With the Christmas season fast approaching, we want all of you to be able to enjoy the festivities without worrying about any sneaky food allergens getting in the way of it!
Christmas is (hopefully!) a time to relax and celebrate, so the last thing you want to worry about is what you can and can’t eat. Unfortunately for many of us, it’s not always that easy…
For this blog post, we enlisted the help of Liljia from Allergy Companions - a website dedicated to finding and reviewing allergy friendly food venues across the UK. Her aim is to reduce stress and anxiety when eating out with allergies, and to improve the experience for us all.
Together, we are sharing our top five food allergy tips to help those of you affected navigate the festive period and keep December as allergy-free as possible!
1: Ask questions
If you are organising a meal out, make sure you always ask openly if anyone has any allergies or dietary preferences. Although this might not sound obvious, as you would expect your friends, family and colleagues to be open about their dietary restrictions, this is not always the case. A lot of people keep this kind of information private, or feel embarrassed to share it, so asking this type of questions will make them feel included.
2: Plan ahead
Although this sounds simple enough, for many of us it is the reality when it comes to trying to navigate a world with allergies. This includes preparing food/recipes for Christmas Day, and/or contacting any restaurants with new festive menus that you may be thinking of visiting. Allergy Companions have a handy “eating out with allergies” guide, which will help you ask the right questions and how to spot a great or “dodgy” restaurant.
3: Keep the conversation going
No matter how serious your allergies are or how many other people have food allergies/coeliac disease in your group, it is essential that you keep an open dialogue with the people you’re celebrating with. It is really important for others to understand the severity of others’ allergies (including yours) and appreciate that the food you are going to order or the restaurant you are choosing is based on keeping everyone safe and feeling included. Some people are under the impression that ‘a little bit won’t hurt’, so you should always explain the importance of being allergy free as a result.
4: Shortlist restaurant options (if you are eating out)
If, after doing some research on the best restaurants to eat out with allergies, you have a list of places, make sure they can cater for all the allergies that people in your group have. For example, one restaurant might be amazing at catering for someone with a nut allergy but might not be safe for someone with coeliac disease. Once you have shortlisted 2 or 3 restaurants, ask your friends/family/colleagues which one they prefer. It’s a really nice way to show that your meal out is more about them feeling safe than the actual food. When you have dietary restrictions, safety comes first.
5: Choose safe treats and food (and alcohol free drinks)
This might sound easier said than done; however, with a bit of time and consideration, it really isn’t difficult to make sure there are safe options for everyone. In today’s market, there are so many wonderful food options that take allergies into consideration.
From vegan cheeses, that are not only vegan-friendly but allergen free, to savoury biscuits (see Angelic) that are free from the top 14 allergens. If you are buying chocolate, obviously avoid ingredients that some people are allergic to (e.g. sesame, milk and nuts) so that everybody can enjoy the same - we’ve got that area covered, shop Enjoy! chocolate (which is free from all 14 allergens) here. There is a tendency to buy something for the person with allergies and have different food for everybody else. This can really make people feel left out, as they are seeing everyone enjoy something that they can’t have. Oh, and don’t forget that not everybody can drink alcohol, so make sure there are some alcohol free options available.
So there you have it! Our combined five top tips for keeping allergy free during this Christmas season.
Keep safe this festive period, and enjoy a very merry free-from Christmas!