It’s that time of year where parties are in full swing. Thanksgiving is typically the starting point for weeks worth of great excuses to get together with friends and family.
Holidays are stressful for everyone, especially for families with food allergies. Most social gathers revolve around food. Don’t expect friends or family to accommodate to your special needs. They’re busy trying prepare everything and aren’t necessary well versed your family’s allergies. Here are some things to keep in mind while visiting and eating away from home.
1. Plan ahead. Sounds pretty obvious but it’s an absolute must. Bring your own meal. There’s no reason to be embarrassed, it’s for the safety of your family. This includes snacks and drinks. This could also mean calling the host ahead of time and asking specific questions of what the meal will include. Be sure to ask if there will be foods such as nuts. Depending upon your relationship of the host, ask them not to serve nuts and explain how a reaction could be life threatening. Instead…
2. Offer to bring food. Whether it’s a side dish or dessert, you’ll know it’s safe for your family and will help relieve stress of the unknown. Be sure to set some aside before everyone starts to self serve to eliminate cross contaimination. This is also nice because you’re guaranteed you have at least one thing your family likes to eat. But if you don’t have time to prepare extra food…
3. Eat before. If you can, always eat a meal or large snack at home before. Going any place new without knowing if safe food is available can be disastrous. The kids will become whinny and grumpy because they’re hungry, which of course will make you grumpy and irritable. If you find there aren’t any safe foods to eat, plan on leaving early. Make sure there’s food at home that’s ready to warm up and serve!
4. Make Allergy Cards. Not all get togethers will be at someone’s home. Ordering in a group at a restaurant can be confusing for all, including the server. Handing them a printed copy of all your allergies is a quick simple way to identify them in black and white. I came up with this idea after being on vacation. (Actually, to be fair, my husband came up with it.) We essentially needed to eat out for every meal and had to list all 15 allergens for to our server every time. It was time consuming and worrisome to make sure they had gotten all the foods we listed without looking over their shoulder the entire time. We’ve now printed out disposable lists of allergens and the common foods associated with them i.e. eggs-mayo, wheat-bread.
5. Not every moment is teachable. Meeting new people and seeing family members you don’t normally interact l can be stressful enough, without having to explain for the umpteenth time of why your child cannot eat the food. Keep the explanation short and to the point. I hate to say it, but most people are not interested in being educated in food allergies. Don’t be hurt if people aren’t interested or even roll their eyes at you. Yes, that happens. It’s much harder to not scream and list every reason why they’re wrong and how food allergies can be live threatening. Remember, you’re there to socialize and be together for the holidays… Having said all that, if someone rolls their eyes at you, do mention the fact that your child can die and it’s not to be taken lightly. Breathe. Smile. Then walk away before you say what you really want to.
Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Holidays should be about being around people you love and celebrating together as a family.
Wishing your family safe holiday travels and wonderful gatherings!