Thankfully my 3 girls don't suffer from food allergies. However, they sometimes show signs of becoming intolerant to gluten and dairy, as I am. These days it seems so many kids are developing allergies to all sorts of things. One of my daughter's friends is allergic to broccoli..I didn't know that was even possible..! So how do we deal with it at our kids' parties?
Kebab sticks: easy to make (your kids can help). Colourful, yummy and easily adaptable to cover the common food allergies.
Whose responsibility is it?
To start with, we need to ask the basic question, whose responsibility is it? As hosts, is it our responsibility to provide food that everyone can have a chance of enjoying? Or is it the parents' responsibility to bring food along to cater to their child's needs?
I'm fairly clear in my mind that it is the parents' responsibility. They should tell you, well in advance, that their child has allergies. It is then their duty, in my opinion, to say 'but don't worry, I shall pack food for him/her'. It is up to you, the host, at this point, to decide whether you want to accept or to say 'don't worry I will provide this this and this for them to enjoy'.
I've heard some parents go beyond requesting that their host accommodate food allergies. Even requesting for food to be organic or sustainably-caught. When cooking at home I try and buy organic, if and when we can afford it. I also try to buy hormone and antibiotic-free meats. However, I would never demand that my children be given these foods when eating at other people's houses. Hosts have enough on their plates without having to cater to all sorts of different needs and wants. Nor should they be burdened with the additional cost or inconvenience when sourcing such food.
In my experience, sushi is a favourite with young kids. Either handmade or store bought, with a little GF soy sauce for dipping.
So how do I deal with it?
Well, although I do believe it's the parents' responsibility, on the other hand, I do like to provide one or two things that can be enjoyed by everyone (based on the most common food allergies). It's a party after all and I like all the kids to feel included and to have fun. I can't imagine how hard it must be for a little person to see a table of colourful, yummy treats, being devoured by their friends, but unable to eat any themselves.
For a start, I always leave out nuts, just to be safe.
For those that are gluten intolerant, I like to make kebabs. I use GF meats or sausages, salmon or prawns with lots of different veggies. In my experience, kids love them as they are so colourful and basically it's fun eating anything off a stick. It is also very easy to make them to suit different needs. For vegetarians, I replace the meat with cheese. For those that have problems with dairy, or all of the above, I just use the selection of veggies.
Providing carrot/cucumber/celery sticks ....any vegetables... to dip into something like hummus or tzatziki, also works well. You could have nachos, mini loaded baked potatoes, sushi (with GF soy sauce). There are so many options, just a quick look on the internet and you'll have loads of ideas.
Nachos with chili con carne, guacamole, cheese and sour cream
Balancing healthy food with the 'naughty' stuff
Parties are not really parties though are they, without the 'naughty stuff'! So we have crisps (I just make sure they are gluten free). Fruit kebabs interspersed with a marshmallow or two (which are also gluten free). Chocolate covered strawberries or bananas, jelly......
Then, if I have used normal wheat flour in the birthday cake, I usually offer gluten free cupcakes as an option or marshmallow Rice Krispies bites. Or the 'cake' doesn't need to be cake at all, it could be a mousse, ice-cream or meringue.
To finish off, I then usually send them home with a lollipop. At the end of the day, I don't think any child is aware that there has been 'special' food, it's just simply colourful, and yummy. Any food that is presented in an artistic or fun way, invariably gets gobbled up!
Chocolate mousse 'cake' with marshmallow flowers for a Little Garden Party
Healthy food for all
In my mind, I am not being put out to provide additional food. I am providing healthy options that all the kids can enjoy...and they do....! And it certainly beats the eternal chicken nuggets and chips! .....and most importantly, it means that I, with my intolerances, can also enjoy picking and pecking at the party food.....haha!
But that's just the way I choose to do things. Certainly no host should ever be embarrassed, by someone turning up and announcing on the spot that they are allergic to something. Ultimately it is the parents' responsibility to oversee their kid's health and to cause minimum stress or inconvenience to the host.
Lollipops to take home for a Very Vicious Viking Party.