Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Party Tips for Nut-Free Families

Holiday parties are in full swing now so I know that many of us are wondering how to cope and have fun at the same time.

To start with, my current FAAN newsletter called out several foods to look out for if you have peanut or tree nut allergies. Some are obvious, others not so much.

Here is their list: Holiday Foods that are High-Risk for Peanuts/Tree Nuts

Peanuts: Cheescake/Cookies/Meat marinade
Tree Nuts: Cake/Cookies/Pie and pie crust/Strudel
Also, here are a few of my own "watch-out" foods: gravy, chocolate, any type of sauce (sweet or savory), stuffing, casseroles

Please avoid desserts that you did not make. Did you know that 43% of food allergy reactions are caused by dessert foods? No matter how good it looks, no matter how much your kids want it--if you didn't make it, don't let them eat it. Desserts are so high-risk that it's just not worth it. Better put on your apron, Betty Crocker, and get baking. You'll thank yourself later!

Since you may be attending parties where you don't know the people well, you're going to have to be extra vigilant and flexible. Here are a few things to look out for:

Buffets. Lots of risk for cross-contamination here. Try to avoid having your child eat from a buffet, but if that's the hand your dealt, you can help the situation by asking the host or hostess if you can serve the allergic members of your family first. That way you minimize risk of contaminating food with serving spoons, etc.

Nuts in a bowl. Oh, boy I sure hate this one for so many reasons--cross-contamination and accidental ingestion when it comes to little ones, for example. But since this is a holiday entertaining staple, be prepared. If you have little children, ask the host/hostess if you can have the bowl placed where the child can't reach it. If you have very small kids, follow them around and point out that they can't have them. Make it a teachable moment.

Kisses. If you know a relative or friend just ate a big helping of a nut-filled food, ask them to kiss your child on the head or give them a hug instead of a big, wet cheek kiss. If you don't want to get into a big deal about the reason why, just tell them your child has a cold.

For the nut-free adults: Cocktails and coffee drinks. Hazelnut syrup, almond syrup, amaretto: these are just a few of the "unsafe" ingredients you'll find in a holiday cocktail. Ask for wine or bring ingredients for mixing one of your own specialities. Just don't cross-contaminate with the cocktail shaker.

Be a gracious guest and bring your own food and/or drink. You can't go wrong if you can contribute safe foods or drinks to the party spread. Your hosts will really appreciate it and you'll have more fun, too.

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