When you have a child with food allergies like I do, you do everything in your power to keep them safe. You read labels, ask questions, advocate for them—and when they’re old enough, teach them to advocate for themselves. While birthday parties, family and school events are always top of mind, managing your kid’s food allergies during the holidays can be challenging too.
Between new types of foods, homemade dishes made with secret ingredients, and all those Christmas cookies, if you didn’t make it yourself, you’re never quite sure what’s safe to eat and what’s not.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR KID’S FOOD ALLERGIES DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Although managing food allergies during the holidays can definitely be nerve-wracking, with some planning and a few simple strategies you can enjoy the season and keep your kid safe. Here are 6 tips to consider.
1. TALK IT OUT
This year, the holidays will look a lot different and chances are, you won’t be traveling or gathering with family.
Still, if you decide to venture out, call the host and let them know about your kid’s food allergies because the reality is that you are your child’s biggest advocate.
Unless they have a child with food allergies, it’s unlikely that they’ll read food labels or even know what to look for on a label.
Your host may go out of her way to check labels and read every ingredient that was used, but there’s always the risk that an ingredient was made on shared equipment or in a facility with the allergen which would increase your child’s risk for accidental exposure.
What’s more, most people don’t understand how serious accidental exposure can be and may say a meal is safe when it really isn’t.
Explain to them how serious food allergies are and what can happen if your child accidentally ingests an allergen.
Also, ask what will be served and give some thought to the ingredients so you’ll know what your kid should avoid.
2. BRING A SAFE DISH AND DESSERT
One of the best ways to manage your kid’s food allergies during the holidays and make sure he’ll have something to eat is to bring a safe dish and a dessert that he and everyone else can enjoy.
3. WATCH YOUR KID LIKE A HAWK
When my daughter was 3-years-old, we attended a party at a neighbor’s house.
While we were chatting, unbeknownst to us she helped herself to a dip that had nuts in it.
Luckily, she only had hives and we gave her a dose of Benadryl, but it was a big wake-up call that we needed to watch her more carefully.
Something else to consider is that well-meaning family and friends may offer your kid something to eat without checking with you first.
To avoid accidental exposure, make sure everyone else at the holiday get-together knows about your child’s food allergies and ask them not to offer them food.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
If your kid is young and can’t advocate for himself, it goes without saying that you must ask about the ingredients in every dish before you serve him anything.
If there’s ever a question about the ingredients or you’re in doubt, don’t take a chance.
If your child is young, you’ll need to watch them throughout the day too so they don’t eat something that’s unsafe.
5. TALK ABOUT FOOD ALLERGIES BEFOREHAND
When kids are old enough to understand what it means to have food allergies, it’s important to talk to them about how to stay safe without scaring them.
Make sure they know not to eat anything without asking you first and not to share foods with other kids who may also have food allergies.
6. ASK GUESTS TO BRING A NON-FOOD GIFT
If you’ll be hosting for the holidays and your mother-in-law insists on bringing her famous pecan pie even though your child has a nut allergy, there may not be much you can do.
If guests ask what they can bring, however, have a list of alternatives like a bottle of wine, another beverage, or festive napkins.
7. PLAN NON-FOOD TRADITIONS
Food is always a big part of the festivities, but kids with food allergies may feel left out if they can’t enjoy some of it.
With many families staying at home this year, there’s more opportunity to get creative and create new family traditions that don’t involve a ton of food.
Instead, keep the food simple and safe and focus on family.
Plan activities or start new holiday traditions that will create magical memories your kids will remember for years to come.