How to Serve Holiday Dinner to Guests with Serious Food Allergies

At this time of year, serious food allergies become an important issue for Peter and I. It’s not that we have to struggle with our own, but we entertain a lot during the holidays. Since there are friends and family members who can’t eat certain foods because they’re allergic to them or have sensitivities, we need to take a lot of care.

Serious food allergies can seem like a terrible problem, but I’ve learned to plan ahead when I entertain, and it’s made a big difference. It’s important to note that there are a lot of different allergy symptoms that can appear. Allergies aren’t just a matter of hives or swelling – though those are a part of it. Anaphylactic shock can include vomiting, diarrhea, swelling in the throat, and other reactions that can be life threatening. Pretty good motivation to take care!

Tips to Cook for Guests with Severe Food Allergies

Careful planning is the key to entertaining guests with severe food allergies. It takes more time, but if you start as early as possible, you’ll make it a lot easier on yourself. The reason you need extra time is because more food is going to be made from scratch. Also, I find myself making more recipes I’ve never tried before.

Here are my tips to make things go as smoothly as possible when entertaining guests with severe food allergies.

My Best Tips for This Holiday Season

  • Communicate – The first thing I do (other than starting as early as possible) is to ask about everyone I’ll be entertaining. When I invite someone over, I ask about any food allergies right away before I can forget. That way, before I get my heart set on a certain meal, I will know what my options are – or aren’t. As soon as I find out what the allergies are, I write them down. If I have any questions about the details of the allergy, I ask over email. That way, I have all the instructions in writing, and I can refer back to them.
  • Choose a meal – I choose recipes that don’t contain any of the allergens. If I want to be extra cautious, I ask the person with the severe food allergies if the recipe will work. If it passes, I create a grocery list so that I can purchase everything I’ll need.
  • Trial run – If I’ve never made the recipe before, I try it in advance. That way, I can work out any kinks or decide that I need to make something else if it turns out it’s not good.
  • Keep it simple – The fewer the dishes, the easier it is, and the smaller the likelihood of mistakes.
  • Make the same for everyone – This lowers the risk of cross contamination or accidental sharing of a dish that does contain the allergen.
  • Minimize distractions while cooking – Re-read all food labels and use thoroughly cleaned cookware, surfaces and utensils. Take a picture of all food labels, just in case they’re needed. You can never be too careful with severe food allergies.

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