Holiday Food Allergy Tips
by Laurie Harada,
Executive director of Food Allergy Canada
• Teach young children to say “no thanks” to unapproved foods. ’Tis the season of sharing and well-meaning adults and children, who will offer food without consulting the parent. Through role play, teach your child to say “no thanks” politely to anything that you have not approved.
• Bring goodies so your child doesn’t feel left out. Involve him in selecting or making a really special (read “junky”) treat. A pack of raisins won’t measure up when all the other kids get Santa Claus holiday cupcakes.
• Be careful of what others don’t know. Friends and relatives may know how to avoid obvious allergens such as peanuts and nuts in baked goods, while they may forget about nut extracts or that butter is, in fact, made from milk. They might not be aware of the risks of cross-contamination through shared utensils. They also may not be label savvy, and not understand the importance of “may contain” warnings.
• Be a role model; children learn from our behavior. Though I’ve instinctively wanted to remove all shrimp rings and nut trays, I came to realize that my son had to learn how to avoid food allergens as they will be around him in everyday life, not just during the holidays. We’ve taught him to avoid buffets, scrutinize food labels, and wash his hands regularly. Since he’s now in his teens, he knows to make his own inquiries.
• Offer to bring a dish which is safe for your child and can be enjoyed by others. At our neighborhood New Year’s Eve potluck, my family takes care of the kids’ and teens’ meal – pizza, veggies, and potato chips – a popular treat.