Wednesday, November 25

Grandma's Guide to Holiday Hosting with Food Allergies

It's Thanksgiving! This is the time of year when we count our blessings. Thankfully, I can count my parents as one of those blessings for many reasons. They offer support and understanding in every part of our lives. This support and understanding includes Little Guy's food allergies. They have always done their best to keep him safe and create an amazing, fun, and food allergy friendly holiday for us at their house. 

My Mom wrote this guest post all on her own - with no prompting from me. As an experienced host of someone with food allergies, she feels passionate about sharing her guide to holiday hosting with food allergies. 

I wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoy this helpful post!

Holiday Hosting with Food Allergies from

By Karen Dalfonso

This will be my fourth year hosting winter family gatherings that include my Grandson (now 5 years old) with multiple food allergies to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame and fin fish.  

I love planning special dinners, and having overnight guests is always a treat. Grilling burgers, corn on the cob, fresh fruit, summer safe-snacks are summer staples. Somehow, my kitchen is adequate for that menu, but the holidays pose special challenges not present during the summer outdoor months. 

Due to the multi-tasking during holidays, it is so easy for mishaps to occur in a kitchen which does not ordinarily follow allergy-friendly guidelines. Converting a kitchen into an allergy-friendly kitchen takes some effort. 

So, I would like to share a few short-cuts and safeguards which I have adopted during the last 4 years since we found out my Grandson has food allergies.  I hope to provide a little confidence for someone who is new at this, especially during the busy family gathering-times of the year.  

Spending time planning a menu, getting recipes together and stocking up ahead of time on staples is a rule-of thumb for everyone. It's particularly important for an allergy-safe menu, as there is less room for flexibility.   

In our house, SunButter, soy and coconut milk for baking, Enjoy Life cookies, safe chocolate chips and Wheat Thins are some items I can buy ahead of time.  Freezer items may include some of my Grandson's veggies, sausage, chicken, waffles, coconut non-dairy “ice cream”, etc.   

If I am baking, I try to buy duplicate products which will be set aside and separated from my other kitchen products, to ensure cross-contact with allergens do not accidentally occur. That way, when I begin baking my special allergy friendly-recipe, I have new products. I don’t need to worry about accidental cross-contact with eggs or other allergens.  These items can be stocked on a separate shelf, or in my case, a covered bin.  During the busy times, this planning save so much time and extra trips to the grocery store.  

I find storage in a covered bin is great for me.  This way the items, which are not used everyday, stay clean and ready for me to use. In my bin this year, I’ve added measuring cups, measuring spoons, a colander, and brand new containers which have been washed and are in a plastic bags. 

These storage containers can be quickly used to store any item safely and are already washed. I can be sure it has not previously been contaminated with an allergen.  After a year, I absorb the container into my kitchen and buy new products for my “bin”, wash the product, then place in plastic bags.  I also try to use Pyrex or glass when making a bean salad, fruit salad or other item, as I can be sure the bowl is “clean”and does not have traces of an allergen.    

In my bin, I try to also keep cute children’s placemats, drinking cups and plates, although disposable utensils can also be used.  I like to buy disposable silverware in small containers of 24, as I always worry well-meaning guests could place used silverware back in those large packages which seem to last for  “years”.  I feel these little steps are worthwhile in order to be reassured  that the eating surface is safe.

As the holiday approaches, a special shelf in the refrigerator helps to separate allergy-friendly items from other items.  I find it helpful to use a container to hold small items such as coconut yogurt, juice boxes, non-dairy butter, etc., which can get “lost” in a holiday refrigerator.  A special shelf or storage area in the kitchen or another room for crackers, cereal, or other items is also helpful.  This helps to avoid “errors” made in a rush. It is also helpful to have snack-size bags made with pretzels, popcorn, or other items that can be quickly grabbed.  Remember, taking snacks from the large “family”  bag always runs the risk of allergens in the product.

During any mealtime gathering, be sure to make the allergy-friendly plate first.  If you think there will be “seconds” later,  placed food in storage containers before the rest of the guests take their dinner. I always try to use a placemat on the table, with either disposable silverware or a different pattern of silverware.  That way I can  make sure the item has been properly washed. We tend to shift seats, plates, glasses often during a large gathering so this is a helpful safeguard for me.  Paper products are great to insure everything is clean. For emergency cutting of vegetables, etc., just cut the item inside a ziplock bag if unsure of clean surfaces in the kitchen.  I always use foil or parchment paper for baking or grilling to insure the food is on a safe surface away from any allergens.  

Enjoying family time:
So, next comes the fun part!  The laughter, the memories and the great holiday traditions. One of the best is a cookie plate.  Our cookie plate may look a little different from those in other families, but our cookie plate is packed with love and great times.  If you have time to make one cut-out cookie recipe, one gingerbread recipe, or one favorite sugar cookies, that is really enough!  Pretzels can be dipped in safe-chocolate, dairy-free Rice Krispie treats are always nice, chocolate peppermint candy bark, and Enjoy Life cookies come in lots of flavors. Sharing that special dessert is part of our holiday tradition.  We remember to be thankful for each other and don’t want to miss that special part of sharing!

Holiday Hosting with Food Allergies -
Grandma making cookies with Little Guy.
You may also be interested in:


Lindsay said...

You sound like an amazing Grandma and your grandson is so lucky to have you!! I was so moved by your post that I am teary-eyed. On behalf of other allergy-Mommas, thank you so much for your love and care. Best wishes this holiday season!

Anonymous said...

Such wonderful tips and what a lovely photo of grandma and Little Guy:)

Anna said...

Thanks for your tips. I will keep it in my mind for sure.

Online Supermarket in Chennai said...

Hi, Great post and cute photos.

Post a Comment

Content © Mamacado. All Rights Reserved | Design © 2013 Laura Jane Designs