Dealing with food allergies can make life difficult, whether you are navigating your own allergies or those of a loved one. Home is a safe zone for many allergy sufferers.  I prepare my foods and grocery list to meet the dietary needs of my family while also protecting myself. But when it comes to the holidays, visiting family or friends can often be challenging.

Think about what is involved when you meet up with family, or friends…  FOOD. We use food as a socializing tactic, and when you have a food allergy there is fear added to this common-day practice. As an educator, I hear horror stories of family members giving peanut butter cookies to kids with peanut allergies to see if the allergy is real. The thought being they will believe it when they see it. As an adult, it can be very difficult because family has seen you eat a certain food in the past that now is a threat to your well-being and no matter how much you educate them they will not allow this to sink in.

This sense of being ignored can upset you, making family time more difficult, and making it seem as if you don’t trust your family and their cooking.

Even though the holidays are a busy time, you need to make an effort to prepare ahead. Here are a few things you can do to be mindful of your food allergies and make family time less stressful:

  1. Educate family regarding the allergy, what happens when you eat certain foods, and if it is life threatening. When family has a sense of protecting your well-being, they are more receptive to change.
  2. Offer your family a list of acceptable, safe items that can be made.
  3. Bring a safe meal for yourself or your child to eat.
  4. Offer to host the holiday at your own home, where you have full control of the menu and the pans for cooking to prevent cross contact.
  5. If there are unsafe foods at a function, make sure the person with the allergy knows which foods to avoid.
  6. Allow the person with the allergy to plate their food first. This stops cross contact with the use of multiple serving utensils.
  7. Think of alternative ways to celebrate the holidays that do not involve food.

In my own situation, I attend family functions and constantly have to accept apologies from people forgetting that I cannot eat dairy products. Once I started bringing my own foods and removed the burden on others to remember, my comfort level increased so I could safely attend holiday gatherings. My mom now understands and offers dairy free alternatives so I don’t feel left out of the meal.

Holidays are already stressful enough, but following a few quick prep -steps can remove the stress of eating with an allergy so you can enjoy the day with your family.