5 Tips for Hosting a Houseguest with a Food Allergy

posted: 04/15/15
by: Stephanie Vuolo
food allergies
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Here's how to accommodate your guests.

We just returned from a family vacation, where everyone marveled at what my toddler daughter ate. They couldn't believe she loved to eat lamb chops on the bone, asked for a variety of vegetables, and thinks of fruit as a dessert to look forward to with pleasure. The other children sat through meals staring at my toddler in wonder, as if she was an animal from another planet. Our diets are free of refined sugars and most processed foods. For our family, this is normal because it is how we eat everyday, but for those we were visiting, the way we eat was almost unimaginable.

If you know anyone on a restricted diet due to choice or because of a food allergy, you may wonder, "What can they actually eat" and "How do they do it"? For the most part, you probably aren't too concerned about their food choices, that is, until they come to your home for a visit and you have to feed them for a few days. As difficult as it might be for you to come up with ideas, the consequences of being exposed to an allergen can be really serious for most people. Luckily, once you learn more about what the person can actually eat, the idea isn't as daunting. Your guest is the best resource for what they can actually eat, and here are some ideas for you to consider as you prepare for the visit.

1. Inquire about how severe the allergy or sensitivity is. Some individuals get very sick if their food touches the same surface as an allergen, such as those with severe peanut allergies. Others tolerate a small amount of cross contamination, such as by cutting a piece of fruit on a surface with some particles of the allergen. Let your guest, who's an expert in his sensitivity, guide you as to what precautions need to be taken, like if you will need to use a brand-new sponge.

2. Ask what they like to eat. If you can get away with buying allergen-free replacements foods, such as bread, cereal and pasta, it's often easier for you as a host to serve. However, disclose all of the ingredients in a dish and provide access to the labels. Luckily, major allergens, including milk, wheat, and nuts, are often listed below the ingredient list to help you navigate the nutrition labels, which are often quite confusing.

3. Go shopping together. Instead of stocking up on a bunch of items in advance of their arrival, go shopping together so they can help pick up foods that are safe to eat. It can actually be fun to shop from another person's perspective, and you might discover some new foods that your family likes to eat. If you'll be short of time, encourage your guest to bring specialty items from home so that they know there is something in your home that can be eaten.

4. Eat out. For the first meal offer to take your guest out to eat at a restaurant of their choice. With the growing trend of food sensitivities and allergies, many restaurants are willing to make substitutions and disclose the list of ingredients in any dish. It's actually quite easy to find something for everyone, including those with allergies or special diets. Besides, when isn't it nice to not have to cook and clean for a change?

5. Let them cook. People with particular eating habits, whether based on an allergy or preference, will be glad to cook a meal for everyone to enjoy. It's probably the least stressful way for them to insure that their food isn't contaminated and a wonderful way to thank their host for the hospitality. Your family will get to learn about a new way of living in the process.