Last month I shared some tips on how to handle food allergies and restrictions if you are hosting the meal, but what if your family is the one with food allergies and you’re invited to the holiday party or someone else’s home for the holiday meal? Resist the urge to skip the party – there’s a lot you can do to stay safe when your child is the one with food allergies and you’ve received an invitation.
Some advance planning is in order. It’s important to talk to the host as early as you can – preferably before the menu is planned. Your host may already know about your food restrictions, but don’t assume that she plans to accommodate them. If your host is willing to make accommodations, the more specific you can be about what foods you must avoid and suitable replacement foods, the better off you will be. If she is preparing the meal herself, ask her to save the packaging so you can check for food allergens yourself after you arrive.
If your host isn’t willing to accommodate your food allergies, or she plans to serve lasagna and your child is allergic to wheat and milk, you may have to bring your own. Let your host know ahead of time that you will be doing so, and then either order your favorite allergy-safe meal from a local trusted restaurant, or bring your own. A bowl of wheat-free pasta with sauce or grilled chicken with veggies is easy to prepare ahead of time. Store your child’s meal in a sealed microwave-safe container that can easily be heated up when dinner is served.
If everyone is bringing a dish to share your host will have less control on what is prepared, but you can ensure that your child has something safe to eat by making your dish allergen-free. Sign up to bring a main dish, and be prepared to skip the hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Bring along a box of safe crackers or cookies for your child to fill the gap.
Regardless of how the meal is prepared, ask to fill your child’s plate first. If possible, fill a plate in the kitchen before the serving dishes hit the dining room table. If it’s a buffet, be first in line so you can make sure the cheese fork doesn’t land on the deli meat.
Don’t expect every dish to be allergen-free. If they are, then great, but recognize that some items – cake, egg-nog, rolls – are harder than others to make allergen-free. If your host goes out of their way to prepare even one dish to accommodate you, be sure to thank her!
Before you leave the house for the party make sure you stow a few snacks in your bag. This is a good idea whether you are going for a long car ride, out to dinner, or to a meal at a friend’s house. And always bring your epi-pen and medications.