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Office blogger Charlie provides helpful advice on accommodating children with allergies.
One of the key areas to focus on when planning a safe kid’s party, allergies can take many forms, but can have serious consequences if not dealt with properly. It’s important to get the right information from parents in advance, whilst also knowing where to look for the right food recipes.
Separating out kids party recipes into egg free, dairy free, gluten free and nut free food lists is also worthwhile, as is knowing what to do in an emergency. At DNA Kids we take kids party safety seriously, and have compiled some steps to help you deal with allergies.
The first approach you should take when catering for allergies at a kid’s party is to speak to parents; they might have detailed lists of what you can and cannot serve to their children.
You can also send parents lists of the food you want to serve in advance, so that they can warn you if anything is unsuitable. In addition, browse supermarket aisles and make lists of allergy-safe foods in your area, while checking out general food lists.
Some of the most important areas to get right when planning a party is to ensure that cross-contamination doesn’t occur between food and other items. Try to avoid using egg cartons for crafts or games, and wipe down surfaces to avoid problems with children accidentally coming into contact with food.
For more serious allergies, discuss what the best safety approaches are with parents, and ask children not to share their food with others. It’s also important to be aware of how to deal with specific allergies, including dairy, eggs, nuts, gluten and wheat. Some ideas on how to handle them are below:
Particularly common amongst young children, a dairy intolerance typically means that lactose is not tolerated in foods that contain cow’s milk. Having a lactose intolerance can be a problem for children when it comes to birthday party cakes, and means that some care should be taken when preparing food. Soy milk can be used as an alternative, while there are many alternative sources of calcium in vegan products, as well as in fruits and vegetables.
Another common allergy, eggs can typically be found in cakes, as well as in pastry and most types of pies served at parties. To this end, it’s important to pick pre-rolled pastry and crusts, as well as egg free dough. Cocktail sausages can be a good alternative for savoury food, while chicken drumsticks and potato wedges can also fill the gap left by other snacks. At the same time, it’s crucial to keep cutlery and plates separate from egg products if children have a strong egg allergy.
There are many different reactions possible for nut allergy sufferers, which can vary from mild irritation to more serious problems. Allergies to nuts tend to involve issues with peanuts and true nuts, which can include almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts. It’s usually best to not serve nuts at all during a kids party, and particularly if you’re mixing together nuts with other snacks. Avoiding any peanut based spreads is also important.
Allergies to gluten and wheat can be quite difficult to cater for, and can involve taking extra care with ingredients. It’s generally worth investing in safe food such as popcorn and specific gluten free brands of pizza and snacks. Most supermarkets will have a ‘free from’ aisle or section that will include gluten free food.
You can also fill up snack tables with hummus, chicken spring rolls, pecans and black bean and corn salsa. Be careful though, if you have nut allergy sufferers at a party. As with most allergies, you can invest in apples and banana slices to provide more options for gluten and wheat free parties.
Similarly, you should check labels when serving yoghurts and other seemingly safe foods, as they might contain harmful ingredients. Particularly avoid breaded fish, and stick to tinned tuna and salmon if serving at a party. Wheat free grains and rice are also worth looking into, as are party staples like crisps.
If you’re looking for general food ideas for allergy suitable parties, it’s important to consider vegan or brand specific foods that have guarantees over their ingredients.
Try to avoid eggs, as these can cause different problems for allergy sufferers, and take particular care when serving food so that you don’t accidentally cross-contaminate plates and cutlery. It can also be a good to separate out preparation areas in the kitchen, even if you’re just unwrapping packets of allergy safe foods.
One of the more significant challenges to deal with when catering for an allergy free party, the cake and other sweet snacks will have to be carefully planned. Again, speak to parents and find out what specific allergies you’ll have to deal with. Soy and egg free lemon vanilla cakes can be a good all purpose solution, and can be prepared in as little as half an hour. If possible, try to use substitutes such as rice milk.
Extra care should be taken when providing party bags to children. Make sure that you have some non-edible options for bags, which might include wooden toys and books. Similarly, if your party involves a pinata or games that use snacks, check that you’re not forgetting about allergies when you’re putting them together. Speak to parents about your plans and balance out bags so you’re not leaving anyone out at the end of a party.
No matter how much preparation you put into catering a party where some of the children have allergies, there is always going to be a risk of emergencies. Check with parents, and make yourself aware of what to do in an emergency.
You should have plenty of help on the day, as well as people at a party who have experience of looking after children with allergies. An epinephrine injector can typically be used for dealing with allergic shocks, but should be carefully practiced with and verified with parents and a doctor. If in doubt, contact emergency services.