Hosting for friends and family with food allergies – Preparing the food

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Are you hosting a holiday party and know that you will have guests with food allergies and/or sensitivities like gluten? Do you have food allergies and/or sensitivities? If you don’t, you may be nervous about preparing the food safely.

Once you have done the meal planning and grocery shopping and are ready to start prepping and making the food you make sure you pay careful attention to ingredient labels and avoid cross-contamination.

  1. Re-read ingredient labels Even if you have already read the ingredient list on items when you were in the grocery store, re-read them at least two more times before using the product. Be very very meticulous when reading over ingredients. You will want to look on each side of the package to make sure they have not listed a “may contain” label somewhere else on the package. Unfortunately, some manufacturers do not write may contain labels near the actual ingredient list. Know the ingredients. There is no “overly cautious” here. It’s important to be 100% certain that the items you use are safe for guests with food allergies. I’d recommend you keep the wrapper or box or cut out the ingredients so your guest can re-read the ingredients too. I trust friends and family to prepare food for me, however I always  re-read ingredient labels even if you are told it is safe.
  2. Be extremely cautious of cross-contamination   If you will be preparing some food which your guest is allergic or sensitive to make a plan before you start cooking of which utensils you will use for which foods. In making a plan before you start preparing and cooking, it will help you be more aware and reduce the risk that you end up using utensils that you prepared unsafe food with to prepare the allergy safe food. Make sure the cutting board is clean and the surface you plan to work on as well. I often recommend preparing the food for the guest with food allergies on plates as that surface is definitely safer than a cutting board which, especially if plastic may have residues from previous unsafe ingredients. Use your best judgement and if you are ever unsure, pick up the phone and call the guest or parent of the guest.  Communication is always key!

Hosting for friends and family with food allergies – Before the event

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Please share with those that do not have allergies and may be hosting this    holiday season.

Christmas Eve is just 10 days away and many of you may already be on holidays already or very soon. Christmas and New Years is a very busy time of year for parties with friends and family. Holiday parties usually involve some kind of food, whether there is a meal, or h’ourdeuvres. If you are hosting a dinner with family and friends this holiday season, here are a 4 tips for you to ensure your loved ones can have a fun time while feeling safe.

Before I get into the tips, one very important note; COMMUNICATION is KEY! So please do not be afraid to ask questions or share if you feel uncomfortable preparing food for the person with the food allergy/allergies.

  1. Ask if anyone coming to the party has any food allergies. You may not be able to cater the food that is to be served to completely avoid their food allergens, especially if they list is a long one, however it is nice to feel like we are being considered in the planning. The smallest of gestures; like not placing bowls of bulk nuts out because we have a life-threatening food allergy to peanuts and tree nuts means so much to us.
  2. Ask the severity of the allergy. If you are aware of the allergy, and severity, you can discuss the next steps with them. You do not want to find out when you are serving dinner that someone has a life-threatening allergy and
  3. Ask if they plan to bring their own food and let them know that if they prefer to bring their own food that is perfectly OK. I know I often feel uncomfortable bringing my own food to dinner parties, however I always feel better when I know that the hosts or other guests know about my allergies and thus understand why I have my own food.
  4. If they do not plan on bringing their own food, it is up to you, as the host, to discuss with them if you are worried about what you plan to serve or how to make it safe. Perhaps they would like to help in the preparation of the food or can bring a dish that would be safe for them and that others would also like to eat. Maybe they can give you tips about what they can eat which will help put you at ease.

On Wednesday, I will be sharing tips on what to do once you get the list of food allergies or perhaps sensitivities like wheat and gluten. I’ll discuss ways to make your kitchen safe before preparing the food and how to minimize the risk of cross-contamination in your kitchen.

Immunotherapy injections at a walk-in clinic

I have been going to a local walk-in clinic here in Victoria for my dust mite immunotherapy injections as it is more convenient. I can go after dinner so it does not affect my workday. I was hesitant about going to a walk-in because all walk-ins I had ever been to, on more than 20 different occassions had given me the injection at a different place on my arm compared to where my GP and my Allergist gives me the injections.

Now if you do not get allergy injections, the difference in injection site can actually mean a larger reaction, which was always true for me at walk-in clinics. About a month ago I decided i would go to the walk-in. I lucked out! The doctor at the walk-in was very nice, understanding and talked to me about subcutaneous injections. She helped me better understand why some reactions to the injections might be worse than others. I now go for my immunotherapy injections when she is there. Have you found a good doctor at a walk-in?

Wish there were more Christmas parties to go to!

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As I mentioned on Friday, we had a busy weekend ahead with two Christmas parties. They were both great fun! For the first, I was very relieved that we had eaten at home before going. It was definitely less awkward/uncomfortable for me as we had both eaten before the party. I am extremely fortunate to have a partner who will skip the meal too, so I don’t feel left out. We headed to the first party on a full stomach which is something I need to do more often so I don’t feel like I am missing out. I was so content with our delicious curried chicken dinner that I didn’t even feel like I was missing out on the wonderful desserts they had. I was glad I hadn’t tried to eat there as it ended up being a Chinese dinner, so I was very happy avoiding the food altogether.

After dinner Santa Claus showed up and each child got a gift! It was a great family oriented party and I made sure to wash my hands after shaking other people’s hands to be sure I wouldn’t have any allergens on my hands. I didn’t touch my face either, or brush hair away, to be sure I didn’t react from a previous handshake or from touching something. For me, it is important that I be cautious, and try to avoid being paranoid, so I take steps to prevent a reaction. We came home safe and sound!

After a good night’s sleep we were headed to the second party which was being held at the University of Victoria, here in Victoria, British Columbia. It was a beautiful location and we were lucky as it wasn’t raining too much. The second party, a Christmas lunch was much smaller than the Friday night one which was nice as I had been able to speak with the kitchen staff prior to the lunch. Once we arrived, we went to the kitchen staff and I introduced myself. They said that they had plates prepared for me and would bring them out the moment everyone else started getting their food from the buffet. They brought me a nice large salad with kale vinegar and oil, as I had asked for to be safe, and a second plate, the entrée, with turkey, steamed potatoes and vegetables. I was relieved when they brought out the 2 plates, as there was no dressing for me to worry about and no sauce on the turkey for me to be concerned about. When I am dining out, I much prefer plain veggies and meat as it’s one less thing I need to worry about. The food was delicious and by the end of it I was stuffed! However the fruit platter they had made me was irresistible, so I ate that too! I had a wonderful time, had no stress and spent a nice afternoon with colleagues.

All and all, a wonderful weekend. I just wish there were more! Unfortunately the other one we had planned to attend was on Friday night, so we couldn’t attend both. Next year, we are keeping our fingers crossed we will be able to attend all of them!

Have you had any Christmas parties yet? If so, how were they? If you haven’t had them yet, what are you doing to prepare for your Christmas party?

 

Christmas Party weekend!

It is going to be a busy weekend for us with two Christmas parties! I’m looking forward to it. I am feeling very safe about eating at one of the two parties as I had a meeting with the caterer and instead of the buffet, they are making me my own plates! We went over each dish and discussed my allergies in great detail. However we have decided to eat before going to the other one to be safe, as I didn’t have a chance to speak to caterers for that one in time. Yes it may be a little awkward not eating while every one else will be however I won’t be alone not eating the dinner. We’ve made delicious curried chicken that we will eat before heading to the party, so we will have had a nice dinner before we go. I am looking forward to a safe night, good conversation, new connections and an evening out.

Have you ever gone to a Christmas party and not been able to eat? If so, did you eat before going? How was the party?

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll post on Monday after a busy weekend. :)

Christmas Parties and Food Allergies

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December 1st has arrived and I keep asking myself where the time has gone. This year has flown by! In any case, December is a fun month filled with Christmas parties, friends, family and lots of joy and laughter. Have you been invited to any Christmas parties this year, or perhaps in the New Year? Are they organized by your work or your partners work? Are they hosted by friends? These are all questions that will often distinguish the approach you take before hand to ensure you can have an enjoyable time without worrying about having an allergic reaction.

Are they organized by your work or your partners work?

Communicating with the person organizing the Christmas party might be very different for each scenario. If your company is hosting, you may be able to speak to the catering staff because the company you work for will want to ensure you are able to eat and have a good time. If the Christmas party is organized by your partners work, you may have to jump through a few more hoops to try and speak to the caterer. I always say that if you don’t get all the answers you need and speak to the people you want to speak to, like catering staff etc. it is much better to simply eat before you go. That is my plan this year.

Are they hosted by friends?

If your friends are hosting a party, you might feel much more comfortable discussing your allergies with them and they may already have your list. You might even be able to help in the food planning as well as in the kitchen. I know for me, if a friend is organizing a party with food, I always see if I can help with the cooking and prep  that way I can ensure I will be able to eat safely. If for some reason you are unable to help with the prep, make sure you feel very safe before you eat anything. If someone else has brought the food and you aren’t certain it is safe, do NOT eat it. Be safe. Do not take chances with life-threatening allergies.

Please tell someone if you feel sick after eating something. Even if you are not sure it is an allergic reaction. It is important that others around you know what is going on especially if you were to react. Safety first.

Best,

Erika