By Liljia Polo-Richards
Christmas is a super special time of the year for many people. It involves getting together with friends and family, catching up with people you have not seen for a while and it’s an opportunity to unwind and reflect on the year that has gone by.
For someone with a food allergy or coeliac disease, the Christmas celebrations can also come with a variety of worries and questions. If you have dietary restriction, the “food part” of Christmas is not so straight forward and it requires a little more planning and consideration from those planning a party, meal out or nibbles at the office.
I am here to provide you with a few tips, which will hopefully make it a bit easier for you or anybody trying to organise a Christmas meal or gathering.
Planning a meal at a restaurant
If you are organising a meal out with friends, family or colleagues, and you are worried about not choosing the right place to eat, you can follow these simple steps, which hopefully will make their life easier. Our dining out with allergies guide is a great starting point, as it’s full of hints and tips on things to ask when booking a table, warning signs to look out for before and during your visit and questions to ask during your meal to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Here are some tips and things you can do:
- Firstly, if people have not volunteered that they have a food allergy, make sure you ask the question openly. “Do I need to be aware of any allergies” or “Is there anything that people can’t eat”. From my personal experience, there are still many people who are embarrassed to speak up about their allergies so making others feel like you’ve thought about this topic is a lovely way to make them feel included and open up about their situation;
- If the answer to your questions is yes, then reach out to them and ask them about their favourite restaurant and where they normally feel comfortable eating. Obviously if you have more than one person with a food allergy (and different ones as well), you will have to understand the best option for your group;
- By doing this, not only you are being considerate towards their needs, but you are also understanding what their concerns are and this should give you enough information to be able to book somewhere that suits everyone. Dietary concerns might also be related to religious reasons, so be open to whatever people might raise with you;
- Search our website for inspiration on places that have good ratings and also to get some inspiration on the type of place you should look to book;
- Once you’ve shortlisted a few places, check the menu and double check the allergen menu of the restaurant you are thinking of choosing, as sometimes that would give you a good indication on whether that’s going to be a good choice for those allergies. For example, a pizza restaurant might not be the best choice (with some exceptions) if you are coeliac due to the high risk of cros-contamination. Similarly, an Asian-style cuisine such as Indian, Thai or Japanes might not be the best choice if your guests are allergic to nuts and sesame;
Planning a party at home or at your office
If you are thinking about sharing treats with colleagues, you want to do your best (where possible) to make sure that everyone can enjoy what you have brought in.
From vegan cheeses, that are non only vegan-friendly but allergen free, to savoury biscuits like 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 – Creative Nature‘s Gnawbles (think Maltesers but without allergens!) and Joy of Enjoy assorted gift boxes are great allergy friendly options for an office or home party.
There is also 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. Sharing the same food and experience what others are enjoying is an amazing way to make people feel included so really try to choose options that are safe for everyone, not just for one person.
Oh, and don’t forget that not everybody can drink alcohol, so make sure there are some alcohol free options available.
There is so much choice available these days and, you never know, you might make someone’s day (or year!) if you include them.
Thank you so much for reading this blog. I hope you found the content useful and insightful.
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Have a fabulous Christmas.