5 Tools for Your Food Allergy Tool Belt

5 Tools for Your Food Allergy Tool Belt

Published on Monday, June 12, 2023 by Kelly Velting

“My kid has a food allergy. How can we go to a birthday party?! There will be food there.”

Do you have anxiety every time you get an invitation for your child or family to attend a food-related event? I sure did. Food allergy-specific anxiety (FAA) is a real frustration for parents. Oddly enough, parents tend to be more anxious than the child with the actual allergy. 

Are we really that surprised? Young children don’t care to be anxious about Aunt Jane’s cake in the oven, and they must figure out how to get from the couch to the chair without falling into the “lava.” 

Whenever my family walked up to potluck events, I would feel a twinge in my chest, and my thoughts would start racing. Eyes darting from one food to the next, guessing which ones were safe. As a parent or guardian of a young child with food allergies, you may feel trapped with your kid at home, never to venture out to the fun of birthday parties and holiday dinners. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be concerned about the risks, but you CAN venture out into the unknown if you have some tools.

5 Tools to Keep in Your Food Allergy Tool Belt:

#1- Always bring your epinephrine medication.

Keep it in a small recognizable zipper bag – if you use the same bag every time, you’ll recognize it even if you panic. Don’t be afraid of the “EpiPen®.” It is a powerful tool that gives you more freedom to go out and be with friends. Refresh your memory on how and when to use an EpiPen® from the experts at the Cleveland Clinic.

#2- Keep a “bar snack” in your bag.

Just in case there are limited things for you or your child to eat. I keep these around because they have a decent amount of protein and fiber, and therefore more filling: Larabar, Kind Bar, Clif Bar, Luna, Bobo’s Oat Bar, Nature’s Bakery.

#3- Get familiar with foods that most commonly contain your allergen.

Is it milk? Then you’ll look out for anything creamy, chocolate, cheesy, or baked. Is it pecans (tree nuts)? The desserts are big culprits, as well as salads or crackers.  Is it soy? Look out for baked foods or foods made with processed ingredients. Is it wheat or gluten? Look out for bakery items and anything thickened or breaded.  You can ask the host about the ingredients if it’s not one of those things. Start there. At least you’ve narrowed down the search. 

#4- Have a great “Allergy-Mom Hack” ready. (Works for dads and grandmas too). 

Option 1: Think of some recipes or throw-together foods you can bring to a gathering that you know your child can eat safely AND contains some protein, fiber, and fat. Result? If your dish happens to be the only thing the kid can eat, at least it’s filling. I used to bring my homemade hummus with tortilla chips and sliced cucumbers, carrots, or sweet bell peppers. I also make a mean chicken salad. Think of easy things you know your kid likes to eat.

Option 2: What is one thing you can grab at your local grocery store on the way to the birthday party to make your life easier? (i.e., decrease anxiety to a more manageable level) The answer? Birthday Cake! I like Udi’s® chocolate muffins or blueberry muffins from the freezer section for a good dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free option. I grab a 4-pack of muffins and Duncan Hines® Cream Cheese Frosting. Yep! You heard that right. There’s no cream cheese in it. What is it? It’s a dairy-free party in 5 seconds. (This is a twice-a-year option. Don’t get caught up in the unusual ingredient that ISN’T an allergen – when dealing with a special event. Just find safe food that’s delicious.) Hopefully, the muffins thaw by the time you get to the cake & candles of the party. Slap some frosting on your kid’s muffin, and presto! Your family can enjoy the birthday party festivities right along with everyone else. If you’re better at planning ahead than me, make some homemade muffins, wrap them, and freeze them. Either way works great. 

#5- Talk to the host ahead of time.

Looking out for someone with food allergies isn’t something you have to do entirely alone. Most people inviting you to their party want you to have a good time. That includes eating the food. Ask the host what you can bring and politely let them know you have a food allergy to look out for. Ask if there will be food there that is milk-free, gluten-free (or whatever your allergen may be). You can also offer to check food labels along with the host. Most hosts love sending me food label images, and I help check ingredients for anything risky. They will also appreciate your offering to help by bringing something safe. 

Use this list of 5 tools to help you enjoy a better summer of grilling out, eating with friends, and heading over to Aunt Jane’s birthday party.  

  1. Westwell-Roper, C., To, S., Andjelic, G., Lu, C., Lin, B., Soller, L., Chan, E. S., & Stewart, S. E. (2022). Food-allergy-specific anxiety and distress in parents of children with food allergy: A systematic review. Pediatric allergy and immunology : official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 33(1), e13695. https://doi.org/10.1111/pai.13695 
  2. hortonj4. (2022, March 18). Follow these instructions to save the life of someone having a severe allergic reaction. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-use-an-epipen/ 

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