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  • 30 Nov 2015

    Food allergies & Christmas: my tips and recipes to get you through the festive season

    Posted: 30 Nov 2015

    Planning, prepping and cooking food at Christmas is stressful enough when you DON'T have food allergies. But when you do? Well, it can take it to another level.  But it's time for a deep breath, grab Christmas by the snowballs and check out my seriously helpful tips for coping with allergies at Christmas.

    No, Aunt Doris, she CAN'T have the bread sauce
    Heading to the family for Christmas? It doesn't matter how many times you tell the rellies, there's always one that doesn't get it. So well before December 25th, remind families and friends about your child's allergies. If you're not taking food with you, a simple checklist of 'CAN eat this', 'CAN'T eat that' might be the most effective way of getting the message across.

    Do this to reduce the chances of cross-contamination
    It's best to base yourself in the kitchen at Christmas - with a glass of course - so that you can pounce if you see a cross-contamination hazard.

    Common cross-contamination culprits are:
    • Using the same utensils and chopping boards for 'safe' foods
    • Bubbling pans splashing allergens over uncovered food
    • Allergen smears, smudges and crumbs transferred onto plates and glasses from unwashed hands

    Meanwhile, in the dining room, there's an unattended buffet table, double dipping in spreads and sauces, chocolate-smeared hands and people swigging randomly from any glass that comes to hand.

    • Ask for/insist upon a separate preparation area for your child
    • Keep safe sauces/spreads away from the main buffet
    • Set the kids a fun task to create name tags or stickers for everyone's glasses to know whose is whose. Or if you're using paper cups, decorate the whole thing!

    Help your relatives and friends understand
    Get them to watch this insightful video about cross-contamination and this video about the dangers of sharing food with friends who have food allergies. And just in case you've missed my recent triumph, the videos are part of the popular Allergy Adventures Workshop for Schools. Take a look here.

    Try these fabulous festive freefrom recipes
    To help you with the Christmas cooking, I've created a range of simple recipes that are all free from the top 9 allergens (milk, egg, cereals containing gluten, soya, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish and sesame). They come with easy-to-follow videos, so you could get the kids on task while you stuff the turkey.

    Date & ginger reindeer cakes (see video above)
    Mini Sticky Date Puds
    Melted Mr Frosty Biscuits
    Yorkshire Puddings

    I'm also loving this Christmas freeform recipe board on Pinterest that @foodallergyuk has started. So go there for inspiration, and if you know of a winning, freefrom recipe, pin it!

    Use Food Maestro to ease the pain of food shopping
    You can use the free Food Maestro app to search for foods that are free from allergens or even select other foods you are avoiding outside of the top 14 (e.g. tomatoes, peppers, onions).

    It gives you direct access to the UK's food product data and you can also use it in stores to scan barcodes and instantly get further product info - shown as 'Expert Notes' in the product listing.

    Food Maestro has been created in partnership with the health professionals at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London. This video explains the concept and you can download the app on iTunes or  Google Play. I know I sound like I'm on commission - I'm not - but this could be a gamechanger when it comes to searching for safe items.

    That's all from me this year
    Right. By my calculations, there are not enough shopping days left until Christmas. So guess I'd better get out there and join the hordes. 

    This will be my last blog of 2015, so I will see you on the other side to do it all over again!

    Merry Christmas!

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