What a wonderful time of year, full of joy, spending time with loved ones and enjoying beautiful food. Well, that should be the case, but the reality for many is that Christmas is a nightmare! I'm not talking about the obligation of spending painful time with a dysfunctional and toxic family (that's for another time haha).
I'm referring to people with allergies, and especially families of children with severe allergies. The holiday season can, and often is, a stressful time. Almost every social function we have these days is based around food. The holiday season seems to be just one continual food fest. When you have severe allergies to a multiple foods, these social engagements can be such a stressful experience that opting out or no shows are far easier to facing a another banquet of life threatening risks disguised as food.
I know what it's like.When my son was a toddler, he had severe multiple food allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, rice, corn, oats, soy, fish, chicken, potatoes, peas, peaches, mangoes and lupin! We dreaded any social engagement. I was constantly in a state of anxiety, which I'm sure contributed to many health issues including adrenal exhaustion in the years to follow. I don't want that for you. If I can help you by sharing anything I have learnt along the way, then my journey hasn't been wasted. I've put together 15 tips that hopefully will make things easier for you. Let me know if they help, in the comments.
1. Supervise small children or toddlers with serious food allergies at all times.
Without trying to scare you, you need to assume they are vulnerable and could be minutes from serious life threatening reaction to an allergic food at any time. Whether it be food spilt on the floor , a well meaning grandpa trying to kiss them after eating peanuts, a loving great grandmother trying to feed them cake or another toddler smearing ice cream everywhere. Accidents happen and they usually happen away from the familiarity of our safe home environment. You need to be on your toes with your game face on so to speak. Whether it be end of year break up parties or Christmas day, stay alert. Be vigilant!
2. Develop a roster system for supervision.
This involves you and your partner (trusted friend, family member) to implement a tag team method. While one of you is 'on duty' and supervising the child, the other one has some time out to socialise (speak to big people) and perhaps finish a conversation or two. Yes, that is possible. You need to be able to relax and know that your child is being supervised. Share the burden with someone you trust.
3. Discuss your dietary concerns with your host.
Don't leave it until the last minute when everyone is stressed and busy with preparations. While you may need to avoid dairy and eggs, Uncle Harry may need to avoid gluten and cousin Michelle may have a nut allergy. By all means, have a chat with your host prior to the occasion about your concerns and to bring awareness to the dangers that could present. Remember though, their priority is to cater for a tribe of people. I think it is unrealistic to expect hosts to cater for all dietary requests. If I had that expectation when my little man was a toddler, we wouldn't have been invited to many functions. Also, with all that is on their mind, it is far too easy for mistakes to be made, especially if they aren't used to feeding people with food allergies. I highly recommend making or bringing food that you know is safe, and that everyone can enjoy.
4. Build a stockpile of safe, easy to make recipes.
Make simple fail proof allergy friendly dishes and allow time to test cook them before the big day, avoiding unnecessary stress of cooking a new recipe on the day. Build yourself up a stock of fail-proof recipes to have on hand.
Looking for allergy friendly recipes?
All recipes from Easy Allergy Free Christmas , Easy Allergy Free Easter and Allergy Friendly Home cooking eBooks are Top 8 Free and Gluten free Free from gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, fish and shellfish. Majority are also free from yeast, corn, artificial additives, sweeteners and preservatives. More Info
5. Show off your allergy friendly creations.
Holidays are the perfect opportunity to display your delicious allergy friendly creations. Most people assume eating allergy friendly or gluten free food is boring and tasteless. It's time to knock their socks off!! Show up with some delicious allergy friendly healthy food which will please all. You'll find some great recipes on our blog and also in our recipe eBooks.
6. Have an input.
If staying with family, go food shopping with your family member so you can make suggestions on easy safe ingredient alternatives. You'll also be able to double check any ingredients on the labels. This is also a perfect opportunity to educate your family member.
7. Preparation is key.
Sit down with family member/host to discuss the menu for Christmas Day. Suggest alternatives to allergic ingredients so the dish can be enjoyed by all.
8. Create new traditions that don't involve food.
You are in the drivers seat. You don't have to do things because that's the way they've always been done. Keep it simple. Create memories that will make Christmas a special time for all that aren't based around food.
9. Bring a plate.
Take an allergy friendly dish to parties so you know there will be something that you can eat. If you have a chid with food allergies, always have a stash of allergy friendly snacks in your handbag or on hand.
10. Minimise risk of cross contamination.
Ensure your allergy friendly dishes have their own serving utensils so as to avoid cross contamination. Try to ensure those with food allergies are served first
11. BYOF. Bring Your Own Food.
Easy Allergy Free Christmas eBook
Take the stress out of Christmas! 50 delicious recipes suiting many restrictive diets. Every recipe is FREE FROM Gluten, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Fish, Shellfish.
When travelling take some simple home made allergy friendly goodies to eliminate the stress of feeding an allergic child immediately on arrival. Here a few ideas that are all Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soy Free.
Choc Coconut Bliss Balls
Coconut & Cherry Bliss Balls
Honey Muesli Slice
Coconut & Sunflower Biscuits
12. Do the research when dining out.
If you plan on dining out, call ahead and ask lots of questions to see if you feel comfortable eating at that venue. It's not worth the risk to eat somewhere that don't take allergies seriously. Avoid busy times to eat out, preferable eat out prior to the busy dining times. You will have a cleaner kitchen, more attentive staff (hopefully). Also, don't overwhelm staff with 3 different people talking at them at the same time. Choose 1 person to communicate with the restaurant manager or chef to ensure clear and concise communication. If you feel any doubts or sense red flags don't take the risk.
13. Inspect ALL gifts for your allergic child for potential allergens.
While your loved ones are well meaning, they may still be ignorant about the potential dangers of allergies. After all, they aren't consumed with the fear of food as we are. Remember not all allergens appear only in food, check personal care , cosmetics, bubble baths, pet food etc. Check everything! If in doubt, quietly put it aside and bin if necessary.
** Non Negotiable Rules **
Sometimes we need to make quick decisions when it comes to negotiating a world with food allergies. Peak seasons like Christmas, New Year, Easter and public holidays increase the potential risk. The following 2 tips are what I consider Non Negotiable Rules to staying safe and should be followed at all times!
14. ALWAYS- REMEMBER THE EPIPEN!!!!!
No EPIPEN = No EAT!
15. Don't risk anything! IF IN DOUBT - GO WITHOUT!
Hope these tips help take some of the stress out of Christmas. What have I forgotten? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below to help others.
Lastly, Be kind to yourself! Remember the best memories are of family, friends, laughter and whatever makes your heart smile. Things don't need to be perfect! Remember the reason for the season. Stay safe everybody.
Have a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday
from my family to yours
Sonya Lee x