If, like our family, you have a child with food allergies or sensitivities, you know how challenging it is to navigate social waters. This is especially true if your child is allergic or sensitive to a common food ingredient, like corn or milk (our culprits). Here are a few ways I’ve learned to make it easier on our child.
1. Everyone eats the same way at home. For the most part, we don’t eat things our allergic child can’t have. It happens occasionally, but not often. (We don’t eat out often, so I consider eating out every man for himself.)
2. If everyone else has something your child can’t have, provide an alternative. If everyone else gets ice cream, we buy her a pint of Breyer’s mango sorbet, which has no dairy or corn syrup. [Just a tip, for those in more metropolitan areas, there are great rice and almond milk alternatives also.] If we have corn chips, I make sure she has pita chips or pretzels available. This goes for treats at home or at other social gatherings.
Sometimes our alternative is a non-food treat, such as extra video game time or a movie.
3. Realize that your child may not want to be singled out. Sometimes our child would prefer to do without her alternative, or have it later, rather than deal with the awkwardness of having to tell everyone why she is eating something different. Respect your child’s need to fly under the radar sometimes. Don’t make a big deal about your child’s differences any of the time.
4. At social gatherings, bring a dish to share. I especially try to provide a dessert, since this is where my child most often misses out. Sometimes I offer to bring part of the meal if it doesn’t create an awkward situation with our host family.
5. Teach your child to gratefully eat whatever is put before him or her, unless it will make them sick. Then teach them how to graciously refuse in a way that does not make their host feel badly.
6. If you aren’t sure if your child can have what will be served, feed him or her a substantial snack before you leave.
7. Make sure to find yummy things your entire family enjoys. There are delicious alternatives to many forbidden foods. Learn where to buy them or how to make them!