How do I host an Allergy-Friendly Holiday Party?
Hosting guests with food allergies and other dietary restrictions can seem overwhelming or intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but in reality, it only requires a few minor tweaks to your holiday traditions to create a safe and allergy-friendly party for all of your guests.
1. Inclusive party planning
When sending invitations to your event, include a reminder for your guests to contact you about any food allergies or diet restrictions. This allows your guests to feel comfortable about approaching you, and you won’t have any surprises so that you can have ample time to plan your menu with some allergy-friendly options.
2. Open communication
Ask your guests with allergies for menu suggestions and trusted brands for packaged goods. It’s also nice to offer to set aside some servings of food for your guests with allergies before putting the food out for everyone else to minimize cross-contact risks.
In some cases, the guests may not feel comfortable consuming food that was prepared in kitchens with cross-contamination risks, so if it’s appropriate, invite them to bring their own food and offer any accommodations they might require, like the use of your oven or microwave.
3. Read and keep labels
Read ingredient lists twice and make sure to check for additional warning statements on the label such as “may contain …” and “manufactured in a facility that processes …” If you are serving any packaged goods, keep the labels to show your guests with food allergies so they can double check the ingredient list themselves.
4. Reduce risks for cross-contamination of allergens
It can take an alarmingly small amount of food protein to cause an allergic reaction for some people with food allergies. Cross-contamination, or cross-contact, happens when one food touches another and their proteins mix which causes food to contain small amounts of the other food. Unwashed hands and unclean pots, pans, dishes and cutlery can also contain food allergens and cause cross-contact.
To reduce cross-contamination risks:
- Clean dishes very well and wash hands often.
- Use parchment paper if possible when cooking or baking with pans or bakeware that have come into contact with food allergens
- Ensure that each platter has its own serving utensils
- Strategically place allergen-free dishes far away from dishes that contain allergens and at the beginning of the buffet
5. Serve allergy-friendly snack options
Skip the bar nuts. There are many allergy-friendly crunchy snack alternatives available in grocery stores like roasted soy nuts and roasted peas that provide all the flavor and none of the risks.
6. Serve allergy-friendly appetizer options
Instead of a cheese platter, consider a charcuterie platter with veggies, rice crackers and dip. Many store bought dips contain common allergens such as dairy, eggs (mayonnaise) or sesame (tahini). Whip up a batch of Sesame-free Dairy-free Creamy White Bean Dip for all your guests to enjoy.
7. Serve allergy friendly salad options
Salad bars are a great way to allow guests to personalize their salads and add their preferred toppings. Make sure that any toppings containing allergens are located strategically at the end of the salad bar to reduce cross-contamination risks. Consider replacing nuts with roasted sunflowers, roasted chick peas or hemp seed hearts.
8. Allergen-free butter replacement in cooking
Bacon fat is a decadent butter substitute for cooking savory dishes, and is a flavorful alternative for basting turkeys, sautéing vegetables and other meats. Olive oil, coconut oil and other vegetable oils are healthier dairy-free butter alternatives.
9. Provide dairy-free butter alternatives on the dinner table
There are many dairy-free, soy-free and vegan buttery spreads available in most grocery stores. Alternatively, bread can be dipped in extra virgin olive oil with a drop of balsamic vinegar or infuse the oil with herbs and spices for different flavour varieties.
10. Create an allergy-friendly dessert table
Most traditional cakes and cookies contain some or all of the common allergens, such as dairy, eggs, nuts and sesame. Provide fresh fruit as a dessert option for your guests and keep them separate from the other cakes and treats. Putting the fruit on skewers helps minimize the cross-contact risks that using serving spoons can create.