The holidays are meant to be a time to kickback and spend with loved ones. A time where you worry less and indulge in all the yummy dishes and treats that line the table and counter tops. But for the parent of a child living with a severe food allergy, this is very much their worst nightmare.
With so many people in one place and lots of food dishes in full exposure to grabby hands, this means always keeping a watchful eye on your child, screening packages for the ingredients list, inquiring those who've brought treats if they used "milk" or "peanuts" in their dishes.
According to a study published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1 in every 13 Canadians are living with a significant food allergy. This means that there is a very high chance that someone in your immediate family or friends circle has a food allergy and will be attending the same get together as you this Easter Holiday.
That's why here at Ohh! Foods we believe that we could all learn to be a bit more mindful when hosting our family and friends this Easter holiday. (and always).
Here is a useful list of little contributions that we can all do to make the holidays safer and enjoyable for those living with food allergies.
If your child has an allergy:
- Let the person hosting know of your child's allergy concerns. Even if they have been told previously, a little reminder saves a lot of trouble for you. By reminding them in advance, this also gives them ample time to tell other guests and ensure that everyone is aware of the food allergy and able to take precautions and be conscious when shopping and/or cooking for the event.
- Offer to host the event at your place. Sure, hosting a family dinner is a lot of work, but by doing so you are ensuring that the environment is allergen safe. It will also give you peace of mind having your child in your own home instead of roaming around an unfamiliar environment.
- Go over the rules with your child the day of the event. Children are often forgetful and get very excited during the holidays to play with other kids and eat all the different treats available, so it's always good to remind them of the rules (ie. that they can't take or eat any treats without your approval first).
- Bring an alternative meal, just in case majority of food dishes there contain ingredients your child is allergic to. This also ensures that your child has a meal that they will enjoy!
If you're hosting the event:
- Save the packages and wrappers of any pre-made food. This is a small gesture that will be very appreciated and will make it a lot easier for the parent to know which foods their child can and cannot eat.
- Give out non-treats. Especially around Easter, it's very common to give out chocolates or create an egg hunt for the kids. Make things easier and more inclusive for everyone by giving out "non-treats," like bouncy balls, bubbles and stickers, that all kids will still love.
- Ask all your guests if there are any allergy concerns. And share that information with everyone attending so that they know to avoid bringing dishes with the allergen.
- Reach out to the parent whose child has allergies. Ask if there are any dishes or foods that the child likes. This shows that you are being mindful of the allergy and makes the parent feel cared for.
- Ensure hands are being washed and utensils are being used to serve food. Designate a specific utensil to each dish, ensure that eating surfaces are clean and be mindful of cross contamination of utensils. If there are dishes and treats that contain an allergen, it's best to keep those dishes away from the rest of the food.
- Have everyone write the ingredients to their dish on a card and bring it with them. This way the parent can determine what their child is able to eat, without having to stress.
If you're a guest:
- Cook with allergen alternatives. A lot of your favourite dishes can be made gluten or dairy free and still taste just as delicious! Even if you don't know of an allergy, by choosing to cook with an alternative, such as applesauce in replacement for eggs, your mindfulness will be appreciated.
- Keep an eye on the child with allergies. The parent will appreciate knowing there's someone else at the event who is watching out for their child and keeping their allergies in mind.
- Try to bring a home cooked dish. This way you are able to confirm with certainty what exactly is in the treat you brought and if it's allergen free, assure the parents of such.
- If your dish contains a common food allergen, label it. This way those with food allergies know to steer clear of your dish.
- Reach out to the host beforehand and inquire if there any food allergies to be mindful of. This way you know what to avoid and will be able to bring dishes that are free from the food allergen.
- READ the ingredient list before you purchase from the store or bakery. Keep an eye out for things like wheat, eggs, milk, etc in the ingredients list and steer clear of those things if you can.
Being mindful, thoughtful and supportive goes a long way. It makes those with severe allergies feel comfortable and ensures that they are safe. By being consciously aware of others food allergies, you are showing them that you care, which is a hallmark for every holiday.
We want to know your thoughts! Leave a comment in the section below, we can't wait to hear from you!