I never noticed how much socialization revolves around food until my son and I were diagnosed with food allergies and intolerances. Trying to be social while dealing with food allergies can be extremely isolating. We have had to pass up on many outings with local groups for moms due to the fact that the events are largely food themed – pizza parties, lunch at McDonald’s, cookie making parties. Not much fun for a little one who is at the age where he wants what everyone else is having.
I’m here to offer a few tips on how you can make your next playdate or birthday party more welcoming to kiddos with allergies.
- First, find out if there are any allergies in the group. If there are allergies in the group, ask Mom if she has any special requests. Odds are, she is going to say no, and will offer to bring her own food. But, please ask. That act alone goes a really long way.
- Stick with simple food. Fruit kabobs, dried fruit, fresh veggies, sorbet or Italian ice, 100% fruit popsicles. Use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes out of pineapple or watermelon. Real, fresh food is your safest bet. I recently found an easy recipe for banana “cake” that uses only banana and chocolate (dairy free chocolate can be substituted).
- Let Mom know what you’re planning to serve. That way, she knows ahead of time what her child can have, what she should bring, and what her child should avoid.
- Find out if Mom wants her child’s food separated from the rest of the group’s. Cross contamination can be a big issue for those with severe allergies, and little fingers can make it tough to keep safe food free of contaminants.
- If you’re going to serve packaged food, research and serve brands that are safe for everyone. Most can be found at your local grocery store, Whole Foods, or Fruitful Yield. Here are some brands hat we like:
- Enjoy Life: They are free of the top 8 allergens. They have granola bars and cookies that actually taste pretty good. They also have dairy free chocolate chips and chocolate bars.
- So Delicious: They have ice cream options that are made from coconut milk. Really tasty, and free of both dairy and soy (this is one of the toughest allergens to avoid).
- Namaste: They have several baking mixes that are free of the top 8 allergens – cakes, cupcakes, frostings, cookies, muffins, pizza crust. They all call for eggs, though, so the recipes need to be tweaked if you have anyone in the group who needs to be egg-free.
- Yummy Earth: They have suckers and gummy candies that are free of most common allergens. They’re also corn free.
- Udi’s: They have several gluten free bread options, and offer gluten free pizza crusts as well.
- Spectrum: They have a shortening made from palm fruit oil that can be used in baked goods. Their coconut oil (or any other brand of coconut oil) can often be used as a butter substitute as well.
- Against the Grain: They make gluten, soy, yeast, tree nut, and peanut free breads, rolls, bagels, and pizza crusts.
- Wayfare Foods: Wayfare Foods makes dairy free “cheese” spreads using oats.
- Most importantly, try not to isolate the child with allergies. Do your best to make the majority of the food and drinks you serve safe for everyone.
Does your child have food allergies? Do you have any other tips?