The holidays are all about family and food — and when you’re cooking for a crowd, you’re working around as many diets as you are personalities. It’s one thing when someone doesn’t like a certain dish, but it’s quite another if someone has an intolerance or allergy to a particular food. Here are 7 tips on hosting the holidays around food allergies.
Invitations When you’re planning the guest list and sending out invitations, make sure to ask if there are any food allergies. You may not be able to make all the food allergy-free, but asking your friends and family for diet restrictions will help you plan an accommodating menu.
Make a Chart Map out all of the food you want to serve and all of the separate diet restrictions. Decide what dishes are naturally allergy-friendly, which ones can be adjusted to be allergy-friendly and which ones are off-limits for diet restrictions. Make sure there are items for everyone to have a delicious and balanced holiday dinner.
Label Everything If you have a lot of allergies, make sure to label your dishes with the ingredients — it doesn’t have to list every ingredient, but highlighting safe or unsafe foods is helpful for guests. For instance: “Contains Dairy” on a pumpkin pie or “Gluten-Free” on green bean casserole will steer diners in the right direction to suit their diets. The labels don’t have to be ominous — be creative with them! Craft something cheery for the holiday.
Cook from Scratch When you cook and bake everything from scratch, you have control over everything that goes into the meal — you’ll know if there’s meat, nuts, milk, or gluten in what you make. If you can’t make everything from scratch, make sure to keep the labels for the store-bought items for your guests to refer to. Quick tip: make the allergy-friendly foods before you make the bulk of the meal to avoid cross contaminating the food.
Sanitize Wash everything really well before making allergy-friendly foods. Treat every dish as if you just cut up raw chicken with it. For someone with a severe allergy, it’s not an unreasonable safeguard.
Ask for Help If there are major diet restrictions, ask your guests to bring an allergy-friendly food they can eat. Be sure to have them list ingredients they used or a bring the label with them to dinner.
Extra Precautions Have an EpiPen on hand. The holidays are hectic and when parents are managing more than one child an EpiPen may fall through the cracks of their plans to make it to your house for dinner on time. Even if you don’t have allergies in your household, having an EpiPen in case of emergency could save the holiday.
For severe allergies, you may want to eliminate some items from your menu altogether. It seems extreme, but it might be a precaution worth taking to give yourself a stress-free holiday.
Traditional holiday meals are far from allergy-free. It seems like a big project to work around food allergies, but that little bit of work is a small price to pay for a safe and happy holiday meal.