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.

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

An Educational Video on Food Allergies you will want to be a part of!

Kyle Dine & Friends - Food Allergy Awareness Video's video poster

Many of you either live with severe food allergies or have friends or loved ones who do.

If you would like to help make a difference, this is the one Kickstarter campaign you won’t want to miss out on. With a variety of reward levels all offering great gifts for your support, even $10 CAD will help get this great educational video off the ground and help make it a reality.

Kyle Dine is a great friend of mine and I have worked with him on numerous different projects. He’s toured North America presenting fun educational shows to elementary students. I have backed his project. Will you? :)

Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kyledine/kyle-dine-and-friends-food-allergy-awareness-video?ref=category_popular

A new dessert…

This afternoon, I decided I would try a new recipes I found for a dairy free mint/chocolate chips ice cream and decided I would try it! I headed off to the grocery store with my list of ingredients and returned home, extremely excited to attempt this ice cream. Here’s a before picture with the ingredients the recipe called for… It’s my very first time making ice cream with avocados! I love avocados so am VERY excited. :)

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Once I’ve tried the recipe, I’ll be tweaking it a little before sharing, to make sure it’s the tastiest it can possibly be!

Are you trying any new recipes this weekend?

 

Do you have Food-dependent exercise induced Anaphylaxis?

One of my readers is wondering if any of you have FDEIA and would like to chat with others that do have this. Please read her message below and add comments below or contact me if you would like to be connected.

“Hello, like you, have been living with asthma and anaphylaxis related to peanuts and nuts since birth. I have no issue with any of these; I am so used to them they don’t bother me anymore. Since grade 8 I have also had sensitivities to something which was first assumed to be soy or legumes, but which I now believe to be some chemical or additive in processed foods, in particular meats. This doesn’t bother me too much, as it only causes uncomfortable but not life-threatening reactions. For the last few years however, I have a new one to add to the list (new ones aaalll the time – such a blast!). I have diagnosed myself with food-dependant exercise induced anaphylaxis. This is based on (so far) 6 different episodes. I know my body and I listen to it by now. All my symptoms match, but when I tried to explain this to emergency personnel or to two different allergists, they dismiss me by saying I must have come into contact with nuts. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that after a lifetime of avoiding our allergens and living in my own apartment which is completely allergen-free, this is not a possibility. I always have an Epipen and also a very attentive husband who always exercises with me. I’m just wondering if you have contact with anyone else who has this condition, diagnosed or not? I’d even consider some doctors who would be interested in studying my case, not necessarily for my own benefit but maybe they could learn something about it. Thanks!”

In the News: Oral Immunotherapy Experimental Trials

A long article with the NY times that is definitely worth the read! Dr. Kari Nadeau and her oral immunotherapy treatment trials. What an inspiring story of a dedicated person who is there for her patients 24/7. Article discusses different patients who have allergies and went through with food challenges and the trials.

“Nadeau stresses that oral immunotherapy is still experimental. Her patients are not cured; they are desensitized enough that they can tolerate their former allergens. The reason that she doesn’t call it a cure is that the child must continue to eat a maintenance dose of the food every day to avoid regaining the allergy. She often explains to her patients, “If you get off it for three days, you may become sensitive again.” An egg-allergy trial found that when patients were taken off the maintenance dose for a month, roughly 60 percent regained the allergy (and there was no way to predict who those patients would be).”

– NY Times

Can a Radical New Treatment Save Children With Severe Food Allergies?

What are your thoughts on these trials? Have your or your child ever had food challenges for any foods you are allergic to?

Allergies are not fair…

Let’s be honest. Sometimes when we have to miss out on something we really want to do, or perhaps our plate looks less appetizing than the person next to us, we start to think “allergies are not fair, why me?”. It’s what happens when we have allergies. Whether it be food allergies or environmental allergies. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never missed out on something or felt a little angry and even sad because I could not attend an event. And there have been numerous times when I went to a party and ended up eating veggies while others ate things that looked a million times more appealing… however I’ve always tried to spin my thinking.

It’s easy to start telling ourselves that life would be so much better without allergies, especially the food allergies… It is often easier to focus on what we’re NOT able to do, and NOT able to eat than it is to tell ourselves all the great things that are going on in our lives. Society nowadays leads one to want to compare what they have with what others have. If I have allergies and not one of my friends do, it is easy for me to feel frustrated and think life’s unfair or unjust. Is it always easy for me to embrace life? No, it’s not. It takes a little more energy, more confidence and a lot of honesty.

Whenever I start to feel down about not going to a party because my friends have a dog or a cat or not being able to attend an event because it is in an old, dusty building I just have smile and tell myself “it’s not the end of the world” and plan something else. It is what it is. There are a lot of people out there that would much rather have allergies than the disease they are fighting, or the injuries they have sustained from an accident. Allergies do suck sometimes, however allergies can be managed. We can control our environment. We can control the food we eat. And not everything involves food. We can still go to the movies with friends, go for a hike or a camping trip. To some people, these are all things they wish they could one day do…

Embrace life. Next time you think to yourself that you wish you didn’t have allergies and that life is unfair, think of those that have even more allergies… There are a few people that instead of being allergic to 4 things, can only eat 4 things.  I can’t even imagine.

At the end of the day, what matters the most is not the food you can or cannot eat. There is sooo much more to life. Allergies do feel unfair. Sometimes I’ve wished they’d just disappear on me. Reality is that my life-threatening allergies to peanuts, nuts, lentils and soy are likely here to stay. And I’m ok with that. Are you?