Over the last couple of years, I’ve been hearing more and more about food allergies. It seems like every time I turn around I’ve got a new friend coming down with food related issues.
I’ve got friends who have dairy allergies, shell-fish allergies, peanut allergies, wheat/gluten allergies and some who are stuck with full on celiac diseases. I had always known about the traditional peanut and shell-fish allergies growing up, but until recently hadn’t realized how serious the other conditions could be.
The most common problem seems to be gluten issues.
To be honest – I always kind of thought the gluten thing was a bit of a fad diet and had my doubts about its validity. I used to smirk inside when I’d hear people say they were doing the gluten free thing. I’m ashamed to admit, I thought most of them were doing it for weight loss or attention.
I know better now and regret my poor attitude.
I’ve got a friend with celiac disease who will be throwing up within 1-2 hours of getting even a small portion of gluten in her body. Even cross contamination of utensils will lead to her being “glutenned.”
I’ve got another friend whose skin breaks out from exposure to gluten or cinnamon.
Another friend with gluten issues has grown 4-5 inches in the 8 months since his parents changed his eating patterns.
I’m lucky, I don’t have any food allergies. I can eat whatever I want – within reason of course. But not everyone is as lucky
So this article is written for the people like me, who didn’t have a clue about food allergies and are negating the world of food allergy hosting.
5 Steps to Hosting an Allergy Free Dinner Party:
1. Prior to hosting a party check with your invitees for any food allergies or food preferences.
It is hard to plan a menu until you have a general idea of food requirement. Always check for the basics like diary, glutten and vegetarian.
I don’t typically cook with peanuts or shell fish, so I’m usually safe on this one.
It you are hosting a larger gathering where asking isn’t feasible, you need to assume that at least a few people will have food allergies and plan your menu accordingly.
2. Once you’ve determined your allergy limitations plan out your menu.
Most of the time, you can keep your chosen menu with a few slight variations.
It is all about being creative. Some of your favorite standby dishes can be altered slightly.
Aaron and I are meat eaters, so that is usually the center of any meal we plan.
However, I try to always keep a box of gluten free pasta around for emergencies and focus on plenty of fruits and veggies sides. It is very easy to turn a burrito/taco night into a meal anyone can eat by adding beans, rice and grilled veggies.
The trick is always having a variety of food.
When all else fails, Pinterest is a great resource for allergy friendly meals.
3. Prepare your kitchen in advance based on the allergy requirements
I always check to determine how strong their allergy may be. In some situations sharing the same utensil while cooking can make someone sick.
Using separate bowls for cooking is a hassle, but will avoid a lot of pain in the long run.
This is also when I plan out separate cooking plans for my vegetarian friends. Typically when we entertain, everything is planned around my husband’s grilling abilities (he totally rocks the grill).
He is very careful to clean his grill prior to cooking the veggies to ensure they are kept completely separate from any meat products.
Do I think being vegetarian is crazy – yes – I love my meat, but if I’m going to invite a vegetarian into my home the least I can do is respect their food preferences.
Random products often contain ingredients that may cause issues. When in doubt leave them out or check with your friends prior to use.
For our first couple of allergy hosting events, we left out the spices we used and had our friends review them prior to eating. We’ve gotten a bit better since then and for the most part, have a pretty good idea of what we can use.
However, It is always better to double check. Food processors are constantly changing their ingredients.
5. Don’t stress out.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but honestly, people with food allergies just appreciate the attempts. I’ve been to multiple parties with some of my friends where they literally can’t eat anything.
Unfortunately we live in a very processed food world and many commen foods aren’t allergy friendly.
Don’t feel bad if you mess up. Some of your attempts aren’t going to work.
I was so proud of my awesome gluten free, dairy free cobbler, but forgot about a nut allergy and added pecans. It happens, the important thing is making the effort.
There are going to be some foods you just can’t alter effectively.
I’ve tried – my diary free chocolate chip cookies just aren’t good. So I make a batch of cookies and then grab some sorbet for my dairy challenged friends.
I hope some of these tips help next time you are hosting an allergy free extravaganza. Let me know if you can think of other steps I may have missed.
To help with your future cooking endeavors I’ve linked to a couple of my favorite health-related blogs. These blogs have a mix of regular and allergy related recipes that are actually from someone’s kitchen.
One Lovely Life – This link takes you directly to Emily’s recipe index. She has labels by each recipe so you can quickly see which ones are dairy free, gluten free or vegan. She has a great mix of recipes and easy to follow cooking directions – a must for someone of my cooking skills.
The Allergic Kid – This link will also take you directly to the recipe index. This blog is written by a mother with a child who is allergic to peanut, shellfish, egg, all dairy products, beef, lamb and pork.
You may also want to check out her “about” page. It has links to a few articles dealing with allergy issues I thought sounded interesting. I didn’t have time to read them, so I could be giving a bad recommendation.
Epi-Family – This is another mom blog. She has an extensive list of recipes for a variety of dietary needs. I read a few of her other posts and she is a very interesting and fun writer.
She also has a page here devoted to substitutes for common ingredients.
Photo Credit: Peanut Sign
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