Start with communication
Discuss what you plan to serve for the meal and if the menu includes options that are safe for your guest. Let your guest guide you with what will or won’t work for them.
Ask questions if you are unsure of something. We like hearing questions!
If your guest is comfortable with you preparing food for them:
- Be sure you understand cross contact and how to prevent accidental contact with allergens. Trace amounts can cause a reaction.
- Know how to read labels. Ask your guest what brands they trust. Either keep the packages for their review or take a picture and send it to them to look at before you prepare the meal.
If your guest isn’t comfortable with food prepared by others:
- Don’t be offended and respect their boundaries. Don’t try to push or persuade someone to consume food they are not confident about. Safety is the priority.
Don’t make assumptions
Only the individual (or parent) can make the decision if food is allergen-free for them. Don’t assume that every “allergy-friendly” product is safe.
Don’t make “surprises”
Once you have shared your menu with the guest, stick to it. If you have any additions, let them know in advance. Don’t surprise them when they arrive with foods not on the previously discussed menu. This is especially important if the guest with food allergies is a child. If the food isn’t safe, it could cause disappointment for the child, if he/she doesn’t have a safe alternative available.
Special considerations for young children:
- Contain the allergens - If you have a young guest that is allergic to some of the food you plan to serve, keep those foods contained to specific rooms (i.e. kitchen and dining room). This allows the child a safe place to play without the risk of food crumbs being in the room.
- Be sure to pick up any candy bowls that may be within reach of little hands.
- Have wipes available for messy hands and faces of other children.
- Encourage hand washing for everyone. Inform your other guests of how they can help keep the child safe. Remind everyone to never feed a child without consulting the parents.
Pet food can contain allergens. Also, dogs that tend to lick a lot may need to stay away from young children who could react to their saliva.
Be aware that some hand soaps contain allergens. “Milk and honey” varieties are popular, as well as, nut varieties, especially during fall and winter holidays.
Know that some guests may also have asthma or environmental allergies. Pets, burning candles, indoor fireplaces, etc., may trigger symptoms.
Managing food allergies can be isolating. When a friend or family member puts forth the extra effort to ensure safety and inclusion, it makes a positive impact on those managing food allergies. Don’t be afraid to invite someone with food allergies to your home. With communication and planning, it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
For those managing food allergies, read these tips on how to Navigate the Holidays successfully.
What other suggestions do you have? Share them with us!