Hosting the Holidays with Food Allergies

HELP! I’m hosting the holiday dinners and someone is coming with a food allergy! What do I do? If this is what you’re thinking –STOP worrying! Hosting a food allergic friend/family member does not mean the person has a 3rd eye you have to stare at the whole day. It just means they eat the way they do literally to survive. Here are 5 tips to make hosting easier:

1. Ask the Question -As you issue the invitation, ask guests if they have a food allergy or special dietary need. Listen carefully to your guests needs and if you are unsure of a menu item or ingredient ask your guest if the item is ok for her/him to eat. Include the food allergic person in your menu planning and preparation.

2. Save ALL Labels and Food Packaging – Even a trace amount of an allergen can cause a reaction. Be sure to label all dishes that are being served so that people know the ingredients used. And don’t throw any box, jar, packaging away. Save for the guest to read as many allergens have other derivatives you may not be aware exist. For example, Whey and Casein are milk proteins and someone allergic to milk could get very sick eating food with these ingredients.

3. Prevent Cross Contamination – This is a huge issue for people with food allergies when they eat outside of their home. Thoroughly scrub all utensils and work surfaces. Have plenty of clean utensils ready to use. Label all ingredients used for every dish. Trace amounts can cause a reaction and ruin your party and dinner. Keep safe food at one end of the table to avoid any unsafe food from getting into the allergy safe food dish.

4. Think Outside the Box – Often times we revert to what we know and what’s easy like trays of cheese and crackers and dairy filled dips. Not only are these not the healthiest for anyone, but these dishes tend to be full of the Top 8 food allergens. There are so many other things that you can offer that are unique and just as delicious or more so. How about unique rice crackers that are gluten free? Think about chutneys, hummus, olives, cut up vegetables to serve instead of bread and crackers that will probably contain dairy and/or other allergens. And check out the recipe pages of the DairyFreeGina website for more ideas and inspiration.

5. Be Mindful – Remember that those with food allergies are NOT picky eaters. Don’t ridicule or scorn the guest because they refuse to try a dish, bring their own food, or eat before they come to your party. We eat the way we do to survive. It truly can be a matter of life and death.

Have you ever hosted a dinner or party with guests on a food restricted diet? What tips can you share in our Comments Section for ensuring all can enjoy?

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