I love to entertain – especially for kids. My little nieces, nephews and cousins all get so excited when they see tables topped with colorful fruits, cupcakes and other goodies. Recently I attended a kids party and noticed all of the detailed food labels. The hostess told me that a handful of the kids had food allergies and this was one way to keep them safe.
Amongst my friends and family, it seems that food allergies in kids are on the rise. A recent study published by Pediatrics confirmed this observation. According to the FDA, the 8 most common food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
I asked my friend (whose son has a soy allergy) to share her 7 party tips for kids with food allergies:
1. Ask your guests to always bring food (both homemade or store-bought) with an ingredients list. These labels are helpful for everyone!
2. When hosting a party, print out sticky labels that say “Food Allergy – Please do not give any food without asking a parent”. Parents can then stick the labels on the back of their small children so that the kids don’t pull off the label and other guests can be aware of their allergy.
3. Color code the allergies on the food labels. For example, all soy-free dishes get a green dot, nut-free dishes get a yellow dot, dairy-free dishes get a blue dot, etc. This way children who cannot read yet can know which foods are safe for them to eat.
4. Have a variety of foods that are generally allergy-safe. She recommends ice pops, fresh fruit (though not strawberries because they are still high on the allergen list), and marshmallows. Her son’s favorite ice pops are made by freezing organic lemonade or orange juice.
5. If you know that a guest has an allergy, have at least one treat that he or she can eat. For her son who has a soy allergy, I baked oatmeal cookie sandwiches with marshmallow fluff filling. Even though he could not eat most of the desserts on the table, he loved the fact that these cookies were made especially for him (and they tasted great too!).
6. If your child has an allergy, bring something you know he or she can eat. This is especially important if you cannot attend the party with him or her.
7. Continue to educate your child. Teach him or her not to accept food unless you, the parent, okays it. The earlier he or she understands his or her allergy, the better.
As always, contact your physician for specific advice on what foods are allergy-safe for your kids.