Navigating Holiday Parties with Food Allergies

'Tis the season for Holiday cheer, which often brings countless holiday parties and Christmas goodies. Between school parties, church festivities, and gatherings with family and friends, the holidays can prove to be a potential mine field for a child with food allergies.

You might see a table stacked high with your holiday favorites. But as the parent of a child with multiple food allergies, I see potential danger in every decadent treat. At age 6, my guy is old enough to understand he can't eat what everyone else does. And he's very diligent about asking before he eats something. However, since this is his first year in school full-time (i.e., under the supervision of another adult for most of the day), I am learning to oversee what he eats from a distance. Here are a few things I've discovered to ensure a successful party for all...

holiday-parties-food-allergies

1. Be Informed

As the mom of a child with allergies, I take it upon myself to ask a lot of questions, especially concerning parties at school: When is the party? (I always try to attend if I'm able.) What treats will be available? (If there are options my son cannot have, I will make arrangements to send something for him.) Are there treats he can have? (Often, the teacher or parent responsible for the party is happy to provide options my son can have if I give them some options up front.)

For parties with friends and family, I ask questions according to my comfort level. If it is an acquaintance, I will usually just bring something I know is safe for my child. For close friends and family, I will ask about ingredients and preparation. I do not expect them to go out of their way to accommodate our needs, so I always offer to bring something. Then I know there will be at least one thing my little guy can have.

2. Be Persistent

I realize parents and teachers who have not experienced food allergies firsthand are not used to thinking about them. Even if they are trained to be aware of the dangers of food allergies, they are not used to thinking through options (not like a mama who has done so for the last 5 years!). So, if I don't get the answers I need, I politely ask more questions: Do you know what brand of pretzels you will have? What types of candy will be available? Do you have an ingredients list for the icing you will be using? This is when it comes in handy for me to be at the party as food is often brought in that day and I am able to check labels firsthand.

3. Be Prepared

Even if I know there will be allergy-friendly options, I always, always come prepared....of course with an Epi-pen, but also with additional treats. There's always the chance that something could change at the last minute and I wouldn't want my little guy to be the only one without a cupcake because I wasn't prepared.

I try to keep my freezer well-stocked with allergy-friendly options like Egg-free Christmas Cookies , Allergy-friendly Cupcakes, or Egg, Nut, and Soy-free Butter Cookies that I can grab for just such an occasion. If my freezer is bare, and I don't have time to bake, I pick up some Enjoy Life cookies  to take. (These have saved my hide and my sanity on more than one occasion!)

For a long time, I hesitated asking questions of a host, not wanting to inconvenience them. But in five years I've never had my questions met with resistance or frustration. Whether friend, family, or teacher, I've found their goal is the same as mine: to protect my son and help him have as much fun as everyone else at the party.

Do you have for tips navigating the holidays with food allergies?

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8 thoughts on “Navigating Holiday Parties with Food Allergies

  1. I grew up with a severe peanut and tree nut allergy, and I think your post is spot on! I was always afraid of being a hinderance to the host so I usually wouldn’t eat anything at parties and just eat before. But now, I’m not afraid to ask at all because it is better to be safe than sorry! Sometimes I still have to eat beforehand because it is just easier but most of the time I am met with very helpful and informative answers.
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    1. Post author

      Teresa, thanks so much for stopping by! I had to get over my apprehension of asking a TON of questions of hosts and/or restaurant staff. When my son was younger, I simply brought something for him and didn’t let him eat anything else. But now that he is older, he wants to be included and I want him to be, so I had to get over it! Thanks so much for your insightful comment!

      Reply

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