Accommodating Others’ Food Allergies

March 13th, 2012 by Dionna | 16 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Feed with Love and Respect, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting

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Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I don’t talk a lot about our special needs in my blog, because at the end of the day, they aren’t what our family is about. But special needs are definitely a common theme at our house. I have Graves disease and have for most of my life now. Auto-immune diseases run in my family. My daughter has a hearing aid and some other unidentified syndrome that may or may not be dwarfism. Both of my boys have numerous food allergies (oh wait, and so do I!). And food allergies are in the same family as my Graves disease and Celiac, which my mother in-law had. Oh, they are also related to tongue ties, which both boys and my husband had. And have I ever mentioned that the boys have to be clad in natural fibers or else they break out in rashes? Heck, even our first family pet had food allergies! Special needs are something that we just take for granted around here.

tomato avocado

But it is not something that is just taken for granted everywhere. And THIS is the part of our special needs that we are reminded of often enough. The part that seems to rub up against the rest of the world most often is the food allergies. Everywhere we go, people want to feed us. People want to give my kids a cookie, or a piece of candy, or a fruit snack, or make us dinner.

Family members worry that our kids will feel left out if they don’t get to have all of the “goodies” that everyone else is having. People try to feed us things that they cannot imagine would have anything we are allergic to in it – like rotisserie chicken or a fresh roast from the grocery – even if they no longer have the label for me to read. We’ve even had to leave playgrounds because of children playing on the equipment while holding food that we are allergic to.

But for all of the segregating that our food needs generate, one thing that continually amazes me is how much people include us anyway. Every time that we are invited to a birthday party and the mom calls to say, “So, what kind of cupcakes can I make for your kids?” or “We’ll be serving pizza after the play time. How should we handle that?” or “I’m making your kids special goody bags that don’t have any candy in them for your kids,” I am grateful that people are going out of their way to simply include my family. My kids know they don’t get the same food as everyone else. And truly, they don’t care. But they are so grateful to get to be at a party with their friends, to go somewhere special to play, to get a goody bag at all, that they do not mind in the least that their food is different. This is normal for them, even if it isn’t for everyone else at the party!

Dinners with family and friends are just as much fun! We love to get everyone together and have a pot luck. We are happy to answer questions about what to substitute for butter or soy sauce in a favorite recipe. We are happy to send a small amount of gluten free flour to thicken up a sauce so that someone doesn’t have to go buy an entire bag. We are happy to teach others about cross contamination and help point out common causes (don’t stick your spreading knife back into the jelly jar – use a spoon to scoop it out and drop it on the bread!). We are happy to read labels or listen over the phone while labels are read to us. And we are happy to try a new dish – just please be sure to tell us ALL of the ingredients that were added.

We LOVE to have friends over for play dates! And please, go ahead and bring a snack. We’d rather have happy friends who can stay longer than friends who are melting down because they are too hungry or have to cut our play time short because it’s hard for kids to go too long without eating.

Over all, we just love to be with other people enjoying ourselves. So, thank you to all of the friends who have been brave enough to have us over for parties, dinner, play dates, or who have come to our house for the same! And if you’ve been intimidated by our list of “no’s”, please see our list of “yeses” below for ideas about food that is easy to share with allergenic friends.

Below is a list of ten snacks that are fine for families who are allergic to any of the eight top food allergens.

Ten Healthy, Snack Ideas to Bring to Play Dates with Friends Who Have One or More of the Top 8 Food Allergies

  1. Fresh fruits are almost always ok.
  2. Fresh veggies like baby carrots or celery sticks.
  3. Dried fruit is delicious. My kids love mango, banana chips, pineapple, apple slices, cranberries, raisins, papaya, blueberries, cherries, raspberries and strawberries.
  4. Hummus may be a good option, especially if it is homemade. Just watch that the oil used is not “vegetable oil,” which is made from soy. If making homemade, opt for olive oil instead.
  5. Lunch meats can be a good snack idea. The less processed, more natural varieties are best. The fewer ingredients the better.
  6. Allergen friendly snack bars can be good options, and can be homemade. Lara Bar can be another good option if your friends don’t have nut allergies, but check the labels because a few flavors have dairy in them.
  7. Ants on a log – use almond butter or cashew butter instead of peanut butter if your friends have a peanut allergy, or sunflower butter if your friends can’t have tree nuts or peanuts.
  8. Kettle brand potato chips original flavor is a great option if you are putting out chips for a special occasion, like a party. Also, Terra brand sweet potato chips or sweets and beets chips are yummy and friendly.
  9. Steamed veggies with or without a dash of olive oil are easy finger food snacks.
  10. Salad with oil and vinegar dressing – just leave the croutons and cheese at home!

As a side note, hard boiled eggs are a great protein rich snack that is easily contained, although egg is one of the top eight allergens. You may want to opt for something else if your friends have egg allergies. Nuts and trail mix are great snacks if your friends don’t have nut allergies, but please don’t offer them around unless you are certain that they haven’t been processed with added ingredients that could be allergenic AND that they haven’t been processed on a line with other allergens.

If nothing on these lists will work for your family and you are trying to come up with a good snack option from your house, look for something that is not messy, greasy, or crumbly, as these will spread contaminants more readily than more solid items. Make sure everyone eats the allergenic snacks at the table, and PLEASE clean up your children’s hands and faces and spots at and under the table when snack time is over. We’ve found that this is a very important step in reducing cross contamination in our home.

And above all else, don’t be afraid to ask us about our allergens. We are so happy to talk about it and help people make good choices about foods to bring when we are hanging out.

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Kellie is a homeschooling, environmentalist, homesteading, crafty, natural lifestyle Mama to three amazing children and wife to an incredible man. When she has two free hands and ten free minutes, she can be found blogging over at Our Mindful Life.

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(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)

16 Responses to:
"Accommodating Others’ Food Allergies"

  1. Crunchy Con Mommy   crunchyconmom

    We have just started thinking about this recently after I had a gluten-intolerant friend over and she couldn’t eat a single thing I had out fo playdate snacks.

    Next time I’m making deviled eggs and kettle corn I think :)
    I love the dried fruit idea too!

  2. Great list, but you’ve forgotten about allergies to artificial food dye and msg, which are both issues in my household. Dried fruit/trail mix, lunch meat, and snack bars are all culprits. Kettle chips contain either autolyzed yeast extrac or torula yeast extract, which are both flavor enhancers in the msg family.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thanks for stopping by, Rebecka! I don’t think Kellie forgot any, she mentioned that her list is aimed at the top 8 food allergens: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder), Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp), Soy, and Wheat. Of course there are many, many other allergens!

  3. Tara   MUMmedia

    This is a great post for everyone to read as allergies are so prevalent these days and it IS hard when you have an allergic child!

    I have one (out of 3) children with food allergies and have found that people either think it’s too hard and just don’t invite him over for playdates or to birthday parties OR they just ‘guess’ what he can have rather than take the time to ask. I sway from getting upset that people (family members mainly) aren’t more considerate and thinking it’s my responsibility to always BYO food for him.

    I am always VERY VERY appreciative when someone takes the time to ask if there’s something he can have at a b’day party. It’s not hard to buy a packet of plain chips just so there is at least one party food he can enjoy and all it takes is a quick phonecall or txt msg to ask!

  4. Liz

    This was a great read and positive all-around regarding allergies.
    My daughter has allergies to a lot of the foods you have listed as okay to serve, so like you say, there are so many allergies!
    May I suggest popcorn? Not the microwave kind, but regular popcorn w/a little salt or nutritional yeast if you like a little more flavor.
    Also grapes! My daughter has allergies to apples, strawberries, melon, carrots…the list goes on. But for some reason grapes seem to be a great half-way place for a bit of sweet fruit and I’ve not met a kid who is allergic to them. Organic, of course is always better.

    One thing I do so that it doesn’t complicate things for the hostess – I bring something I made myself. That way I know exactly what is in it and I know my kids can have it.

  5. Hannah   Hannabert

    My family develops food allergies late in life (apparently we grow into them rather than out of them) and my mom keeps lists on the cupboard and always asks for an update when relatives visit. I know it feels like a hassle, but the rewards of being able to enjoy family members far outweighs the troubles.

  6. Kelly   BecomingCrunchy

    Reading this all I could think was “Wow!” That is so much to have to keep track of and pay attention to…what a blessing to have friends who are willing to help! And a great resource for non-allergenic snacks – thank you!

  7. Deb @ Living Montessori Now   DebChitwood

    Kellie, I love the attitude your family has of accepting dietary restrictions but enjoying others’ companionship! Thanks for the suggestions for get-togethers with those who have food allergies. I pinned your post to my Healthy Eating Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/healthy-eating/

  8. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    I so need to bookmark this! We have several friends with food allergies and intolerances, and it can be mystifying for me to figure out what to bring or offer. I love your easy ideas and will be reaching for those next time for sure!

  9. Kellie

    Rebekah, as Dionna mentioned, I was aiming for the top 8 allergens. Creating a list of food that no one would be allergic to would be next to impossible. However, we don’t eat any of the ingredients that you listed by choice at our house, and all of the items on this list can be found without them. The Kettle chips in the brown bag at our house list their ingredients as potatoes, sunflower or safflower oil and sea salt. No yeast extracts or dyes. ;) We also mix our own trail mix from nuts, raisins, cranberries and sometimes chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand), because we find it nearly impossible to find trail mix that wasn’t processed on equipment with dairy, soy, gluten, etc. And the Enjoy Life brand snack bars and Lara Bars that I mentioned, I am almost certain are free of all of those additives as well.

    We do the majority of our shopping at Whole Foods or local health food markets, so we are used to a wider variety of dye, msg, and color free foods than can easily be found at the regular grocery.

  10. Kellie

    Thank you so much, everyone, for reading! It was fun to write this post, which was inspired by a recent birthday party that my children are still talking about. :D

  11. I used to always try to accomodate our friends with food allergies. It was simple to do at home. Then we realized we were a family with food allergies. That was when we began to understand the magnitude of food allergies and more about how our society’s food relates to those. Great tips for families!

  12. I can relate to some degree and almost always feel bad for my friends when they are perplexed as to what to feed us. We are okay with it all and happy to bring our own food to things. Food is such a big part of socializing, parties and gatherings. My nephew has dairy and gluten intolerance and probably some other more subtle ones that have yet to be discovered.For my daughter’s birthday party, I bought a gluten/dairy free birthday cake and I will never forget how his eyes lit up when i told him that it was safe for him to eat, too. He has grown accustomed to always having different food than others. I am going to get him his birthday cake in May as well. Great blog post.

  13. It sounds like you’ve found some great ways to turn a tough situation into an enjoyable one. I’ll keep this list in mind for play dates with friends I know with lots of food sensitivities. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Melissa Vose   WhiteNoiseWoman

    What a great look at this issue! I know that as a family with minimal allergies this food thing can throw us for a loop. I love the suggestions of things we CAN bring or serve! And I always worried about cross contamination, and washed my kids’ hands and faces after peanut butter snacks, before going out in public just in case. But these tips for avoiding cross contamination in my home are helpful. Thanks!

  15. Charity

    I appreciate this post so much. This one hits close to home. Not because my kids are allergic but because I have a wheat allergy and while they’re not diagnosed allergies, I don’t seem to tolerate MSG, some dairy products, corn, potatoes or pork very well. Plus, I live in a state in the Deep South where the favored local cuisine is either breaded and fried, sugared almost to in-edibility, smothered in processed cheese, or mixed with pork. Because the South is a little slow to catch up on health trends, it is known as the “stroke belt” and our state in particular is the “buckle” of the stroke belt. Our little small town grocery store *finally* got a (albeit tiny) gluten-free section this year. The nearest Whole Foods store is 45-50 minutes away. We end up buying some food online in bulk.

    I cringe inside when local parents blithely tell me how much their kids love hot dogs and Koolaid or that a dessert is so healthy for them because “it has peanut butter in it.” Obesity surrounds us and infections, especially chronic ear infections are rampant among the local kids. Sometimes I sigh inwardly when we’re headed to a church potluck because I know when I ask some dear southern lady whether there is wheat in the casserole, soup or dessert she made, I know I will get a blank look. She has no idea. The thought never crossed her mind.

    Sometimes my heart aches for the constantly sick people around us because I know what their basic problem is (the garbage they’re eating) and a little bit how to fix it. I know some good nutritionists that could help these people get their health back but southern food traditions are so entrenched, it’s hard to know where to start in trying to educate people.

    Needless to say, it can be both difficult and expensive to find non-allergenic foods and also foods that are acceptable to feed my kids even though they have no allergies. Many times at social events, I end up compromising just so the kids can eat something.

    Anyway, sorry that was so long and rambling. I very much appreciate this post.

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