When one is on a special diet it does not mean that they have to miss weddings, birthday parties, holiday BBQ’s, or other events where food is served.
More and more people, especially caterers and those who work in the restaurant industry, are becoming aware of the many dietary restrictions that people need, due to health issues or any number of reasons.
If one is attending a birthday party, it is perfectly ok to contact the host and explain that you or your child has a certain allergy or intolerance. You should ask if it would be acceptable if you brought his (or her) own food and/or drink. You could also ask what is being served and see if there are any items that you or your child could consume. Keep in mind cross contamination could occur and often it is wiser to just bring your own food. Even a utensil put into the wrong dish or container can cause ill health.
If you are attending a BBQ, wrap up the meat, corn, and bun in foil so that the food will be safe and will not be contaminated by other items on the grill. If an adult will not be present, make it completely clear to your host to keep the foods in the foil until they are on your child’s plate. Once again, do not expect others to understand. Clearly contaminations often do occur. Notes on the food can assist the host, too. Remember, they are busy making sure everything is going well with their party and may be forgetful or become preoccupied.
If you or your child just have a food preference (vegetarian, for example) that is a different story. They can choose whatever items fit with their dietary restrictions and just stay away from the offending foods or beverages.
Children, as opposed to adults, have a more difficult time fitting in with their peers. So, again, it is best to call ahead and ask the host what he or she will be serving at your child’s parties. That way you can pack identical foods for your own child, yet safe for their special diet. Pack it in a lunch box or cooler with an ice pack and make sure that the host is aware of the lunch box when you are dropping off your child. Make sure that your child knows what the container looks like, so he or she can be reassured that what is inside is safe and packed by their parent.
Do not forget the very important cake, cupcake and/or ice cream. Again, find out what kind, what flavor, etc. and try to buy or make something that looks like the birthday cake or cupcakes being served. If they are serving ice cream, again, bring something comparable and label it with your child’s name. Ask your host to put it in the freezer and make sure that your child knows it is there, too, so they can remind the host when it is being served.
In time you will learn which hosts are more than happy to accommodate and which will be a problem. Hopefully, in this day and age, when allergies run rampant, parents either have a child with an allergy or know someone with one, so it is not a foreign concept.
Weddings and other similar events can be trickier. Do not bother the hosts this time. Contact the venue and ask to speak to the head chef or caterer. Explain your dietary needs and ask if they might be able to accommodate your needs. If the hosts know you well, they might have already spoken to the people in charge and will notify you, but if they are not aware of your dietary needs, it is fine to contact the person in charge of food for the event.
If they will accommodate you, that is terrific. Make sure there is no chance of cross contamination. If you are not feeling comfortable, or the person you spoke to does not seem very understanding about special dietary needs, it might be best to eat before or after the event. Another option is to keep some crackers, nuts, snack bars, or other snacks in your purse or pocket. You can excuse yourself from the table and go into the lobby or outside and have a snack to hold you over. When you R.S.V.P. be courteous and mark the card that you will not be eating the food. If the servers bring you a meal that is not eaten, it is a huge waste of money for the hosts. It is thoughtful to be considerate.
Barrie Silberberg is the author of The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide To Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) And Others Interventions. Her web site is: www.puttingyourkidsfirst.com
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This post originally appeared on our July/August 2014 Magazine