Tips to Safely Celebrate Christmas with Food Allergies

AT HOME:

 

While most children are excited about the prospect of gifts under the tree, it‘s helpful to remind them why you are celebrating and to reinforce your family’s beliefs.  It is also a wonderful time to create your own new family traditions.  

  

Religious Traditions

  • Read the story of Christmas.
  • Attend special church services (e.g. Midnight Mass).
  • Set up a nativity scene in your home.
  • Create a homemade Advent calendar (fill it with safe treats or special reminders of the season).

 

Other Family Activities

  • Read favorite Christmas books and stories each night in December.
  • Do a reading and reenactment of  “Twas the night before Christmas,” or another favorite Christmas story.
  • Write a letter to Santa Claus.
  • Attend a festival of lights in your community.
  • Have picture taken with Santa.
  • Buy presents for a child in need.
  • Collect change during the year and donate it to a favorite charity.
  • Make homemade cards and gifts for family, friends and neighbors and deliver them together.
  • Create a family calendar of photos from the year.
  • Make crafts together - e.g. snow globes out of small canning jars, handmade Christmas ornaments.
  • Bake allergy-free treats together. Don’t forget to leave some for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve.
  • Watch favorite holiday movies together.
  • Go see a movie at a local theater.
  • Put the children in charge of taking photos and video of the holiday. Have them make an album or a movie to share.
  • Get outside - e.g.. take a walk, make a snowman, go sledding, or enjoy other outdoor sports.
  • Participate in a local Fun Run or 5 K.
  • Take a tour of local neighborhood decorated with Christmas lights.
  • Attend a local parade or craft fair.
  • Play board games, charades, or cards.
  • Sing Christmas carols. 
  • Dance to Christmas music.

 

HOLIDAY PARTIES:

The holiday season is often filled with parties and celebrations with family and friends.  Below are some options to help you celebrate the holidays safely.  The best option for your family will depend on your child’s age, developmental level and individual medical history.  Be sure to check our “safety tips” before planning any food celebration.

 

 

Host Your Own Party. The benefit of hosting at your home is that you have control over what is being served.

 

Option 1:  Plan to make only safe foods.  Check KFA for allergen-free recipes. Inform friends and family of your plans to serve only safe foods.  Have a list of acceptable foods or other items for family and friends to contribute (i.e. beverages, ice, fruit, paper products).  


keirstyn-cookies-christmas-400Photo by Chrissy
 

Option 2. Allow some unsafe foods but have plenty of safe options available for your child. Put in place precautions (see "safety tips") to keep your child safe.

 

Parties Away from Home. Any celebration outside of your home needs to begin with a conversation with the host. It is important to talk about foods that will be served, your child’s allergies and any necessary safety precautions. Below are several options for visiting someone else’s home for the holidays. You will need to decide what works best for you and your family. 

 

OPTIONS

  • Offer to work with the host to create a safe menu. Often a food can be made safe simply by adjusting the recipe slightly. Offer to prepare the food with the host and to help with label reading and preventing cross-contact.
  • Offer to bring a few “safe” food dishes to share with the rest of the family.  Plate your child’s food before everyone else and keep “safe” foods separated from unsafe foods to avoid cross contact. 
  • Don’t suggest any adjustments to the food being served by the host.  Instead, bring a safe meal for you child to eat while there.  Pack lots of safe snacks and desserts too!  Keep wipes handy for hand washing.

 

SAFETY TIPS:

  • Wash hands before and after eating or handling food.
  • Prevent cross-contamination in preparation and serving.
  • Read the labels of all food ingredients.
  • Prepare and cook safe meals first. Seal them, and set aside. Then make unsafe foods.
  • Keep unsafe foods away from safe foods when preparing, serving, and storing.
  • Use separate serving utensils for each dish. Be careful not to mix them up.
  • Wash all prep areas and eating areas with a paper towel and commercial cleaner. (Sponges and rags can be a source of allergens.)
  • Try to keep food isolated to one area of the home and clean up thoroughly after the meal.
  • Make a plate for your child before the meal is served to avoid cross contact.
  • Depending on your child’s age, you may want him/her seated close to you during the meal. Ensure that those eating nearby will be careful not to accidentally spill or share unsafe foods.
  • Keep unsafe foods out of reach of young children with allergies.
  • If food will be served and eaten throughout the house, bring packages of wipes to keep near the food and encourage everyone to wipe hands after eating, though encouraging them to use soap and water is the best. Walk around periodically to dispose of any uneaten food or dirty plates and napkins.

 

AT SCHOOL

 

Many schools are moving away from celebrating religious holidays at school in lieu of winter celebrations. If your child’s school chooses to celebrate the holidays, here are some tips for ensuring that it is safe and fun for everyone. Partner with key school staff and families to plan holiday festivities in alignment with your school’s wellness plan.

 

Parents: Talk with the teacher in advance about making the celebration safe and inclusive for your child. Start this conversation early and with a written plan.

Teachers: Please do not allow children with food allergies to share food. Foods from others may be a source of unintended allergen exposure. The CDC recommends the use of non-food rewards when possible. This promotes inclusiveness in the classroom. It also decreases the risk that a student could be exposed to an allergen.


Celebrating without sugary, high-fat food sweets is also healthier and consistent with the wellness policies in place in many schools.

 

 

Ways to Celebrate without Food

 

The holidays are the perfect time of year to reach out to others in need.  Have the class work on a project to help people in your community. Children can gather clothing, used books, or canned food items to donate. They can also create crafts that can be used to decorate local shelters, food pantries, nursing homes, or community centers. 

 

Holiday Activities at School

  • Read about the different holiday traditions from around the world.  Compare and contrast their traditions to ours.
  • Have children create math problems using holiday themes and share with their classmates.
  • Solve holiday themed crossword puzzles and word searches.
  • Have children write a story about their favorite Christmas memory.  Have each child share it with class.
  • Have children read a Christmas or winter book and act out their favorite scene.
  • Have older students read holiday books to younger students.
  • Make ornaments, cards, stockings or other crafts together. ** There are many non-food craft ideas on sites such as Pinterest.  (Ex. Decorate gingerbread people or houses made out of foam, paper or cardboard, Make snowman out of socks and stuff with cotton batting.)

**Be sure to check craft ingredients for allergens.

 

Written in collaboration with Gina Mennett Lee, M.Ed. Reviewed by medical advisors December 2014.

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