Food allergies are becoming more common with kids these days. Here are 7 tips for handling a birthday party or get together when your guest has severe food allergies.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how lucky we are.
I don’t have to worry that a friend at school will share a treat from home that isn’t safe for my child to eat.
I don’t have to worry if the restaurant we eat at isn’t careful about cross contamination within their kitchen.
But my kids’ friends do have to worry about that. Yes, our kids friends have life-threatening allergies to tree nuts and peanuts.
And we had no idea until it was time for my oldest’s baking themed birthday party.
When Severe Food Allergies Became a Reality
Suddenly, there was a request in my inbox for a list of ingredients for the items we planned to serve. And, if you saw the party pictures, and read the whole story, you probably know that I was completely disorganized and did everything at the last minute.
So there was no ingredient list to even provide.
I was left with three options:
- Invite the parents to provide safe choices for their child,
- Buy just a few allergy friendly options for my child’s friend, or
- find a way to make the whole party allergy friendly.
Option one felt too burdensome on the parents. Yes, they may be used to this, but my job as a hostess is to make everyone feel welcome.
Separating the food allergic child was a no-go from the beginning. We weren’t going to make a big deal out of an allergy or exclude someone from some of the fun. Not happening.
So, option three was our course of action.
After some research, we found a bakery that operates completely nut-free and would provide all the supplies the kids would need to frost and decorate cookies and cupcakes.
(Bonus: No worrying about baking the food!)
I have no regrets going out of my way to ensure a safe environment for that little girl. She is a fun and sweet girl that is a pleasure to be around and she and my oldest are still friends now two years later.
If you have guests with severe food allergies, here are a few ways you can make them feel comfortable:
7 Hostess Tips for When Your Guest Has Severe Food Allergies
- If you’re having a small party (10-ish people) consider making an entire allergy-friendly menu. It’s the thoughtful thing to do.
- If you’re having a large party, and can’t avoid some allergens, make sure to label foods so your guest knows which foods to avoid.
- Send a copy of your recipes/ingredients to your guest (or their parent). This is the easiest way to help ease any concerns.
- Stay away from boxed foods. We have a family member who is allergic to MSG, which is often hidden in labels such as “assorted spices.” Cooking from scratch ensures that nothing is hidden in those assorted spices.
- Hire out. Find a local caterer, restaurant, or bakery that is used to accommodating your guest’s food allergy.
- Be aware of hidden allergens. Cross-contact and contamination is real. Foodallergy.org prepared a document for restaurants hosting guests with severe food allergies (see page 24 and 25 for practical recommendations).
- Above all, treat your guest with respect and kindness. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what you would hope for if you were them.
Now, It’s Your Turn
Those of us who don’t have to worry day-in and day-out about severe allergies are truly so lucky. Yes, it may be an inconvenience to plan around these needs, but imagine how much concern they have to deal with daily. Going the extra mile for your guests with severe allergies shows how much you care.
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Aletha Oglesby, M.D. says
Leslie, this article contains helpful, accurate, and potentially life saving information. I understand the issue since my grandson has food allergies, and I must be careful with foods when he comes to visit me. I wrote a post on my blog about food allergies, and would like to add a link to your article, it is so practical and timely. Thank you.
Jann Olson says
Thanks for sharing these tips with SYC. I’ve never had to deal with anything like this.
Amy Riley says
Thank you for sharing and for your consideration of your guest. One of my children has life threatening food allergies and at only six years old she suffers greatly when other parents aren’t as considerate as you were for your guest. We always pack our own food and dessert unless I am SURE the party host(ess) is providing a safe-meal. While my daughter understands we do this to keep her safe she hates feeling singled out or different. Your kindness was so very much appreciated I am sure! — Also, as a food allergy parent, I would say when in doubt, ASK!! A parent of a child with a food allergy WANTS AND NEEDS to be asked about food safety measures! They won’t be offended and will probably even have an extra level of respect for you after you ask! 🙂 Here are two of my most read posts about being a food allergy mama:
Richella J Parham says
Thank you so much for this, Leslie! I’ve said many times that I’m grateful that my kids finished school before food allergies were common. I’m sure it’s hard for parents and teachers now to know how to approach things like school lunches and treats. But I’d never even thought about hosting a kids’ party when a guest has severe food allergies. I appreciate the way you approach this issue with such kindness. Bless you!
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