There are days when I all I want to do is forget that food exists. I get so tired. Tired of cooking, tired of reading labels, tired of grocery shopping and tired of being the one to entertain. These are the low days. The days when it's just not fun accommodating food allergies. Recently, I’ve had more of these days given that we have a new intolerance to deal with. The newness means that we don’t have our usual “go-to’s” like we did before. It means we have to bake a whole new set of things (for us we were used to making our own baked goods, however, we could usually find safe bread; now we need to bake all bread and pizza dough in addition to the regular stuff). Honestly, the list of “To Do” seems to be ever growing.
Which is why social activities can often be put to the wayside. Going out to someone’s house and explaining how to safely manage food allergies can be exhausting. Going to a potluck, BBQ or family event where the food and environment are unknown adds a whole new layer of stress. Sometimes I feel like it’s just easier to stay home. But after 10 years of living with food allergies, I also know that loneliness is real and can be just as bad as the food allergies themselves.
Which is why I’ve started to intentionally work on going to more social events. In doing this, I’ve come up with a few things that help mentally and practically when going to potlucks & BBQs. I used these ideas when the fam and I were invited to a potluck block party recently. Here’s what we did to prepare:
1. Let your host know of the allergies. I don’t do this in expectation of them accommodating the allergies because some people are just not comfortable. Having this expectation can leave us disillusioned and the host feeling like we’re demanding. But making the host aware allows them to think about it in general terms and opens that door in case they do want to make accommodations in the future.
2. Bring your own main dish just for your child. Keep it simple. Something that can be warmed up easily and something that your child likes. If you make a meal your child likes during the week, pop an individual portion in the freezer to take out and warm at the party.
3. Bring something to share. By doing this, your child will be eating something safe that's the same as everyone else. Again, simple is key. We have so much to do when it comes to food already, don’t make this too difficult. At our house, we tend to eat healthy for the most part, so when it comes to parties and social events, we’ll often opt for treats. For our block party, we chose to bring safe freezies and potato chips which are fairly low-cost, have no prep and are sure to be a crowd/kid favourite. And BONUS: the flavours we chose are free of the top 10 allergens in case there’s someone else with a food allergy.
4. Stock the RSVP list. If you’ve been invited online, there’s usually a list where people say what they’re bringing. Keep watch over it and check to see if there might be one or two safe things your child can enjoy. Check out safety of food before the event, (and not at the event), so you can prep your child to let them know if there are safe items or if they should avoid all food at the event. For example, someone offered to bring Kernels popcorn to our block party. This happens to be safe for my LO so I told her ahead of time that she might be able to have some (of course we’ll have to check if it’s fresh from the bag, or if there are chances of cross contact first). If you check for safety before the event, it avoids making the food allergy into a huge conversation at the party. I find large-crowd food allergy conversations are not usually the most productive and can be stressful.
5. Keep alcohol consumption down. Even if the event is walkable like our block party, my hubby and I try to have one adult that is watching our alcohol intake so we are able to spot an allergic reaction.
6. Teach your child what to do to keep themselves safe. Knowing that your child can take care of themselves is huge! It brings a feeling of control over our circumstances that we often feel helpless to change. Of course, this is age appropriate, but keep it up because it will come with time. Click HERE for a free printable of what I make sure to teach my daughter.
7. Hire a responsible tween. If you have younger LO’s, you might consider hiring a responsible tween to come to the potluck or party with you to be your child’s “playmate/helper”. The idea would be to have someone making sure your child doesn’t put things in their mouth and to wash/wipe your child’s hands frequently. By having this dedicated, extra set of eyes, you might be able to relax just a tad.
8. Of course, always have your epinephrine injectors and emergency plan with you!
Get-togethers with food allergies can be done safely! Putting these plans in place have helped to decrease the stress for us and makes it possible to enjoy the summertime get-togethers. I hope this helps you too!
What do think? Do you have any tips about handling potlucks and BBQs with food allergies? Share in the comments below!