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How to Eat Safely During the Holidays with Food Allergies

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 7:28 AM

Eating with food allergies during the holidays can be difficult, particularly, with holiday parties and gatherings. How do you manage eating safely for yourself – or for kids with allergies – during the holidays?

Jennifer S. Kim, MD, Allergy & Immunology at NorthShore, shares tips on how to eat safely at parties when you or family members have food allergies:

  • Communicate. As soon as you find out about the party, reach out to the host or hostess. Inquire about what dishes will be there, what the ingredients are being used and how food will be served, and if the dishes will be made by the hosts or by an outside restaurant. Speaking directly to the person making the food is ideal.
  • Arrive early. Ask the person who is hosting if you can come by early to help prepare the food. This way you are aware of what ingredients are in what foods and you can help arrange the safe foods away from the unsafe ones.
  • BYOD. Bring your own dish to the party that you know is safe for yourself or your kids. Make this dish have a little sustenance, just in case it is the only thing you can eat. Another option is to bring your own meal. Prepare yourself a plate or two in advance and heat it up when other guests start to eat.
  • Set up rules. If you have a kid with food allergies, go over the “rules” before you leave the house. Remind the child not to eat anything if they are unsure and to check with a parent first always.
  • Go first. Ask if you can serve yourself or your kid first to avoid cross contact with offending allergens.
  • Eat beforehand. The holidays have become so much about the food, but eating before you arrive at the party allows you to relish spending time with your friends and family.
  • Be the host. Hosting the holidays yourself allows you to prepare most, if not all, dishes to accommodate allergy needs. The guests may not even realize the food is allergen free!
  • Team up. When you have kids with allergies, it can be hard to keep an eye on them at all times near food. Ask your significant other, their older siblings or family members to help keep allergens out of their hands. This is particularly important for toddlers and preschoolers.

As always, be sure to carry emergency medications – including self-injectable epinephrine – in case an accident happens. While life with food allergies can be difficult, having a plan helps make the holidays manageable.

What are your tricks for safe eating at parties?