It’s easy to accommodate your food allergies when you’re throwing your own party, but what about when you are invited to someone else’s party? Throughout my life, I’ve had to turn down countless party invites because I couldn’t eat the food. The classic pizza and ice cream party meals aren’t exactly ideal for people with dairy, wheat, and nut allergies, let alone the potential cross-contamination with countless other allergens. However, over the years I’ve learned some strategies that can make parties as food-allergy friendly as possible. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Learn/ask about the dietary restrictions of your friends and make sure that they know they will be included.
Last week, my sister had her 21st birthday party and invited all of her close friends. One of her friends had a severe egg allergy. While this friend had already told her that he had a conflict and couldn’t make it to the party, I told her to order a vegan insomnia cookie for him just in case he was able to come. She took my advice and ordered a vegan cookie along with a few other egg-free desserts for him to enjoy. On the day of her party, he texted her that he was actually able to attend, and luckily she had ordered a variety of egg-free desserts for him so he would be able to eat with everyone else. Just like you would want the non-allergic guests at your party to enjoy the food, you want the same thing for your guests with allergies. Taking the simple extra step to get an allergy guest something special can really make someone feel seen and included.
2. When deciding what meal to have at a party, opt for something that has many options so people can create a meal that accommodates their needs.
One of my favorite birthday parties that I’ve attended was when my friend chose to get Chipotle catered for dinner instead of the usual pizza. Included in the catering were separate, non-contaminated containers of white rice, chicken, carnitas, corn, beans, lettuce, etc. There were separate spoons for each container, and everyone was able to make their own bowl to their liking. While there was a container with cheese, it was completely separate from all of the other offerings, so I could create a bowl that accommodated my allergy needs, and others could create one with the things that they liked. I think an option like Chipotle catering is superior to pizza because it can be made to include all different dietary preferences and allergies.
3. Choose a party activity that isn’t centered around food.
The parties that I’ve had to turn down because of my allergies have usually been ones that are centered around food: a fancy dinner, picnic lunch, or tea party. Instead, choosing a party activity that isn’t centered around food can take away a lot of worry when it comes to eating. For example, completing an escape room, going to a concert, or going to see a show are all great party activities that don’t require food to be the star of the show. While there may be pizza or cake served before or after, the majority of the party can be spent participating in the event/activity rather than eating. This makes it much easier for people with allergies to feel comfortable and participate.
Whether it’s your birthday, a family member’s party, or a close friend’s celebration, you should always consider how food will affect the guests at gatherings. I’ve often felt like a burden when I ask someone to accommodate my food allergy needs, but it shouldn’t always have to be this way. Going the extra mile to make people feel included can truly have a meaningful impact on people with food allergies like me.