With food allergies and intolerances becoming increasingly prevalent in young children, throwing a birthday party or sleepover can prove tricky for many parents. Around 1 in 20 children^ are now affected by food allergies such as eggs, nuts, cow’s milk and wheat, and more than one in ten Australians* are now following a gluten-free diet – so that practically rules out your tried and tested chocolate cake recipe!
However, there are a number of safe foods that parents can incorporate into the menu to help children with food allergies or intolerances feel included in the celebrations and to prevent adverse reactions, according to Amcal Dietitian Megan Alsford.
“It can be quite daunting for parents who are faced with catering for food allergies or intolerances when they aren’t familiar with the triggers - but it doesn’t need to be,” Ms Alsford said.
“With some guidance, parents can use nutritious and allergy-friendly foods to create a delicious menu that is sure to satisfy all party guests.
“We’re also fortunate that, with the prevalence of food allergies and intolerances these days, parents have more ingredients and resources at their fingertips than ever before.”
Follow Megan’s top tips below when planning your child’s next party!
1. Get the low-down in advance – Invitations aren’t just for confirming attendance anymore, it’s also an opportunity to ask about any food allergies or intolerances in advance to help with your preparation. Ask your guests to RSVP with any no-go foods with as much notice as possible and be sure to obtain any emergency contact numbers. You can also ask parents to attend the party for that added support!
2. Be inclusive – No child wants to be banished to a separate table to eat their own ‘special’ cake, or to be watched like a hawk all night to make sure they don’t eat anything they shouldn’t. Make everyone feel welcome by excluding any trigger foods and ingredients from the menu, wiping down surfaces to avoid any cross-contamination, and relax knowing that you have taken precautions to keep guests safe.
3. Use the tools available to you – Perhaps you’ve never made a birthday cake without eggs, wheat AND milk – but someone on the internet surely has. Websites like Supercook.com and Kidswithfoodallergies.org are great resources where you can search for recipes based on the ingredients you have at-hand, and what you want to leave out of the mix. In addition, why not ask the parents of children with food allergies or intolerances for inspiration, they’ll no doubt appreciate you accommodating their child’s needs.
4. Go back to basics – It might take a little more effort, but rather than buying pre-made party snacks such as biscuits, sausage rolls or burger patties – why not make your own healthier versions? That way, you’re completely in control of what ingredients to include, and what to exclude. Simple ideas include fruit kebabs, mini chicken skewers or veggie crudites and dip. When making your own dishes, be sure to check the ingredient list on all packaged food to avoid any trigger ingredients. If you’re unsure, check with the parents of the children with food allergies.
5. Play it safe with party bags – While there’s no denying that a lolly-filled party bag is usually a big hit, you can get creative and instead provide non-edible items such as key rings, fun pencils, stickers, and small toys. They’re bound to keep the kids entertained and last a little longer!
If you believe your child could be at risk of a food allergy or intolerance, or would like advice for managing your child’s allergy, it is recommended that you visit your local pharmacist, Dietitian or GP.
For more information visit: www.amcal.com.au