With as many as 1 in 13 children in America diagnosed with a food allergy and many more who struggle with feeding issues, being aware of dietary restrictions can be a life or death situation at the holiday dinner table. Even when a child's issues do not result from a medical condition, the way family and friends respond to dietary concerns can make the difference between a comfortable, happy holiday and a situation that puts unnecessary stress on a child.
Some of the most common challenges for families who struggle with food are getting friends and family with:
- Accepting Dietary Restrictions (for example, not understanding that gluten free isn't just a fad life-style - it's a matter of health)
- Accommodating Food Allergies and Safely Handling of Foods (for example, unknowingly cross-contaminating a "safe" plate)
- Understanding Family Food Choices (for example, not taking offense when a struggling child is offered an alternative meal)
Connecting for Kids families rely on a number of different strategies for dealing with holiday meals, including:
- Educating Family and Friends: Many families who struggle with food allergies bear the burden of constantly educating friends and family. If you are new to celebrating the holidays with a food allergy, you can find some great information on creating a food allergy safety zone from FARE. FARE also offers educational information that families can use to help educate caregivers such as grandparents and extended family.
- Looking Out for Cross-Contamination: Let your host know about the dangers of cross-contamination and plan ahead for visitors coming to your home. Kids with Food Allergies offers some good tips for avoiding cross-contamination when guests are around.
- Offering to Bring a Safe Dish: Often, extended families want to help a struggling child but just don't have the knowledge to do so safely. By bringing a safe dish that everyone can enjoy, you can make your child feel welcome at the table and show everyone that allergy-friendly foods are nothing to be afraid of.