Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Nut-Free Holidays! Tips for Navigating Holiday Parties, Baking Resources, Class Parties and More!

Have a sweet holiday by planning ahead for
potential food allergy pitfalls.
We're in the heart of the holiday season and if you have kids with food allergies, that can mean extra stress. Everything from holiday parties to visiting Santa at the mall takes on a new dimension when dealing with life-threatening nut allergies, but you don't have to let food allergies stand in the way of enjoying the holidays! True, food is everywhere but if you plan ahead and are prepared for it, you can keep the allergic family members healthy and happy and best of all, keep yourself healthy and happy.

If you are just starting out with severe nut allergies, finding a balance can sound impossible, especially dealing with holiday parties. Take a deep breath, realize you can't do it all and then check out my best tips for a nut-free, stress-free holiday including advice on navigating holiday parties.

Here's one tip I didn't include in that post but realize I should have. When you attend a cookie exchange, potluck, or really any holiday party with food of unknown origin, I do not recommend the following: asking everyone in the room whether or not the food has nuts in it as a basis for evaluating whether or not you should feed it to your allergic kiddo.

Why? Because, even if the food doesn't have nuts in it, cross-contact could have occurred during the cooking/baking process. Or the cook or baker could have used ingredients that have a cross-contact warning. Or the cook/baker's kitchen might have a lot of the allergen present and cross-contact can occur that way. Or one of the kids could have eaten peanut butter and stuck their finger in the batter when Mom or Dad or Grandma wasn't looking.

I could go on, but I think you probably get the gist: you have no way of knowing if a food is safe if it's unlabeled and made in another kitchen where the family does not deal with allergies. I know it's hard but it's best to avoid these home baked items of unknown origin.
What if Santa is giving out candy?

Recently, a reader wrote to me regarding how to deal with Santa at the mall when he's handing out candy and such after the kids visit him. This is a tough one because kids believe that Santa knows everything about them, so why would he give them unsafe candy?

Ideally, you have taught or are in the process of teaching kids to question any candy they get -- even if given to them by a trusted adult. Santa is no exception and you can tell the kids that he is very busy and occasionally makes a mistake. If your child gets candy from Santa and you can't determine if it's safe or not (for example, it has no label), one thing you can do is to immediately switch it with something from your own pocket. If your child questions you, you can say, "Oh, Santa gave you the wrong thing by mistake. One of his elves gave me this candy. I checked it and it's safe for you." Or whatever works for your situation -- you're a parent, I'm sure you're creative.

A lot of us will be baking, so if you have vanilla extract questions? Click here for baking tips and ingredients info. For those of you with general baking questions, this post has some thoughts for those without allergies who want to bake for us, while this post is geared to the families personally dealing with nut allergies.

Need nut-free Christmas dessert recipe ideas? This archived post has some good ones, plus check out my Pinterest board, "Christmas Sweets (Nut-Free)."

For some general advice on nut allergies and the holidays, check out these 6 excellent tips from SunButter sunflower seed spread: they quoted me and shared some of my fave tips for parents.

Looking for nut-free candy finds at the supermarket? Here are some that you will see on store shelves.

School parties this week? Click this link for an article about food allergies and school parties that I wrote for Chicago Parent magazine.

Please feel free to share your holiday solutions in the comments below. All best wishes for a very happy holiday season!

For more parent-to-parent advice on successfully navigating nut allergies, click here.

1 comment:

Gratefulfoodie said...

Excellent point about Santa "knowing" all about allergens. The Holidays are truly a challenge. Even past the Holiday season, these tips can be applied to all any special event, etc.

Hope you enjoy a beautiful New Year!