Don’t let a fear of entertaining guests with a food allergy scare you away! We’re breaking down tips for hosting guests with food allergies so you can be the perfect and gracious host you desire to be!
If you are looking for tips for hosting guests with food allergies, then you have come to the right place.
If you are looking for tips for hosting guests with food preferences, then you are still in the right place.
There are up to 15 million people in the United States alone that live with a food allergy. Approximately 1.6 million people are vegan, while 7 million are vegetarian.
This doesn’t include the millions of other people that are on another speciality diet by choice – keto, gluten free (not allergy related), paleo, weight watchers, etc.
The chances are high that you are hosting someone with a dietary preference that isn’t standard.
Part of the goal of this blog is to raise food allergy awareness. In doing so, we want to bring food allergies, like a dairy free diet, to the forefront of people’s minds.
It’s not hard to be a great host, while meeting the needs of the family you are hosting.
We also know that there can be fear that comes along with hosting guests with food allergies and we hope to ease some of that pain.
If you are dealing with a guest, especially a child, that has anaphylaxis reactions, you need to be very careful in what you are preparing.
While you do have to take extra steps and precautions, it shouldn’t be anything that takes up too much more of your time.
We’re sharing 10 tips for hosting guests with food allergies. These tips will be relatable to any food allergy, not only milk allergies.
It’s important to note there are over 170 foods that can cause an allergic reaction, but the top 8 allergens account for 90% of reactions (1).
Those top 8 allergens are:
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree Nuts (almond, walnuts, pecans, etc).
Here are our 10 tips:
1. Read labels.
Due to current US federal laws, items are required to be labeled as “Contains: Insert Food Allergen”. If you have a severe food allergy, you want to also note things labeled as “may contain”.
This means that it’s processed in a facility that also produces that allergens products and cross-contamination may happen.
There are three ways that you can tell if a food allergen is present.
- If the name of the allergen is in the common name of the ingredients (i.e., buttermilk for a milk allergy) then no other label is needed
- In parentheses followed by the ingredient (i.e., whey (milk))
- After the ingredients list in a “contains” statement (i.e., Contains: Peanuts)
This is the first step you need to take in hosting guests with food allergies.
2. Double check brands with the family.
Simply ask the family if a certain brand is okay. The easiest way to know if something is safe when purchasing is to ask the family if they know if it is or not.
They have a lot more experience with dealing with the food allergy and will love that you are going out of your way for their family.
3. Ask the family for help recreating the dish
If you aren’t sure about how to substitute something in a dish, whether that’s milk, soy, or another allergen, simply ask the family if they have suggestions.
Just like Tip 2 – the family knows what brands are safe and can cut down on a lot of your time if you ask them for tips in recreating your family favorites to be safe for them as well
4. Prepare allergen free dishes first
If you are making dishes that are allergen free, as well as dishes that are not, you’ll want to take special precautions. Make sure to thoroughly wipe down your cooking surfaces.
Then, you’ll want to prepare all the allergen free dishes first. The reduces the risk of cross contamination.
5. Have a separate table or area for safe foods
Any time that you have a spread of lots of different options, there’s always the risk, someone is going to switch serving utensils or cross contaminate food somehow.
Have a separate area or table that is specifically for your guests with food allergens.
6. Keep Foods up high if children have the allergen
If the person(s) with the food allergen that you are cooking for is a child, especially if one that is severely allergic, take steps to have unsafe foods out of reach for them.
Holidays, especially, are a bit chaotic and no one wants to be in the house when a child with a severe milk allergy accidentally grabbed the buttered rolls because they were in reach and no one was paying close attention
7. Don’t be upset if asked more questions about the dishes
You want everyone to love your dishes, but also be gracious guests. After all, you’re hosting them in your house and likely spent hours and hours creating this huge feats.
So it may seem a little untraditional that someone questions how you made something.
Don’t fret though if you are hosting guests with food allergies. They are simply trying to make sure themselves or their family are going to be safe when eating.
The family may want to know how you prepared something or double check ingredients or brands to make sure that it is truly safe.
When you are hosting guests with food allergies you can never be too safe.
Also – don’t be upset if a family with a severe allergy member brings a plate of speciality food for that family member. Sometimes, it’s better just ensuring that the dish is safe.
8. Save bags/boxes of products you used so family can check
One of the easiest ways to ease the mind of the family you are hosting with a food allergy, is to save the bags and/or boxes from the products that you’ve used.
Break them down so they don’t take up a lot of space, but make sure that they are saved until after the dinner is over.
This can help let the family know you really tried, while giving them peace of mind that the stuffing mix or butter you bought is truly safe for them.
9. Have Benadryl on hand
While the family should make sure that they have something with them, we all know that holidays can be crazy and maybe the family can’t find theirs.
It’s always best to be prepared and have a bottle of Benadryl on hand and easily accessible the day of the get together you are hosting.
If you are outside the US, you could even purchase an over-the-counter epipen if you have the means to do so.
10. Double Check Everything
When in doubt, double check everything above. If you are even slightly hesitant you made a mistake, own up to it and let the family know. It’s better to be safe than sorry in this scenario.