click here.
If you decide to include some allergen containing dishes at the party, there are a few extra precautions to take. Firstly make sure you prepare all of the allergen free foods first. Seal the ‘safe’ dishes in containers or with plastic wrap and set aside before preparing those dishes containing food allergens. When serving the meal, use separate utensils for each dish to prevent cross contamination. Again, you may want to serve your child’s plate first. It can also be helpful to restrict food to one area of the house. This will make it easier to clean up after the meal. When cleaning, use paper towel and commercial cleaner to clean all areas where food has been prepared and eaten. Avoid the use of sponges and rags as these can be a potential source of allergens1.
There is also the option to celebrate in ways that don’t involve food. There are a variety of Christmas activities that will be just as enjoyable as a festive feast. Consider visiting a festival of lights in your area or attending Christmas carols in the park. You could also take your child to have a picture with Santa or help them write a letter to Santa. Another way to celebrate is to create some Christmas crafts, like decorations for the tree or Christmas cards for family and friends. A fun and sustainable favourite is to recycle your used Neocate tins by decorating them and making them a functional piece in the home or play room. See the pictures below for some inspiration.
However you choose to celebrate, with a little prior planning, your family’s festive season is sure to be a safe and happy one.
- Mennett Lee (2014) Tips to safely celebrate Christmas with food allergies Kids with Food Allergies. Viewed 27 November 2016. https://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/tips-to-safely-celebrate-christmas-with-food-allergies-1