Holidays are a great time to spend with friends and family. Food-focused holidays – like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Lunar New Year, and other fall and winter holiday celebrations – can create added stress for parents of children with food allergies. Try some of these ideas to take precautions to avoid food allergy reactions during family meals and parties that you either host or attend.
1. Use foods from allergy-aware companies.
For peace of mind, when you are cooking or baking for your event, use products from companies you trust for their labeling and manufacturing processes. Avoid trying new foods during the holidays. If you want to introduce a new food, do it well before the actual holiday.
2. Freeze allergy-friendly dishes ahead of time.
Save yourself some time on the day of your holiday meal by preparing safe dishes in advance and freezing them. Holidays are a flurry of activity in the kitchen. Shop for and prepare dishes when you aren’t in a rush and have a lot of time to read labels. Stick them in the oven when you’re ready to bake them. Be sure to plan some extra cooking time if you bake them from frozen.
3. Pack a special meal just for your child.
If you are going to someone else’s home, pack a special holiday meal for your child. Make it festive and holiday themed. Consider calling the host ahead of time to find out what they will serve so you can make a similar meal for your child. Pack it in a microwavable-safe plate or in an insulated bag with hot packs to keep it warm.
4. Educate others to prevent cross-contact.
The best way to prevent food allergy reactions is to avoid accidental contact with your child’s food allergens. Make sure everyone who prepares, handles, and serves food your child will eat knows your child’s food allergens and how to prevent cross-contact.
5. Practice new recipes or substitutes ahead of time.
If you’re new to food allergies or are trying new recipes or substitutes, test them out before your holiday event. This will help you know ahead of time if your dish will be a success or if it needs tweaks. Visit our Safe Eats® Allergy-Friendly Recipes. You can search to find recipes according to your child’s dietary needs or browse by category.
No matter what, have epinephrine with your child at all times. Keep it close by and not in the car. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), so remember to treat your child right away if they have symptoms.