This article is courtesy of Allergies Québec
The holidays can quickly become a source of stress for people with food allergies. Food is an intrinsic part of the festive period. It’s therefore important for both hosts and guests to develop good reflexes to ensure a safe, inclusive, and memorable gathering.
Tips and tricks to ensure the safety of those with allergies
Planning and communication are key for a safe, stress-free event.
If you have allergies and are visiting friends or family, you should notify the host of your allergies beforehand, and discuss the menu together. Take the time to explain cross-contamination and how to avoid it. It’s important that your host understands that, in some cases, just a trace of the allergen in question could set off a serious allergic reaction. Be ready and willing to answer any questions they may have. Here are a few additional suggestions:
- Offer to help in the kitchen.
- Suggest recipes you often make at home (specifying the products and brands to use).
- Offer to bring a soup, legume salad, or another side you can fill up on if ever you are stuck.
If you are receiving someone who has food allergies, be receptive to the information the person gives you. Your goal is to ensure their safety, so feel free to ask as many questions as necessary. Here are a few tips to facilitate planning on your end:
- Plan the menu ahead of time, and have the person with allergies look it over.
- If possible, opt for a menu that is free of any allergens to be avoided in order to foster inclusion, simplify preparations, and reduce any risks.
- When buying food, carefully read the nutritional information and opt for products whose packaging is intact to prevent any potential cross-contamination.
- Make sure you understand the best practices for minimizing the risk of cross-contamination.
- Buy new condiments that are free of any allergen traces.
- Avoid hosting a buffet-style event, as there is a higher risk of cross-contamination.
- Serve the person who has allergies first if there are any allergens present in the dishes being served to the other guests.
- A few minutes before your guests arrive, clean the table and chairs where they will be sitting.
Sample menu free of priority allergens
Christmas sangria (garnished with cinnamon sticks, orange wedges, cranberries, and/or pomegranate arils)
Classic dry Martini (served with skewered olives and a few citrus slices)
Grilled corn tortillas and creamy vegan artichoke-spinach dip*
Dairy-free cheese platter and wheat-free crackers
*Replace the cashew cream with rice or soy cooking cream as needed.
**Make sure the cheeses are prepared without nuts/soy/wheat, or that your guests are not allergic to these ingredients.
Crustless mini tourtières
Ketchup and homemade chutney
Roasted stuffed turkey***
Cranberry and orange sauce
Garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes
Crunchy broccoli salad
***Buy a “plain” turkey you can soak in brine for 12 hours before cooking. For the stuffing, make sure you use wheat-free breadcrumbs or bread, as well as allergen-free margarine. Use a mixture of onions/garlic, cranberries, and pear for an exquisite tasting minced meat stuffing.
Christmas tree crepes without priority allergens, chocolate garland*
Rice Krispie yule log (topped with chocolate* and fresh strawberries)
Holiday chocolate* chips (candy cane bark)
*Use milk-free, nut-free, and peanut-free chocolate.
What to do in case of emergency
Despite all the precautions and best intentions in the world, there’s no such thing as zero risk; an allergic reaction could still occur. It’s important to respond quickly and be able to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis. Remind any guests with allergies to bring their epinephrine auto-injector with them, and make sure you know where it is when they arrive. Once adopted, these simple habits will become second nature, ensuring everyone can share some happy times together.