As a child growing up with food allergies, Halloween and Valentine’s Day were two days of the year that I would really notice that I was different. Valentine’s Day is a holiday focused on sweets and candies that show your love for others, but for me, these sweets and candies are filled with ingredients that can send me to the hospital. So how can we make this holiday something special, but also safe for those with food allergies?
I am thankful to have people in my life that have always gone the extra mile for me to make my Valentine’s Day a special day. As a child, my parents would give my brothers and I little goodie bags in the morning before we went to school, filled with safe candies, and even other non-food related treats (a coloring book, toy, pencils, etc.). By the time I got to school, I already knew that I had something special back at home to enjoy when the day was over. After school, I would take my candy back home, and my mom would sift out anything containing allergens. With the special treats from my parents, losing a few unsafe treats from my classmates was not as upsetting.
My husband took over Valentine’s Day in my late teens as we were dating, and has been very thoughtful and attentive to my allergies. On our first Valentine’s Day (he officially asked me to be his girlfriend a week later), he bought me a bouquet of flowers, and a handful of Hershey bars, because he knew that was the only chocolate safe for me to eat.
One of my favorite Valentine’s gifts from him was a heart-shaped box of chocolates filled with handmade chocolates. I had never been able to have a heart-shaped box of chocolates before, but he found a box that had a “made in a facility” warning, emptied out the unsafe chocolate, cleaned the box, and then made safe chocolate for me to put in there. I mean, could he be more perfect? It meant the world to me, but this gift did not cost hundreds of dollars, or hours upon hours of time. People with food allergies really appreciate the little things.
Here are a few different ways to L-O-V-E someone with food allergies on Valentine’s Day:
L - Love is not measured by candy and presents. Having a hard time finding different treats to offer someone with food allergies? Make your own Valentine’s Day traditions to express your love. My husband and I have always had a cheesy Valentine’s Day card contest each year -trying to find the silliest card, but then writing a sweet note in the card. We also try to take a day trip or do something fun together. We feel that spending money on making memories is more meaningful than gifts.
O - Offer friendly substitutes. Your child may come home with a handful of candy or treats that they cannot have, and it can help to have a hidden stash of safe sweets to replace the treats that contain allergens. Replacing the unsafe candy gives your child the opportunity to enjoy something special.
V - Validate feelings of being left out. Acknowledge the disappointment, frustration, and feelings of being left out with your loved one. Food allergies are frustrating and difficult to deal with on a daily basis, but holidays like Valentine’s Day make it apparent as to what we are missing out on.
E - Enjoy the little treats (and the big treats). After acknowledging and validating the negative feelings, quickly move on to enjoy the little treats (or the big ones too). Make a list of people and things that you love, take a trip to the park or the beach and enjoy the day together, or curl up on the couch and eat some safe, delicious Valentine’s Day treats (chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite).
Caitlin Reiter grew up in Los Angeles acquiring food allergies, a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development, a loving husband, and an amazing job as a Children's Librarian. She enjoys spending time with family, trips to the beach with her husband, Sundays at church, and blogging and sharing at Caity’s Kitchen: Thriving With Food Allergies. Her blog is aimed at teens and young adults with food allergies.