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Family Events with Food Allergies

Whether it’s birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, or just a family celebration, family events can no doubt be difficult. From managing what you’re going to eat to socializing with family members, it can be a lot to manage.

My name is Serina; I’m allergic to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, chickpeas, and lentils. My food allergies have been a part of everyday life since I was a year old, but they don’t define who I am or how much enjoyment I get during mealtime. One of the most important actions to take before a family get together involves lots of diligent prep work. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out what kind of food is being served. Is the food being catered, or are people bringing various dishes? If the food is from a restaurant, it’s important to find out what type of food it is and the ingredient list of dishes by calling the restaurant ahead of time and asking to speak to the manager. If the food is being cooked at someone’s house, calling and texting days ahead about the menu and list of ingredients gives the family enough time to prepare for your needs. Additionally, cross-contamination and cross-contact is important to bring up. While it can definitely be a touchy subject around family members, emphasizing the severity of your allergies with a kind and firm tone is key to success. You don’t want to be rude, but being a pushover is not an option when it comes to your safety and wellbeing. Overall, communication is of paramount importance and essential to having a safe and fun event.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to have a conversation with loved ones who misunderstand your allergy. Whether they don’t believe it’s real or think it’s not that serious, politely educating them is the way to go. I was the first one in the family to be diagnosed with multiple food allergies, and many of my family members didn’t even know what food allergies were. In 2006, I was a year old when I was first diagnosed with a severe egg allergy. Hardly any resources were available to my parents and others to educate themselves about the lifelong journey we were about to embark on. But nowadays, so many outlets of information are available, from FARE’s website, to the FDA, to this magazine! Besides educating a confused family member yourself about your food allergies, referring them to a trusted website or source of information will aid in their understanding of the situation.

Mealtime at a family event can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. With proper prep work and a positive attitude, eating with family can be an exciting and joyful experience.


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