Important Food Allergy Holiday Reminder
It is Thanksgiving week, and more food-focused holidays are around the corner as we head into December!
I wanted to briefly remind food allergic individuals, as well as friends & family of them, that if you are unsure if you should eat something pre-made or that someone prepared for a party or family event, please go don’t feel pressured to eat something that makes you hesitant.
It’s much better to avoid questionable foods than to risk your life.
Here are a few reminders that I tell myself each holiday:
- ♦ Bring a snack for yourself as a backup. Don’t feel bad if you need to eat it, it’s why you brought it. Remember that it’s better to eat granola or your own leftovers than go to the ER.
- ♦ Talk to your family members and friends to make sure your allergen won’t be in any dishes. I provide a safe list of brands/items they can buy, if you feel comfortable with that, it is one option to try to control your environment. If it’s something like a friends-giving, I normally will only snack on something I’ve brought myself, and I will wash any plates or cups myself, to be certain it’s all clean. Since this is all based on your comfort-level, do what feels right to you. My mother-in-law no longer uses peanuts/peanut ingredients in her house, and she buys safe ingredients for the dishes I will be eating, so I feel comfortable eating at her home over the holidays.
- ♦ Make sure no peanut products will be out and about (i.e. snack bowls, candy, dog treats.)
- ♦ Read ingredients carefully, be just as thorough as you do at home. Sometimes you’re in conversation and don’t want to double check the ingredients, it’s always a good idea to stop and check carefully before eating something. Even if you suggested the brand, you never know if there’s been a change.
- ♦ If you offend someone, remember no food is worth risking your life. Sometimes you may slightly offend someone who made a lovely dish that you don’t want to try, maybe they put care into making sure it didn’t contain peanuts in it, but they still made it in their kitchen which could be contaminated since they eat PB frequently. Whatever the case, try to brush it off and be gentle to yourself with your inner dialogue, remind yourself being safe is always the priority, you have to put yourself first. Remind them it isn’t worth the risk if you want to.
- ♦ Always have your epi-pens and antihistamines on-hand! It doesn’t hurt to let others know where they’re located as well.
I will end this holiday reminder by saying that I am anticipating going out to eat one or two times this Thanksgiving holiday while traveling in another city! I will be gauging my trust with a few restaurants in a city I haven’t been to before, and these restaurants I have communicated with so far via e-mail. I want to clarify that I am never 100% comfortable in a restaurant setting, there is always a risk. Even after talking with them and knowing they don’t use peanuts in-house, you never know how serious they are going to take your allergy, or how well they know their ingredients and the facilities the ingredients came from. The only time this doesn’t hold true is for specific allergy-friendly restaurants or bakeries. This week while in another city, I am going to bring my normal backup snacks with me in case I determine I am actually not comfortable at the restaurants once we arrive. In this scenario, I will get a soda or drink instead, eat my own snack, and enjoy my reaction-free night!
My family does try to book hotels with a kitchenette suite included if we are there for longer than a day or two, to be able to have kitchen access as well, and then we bring all our own safe cutlery, sauce pans, utensils, cutting boards, sponges, dish soap, or whatever fits the situation! Not long ago, we stayed in NYC and (long story short) couldn’t secure a room with a microwave, but we were able to negotiate for a mini-fridge. This allowed me to eat things that needed to stay cold, like salads, yogurt, cheese sandwiches, etc. I find there are always ways to adapt to each situation if you think creatively! We will be making our own safe Thanksgiving day meals to bring to the Thanksgiving on my husband’s side, just to make it simpler for everyone, and less-risky for me. His family are always so sweet and offered to heat it up for me, let me wash my plate beforehand, and all that. It feels good to be accommodated.
Even though food absolutely takes over and dominates most holidays, events, and parties, my advice is to try to not let it get you down if you’re feeling left out. I’ve found I can have a fantastic time with or without the abundance of food! I like to remind myself of all the delicious safe treats I’ve been able to have lately, and not get too down in the dumps. If I feel like I’m missing out on something I see at a party or restaurant, I’ll try to recreate it at home when I can!
Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!
PS- This year I got a few treats from my local safe bakery Annie May’s Sweet Cafe to take with me out of town and to make eating desserts even easier to indulge in! Drool worthy photo attached of some of my favorites of theirs: