4th of July Gatherings and Food Allergies

With the upcoming holiday weekend I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts, tips and product recommendations to help make gatherings a little easier on those families with food allergies. Unless you have someone with a food allergy in your family, it can be overwhelming to factor them in when hosting a get together or bringing a dish to someone else’s event, heck, it can be a challenge even when you are familiar with food allergies!  I hope this article gives you some ideas this summer, and makes it a little easier to be mindful of those with food allergies. And as always, I welcome any recommendations you have! I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your favorite allergy friendly recipes or tips. Bookmark this page so you have it handy next time you are planning play dates, party or what to bring to an event!

The range of allergies is so vast that there is no way you’ll be able to accommodate all of them. But you can try make it a little easier and try to tackle the most common one, peanuts, and go the extra mile on any specific allergies you know will be present. If you are hosting an event, it’s always a good idea to ask your guests if they have any food allergies or contraints and say you’ll do your best to accomondate. Anyone with allergies, especially rare ones, will completely understand that they might not be able to eat everything, and will appreciate any effort you put forth.

My focus has primarily been on nuts and eggs since those are my daughter’s allergies (though she has recently outgrown the egg one!), but I’ve made some mention of dairy free and gluten free options below. Baked goods and snacks are some of the most common foods where you have to be worried about nuts and eggs – it isn’t always obvious that they are in such dishes. I’ve listed some wonderful dessert and snack options below.

General Tips

  • It is helpful creat a label for your dish(es) which lists all of the ingredients. Doesn’t have to be fancy, a handwritten list on a white label or a folded piece of card is all it takes. And it helps so much! As a mom of a kid with peanut and, until recently, egg allergies, it is so much easier to read a label than have to ask everyone what was in everything, or just avoid things I wasn’t sure of. If you have taken steps to be sure a dish is “something”-free then add that to the label too. For instance, many people with nut allergies also avoid all chocolate since, as labels will tell you, they are often produced in factories with nuts and run the risk of containing some traces. However, you can find chocolate that is safe from nut contamination, you just have to look.
  • When making salads, if you want to include nuts, cheese (dairy) or croutons (gluten), do so on the side in smaller bowls where people can add them if they want to. That opens up the opportunity for more people to enjoy the salad. And people love to customize anyway!

Baking?

Scratch
An online search will yield a ton of recipes. It can be overwhelming, so here are a few we have tried and liked.

  • Egg-free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies – These are very good! As long as you make sure your ingredients (chocolate and coca powder in particular) don’t warn about possible nut contamination, then these are also nut free! Score – Egg free and Nut free.
  • Fresh Fruit with Honey Vanilla Mascarpone – This one actually doesn’t require any baking! The Honey Vanilla Mascarpone sauce is divine and will make fruit seem extra special. Use fruit that is in season (preferably organic) and easily available. No need to hunt down anything specific. We like to put it over strawberries and blueberries. You can thin it with milk instead of heavy cream (lighter and nice so you don’t have to buy heavy cream if you have milk). Also, we’ve made it with and without the vanilla bean. It is a bit nicer with, but still wonderful without. It is great for a dessert or brunch dish.
  • Strawberry and Peach Crumble – I’ve modified the original recipe to eliminate nuts. It also happens to be egg free! We love this dish! I believe if you use gluten free flour and be sure the oats are gluten free that it could be made gluten free as well. But I’ve never tried it.
  • Granola – This recipe is so tasty! It can be crumbled up to be used as a topping for yogurt, or in a parfait!
  • Rice Krispy Treats – These tend to be nut, egg and gluten free. Just be sure to confirm by checking the labels.

Mixes
If you are baking and don’t want to go from scratch, there are now a number of brands making nut, dairy, egg and gluten free cake and cookie mixes, even brownies! Here are some:

  • Cherrybrook Kitchen – Recommended to us by our allergist when our daughter was first diagnosed. They make cake, cookie, brownie and pancake mixes. In addition to most of them being nut, egg and dairy free, they have some that are gluten free, and some that can be made vegan. We have used a number of them. The sugar cookies are a bit sweet but tasty. They have 2 chocolate cake mixes, their regular one (nut, dairy, egg free) and the other adds gluten free. Honestly, the regular one tastes much better than the gluten free, so if you can go that route, I’d suggest it. There is a store locator on their site, but they are generally available at Whole Foods.
  • Betty Crocker – A friend at a picnic this weekend told me about these mixes! Easy to get at regular grocery stores!

Hamburger and Hot Dog buns
These are so tasty, good for you and made in a bakery that does not use peanuts, tree nuts or dairy, that they are worthy of their own section! They are Alvarado St. Bakery Sprouted Burger buns and Hamburger buns. They are 100% whole grain and organic. We don’t love their bread, but the buns are great. You can get them at Whole Foods.

Putting out snacks?
Here is a list of nut and egg free snacks I put together for my daughter’s school*:

  • Pirate Booty
  • Back to Nature Honey Graham Sticks
  • Back to Nature Crispy Wheats (Crackers)
  • Newman’s Own Organic Pretzel sticks
  • Wheat Thins
  • Trader Joe’s 12 Grain Mini Snack Crackers
  • Lundberg Organic Brown Rice cakes
  • Whole Foods Mini Pitas (in bread department)
  • Western Bagel’s Whole Wheat and Flour Bagelettes (available at Whole Foods)
  • Cascadian Farms Organic Chocolate chip chewy granola bars
  • Kashi TLC Blackberry Graham Soft-Baked Cereal Bar
  • Cereal: Trader Joe’s Joe’s Os
  • Cereal: Cheerios (Plain)
  • Dairy: Most cheeses
  • Dairy: Clover organic yoghurts
  • Dairy: Cream cheese
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Bare Fruit 100% Organic, bake-dried Fruit Cherries (sold at Whole Foods)
  • Bare Fruit 100% Organic, bake-dried Fruit Apple chips (sold at Whole Foods)

*Be sure to check the ingredients before you buy any of these just to reconfirm. Packaging practices can change so you always want to double check. Also, I have listed that a number of items are available at Whole Foods – they are available at the ones I’ve been to here in Silicon Valley, I hope they are also available near you.

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