When it comes to throwing a birthday party for your kids, catering for allergies and intolerances is now a common part of the planning.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of food allergy in the world, with a study finding a 1.7 fold increase in food-induced anaphylaxis in New Zealand over 10 years.
So the chances are, if it’s not your child, one of their little buddies may have a food allergy or intolerance.
Here are some great tips to throw an amazing allergy-friendly party without zapping the fun or doubling the workload.
1. Narrow it down
When it comes to food allergies, 90% of reactions are caused by only nine foods - milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts (eg, cashews, almonds, walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat and sesame.
In most cases, it won’t be necessary to rule out all these foods from your party. Start by simply asking the parents if their child has any allergies, so you know exactly what food you need to be mindful of. Remember the guest knows best – or in this case their parents. This quickly cuts down the work and will help you to plan out a menu that all the kids can enjoy, without anyone missing out or being made to feel different.
The parents of children with allergies will be grateful you took the time to care. They may also have some great recipes to share or can let you know about products they trust.
2. Become a fruit fanatic
Fresh is always best as you know exactly what you are getting and there’s no need to read labels.
This makes fruit a great go-to that will help bulk up the menu. To give it that party flair with minimal fuss, try fruit skewers or a colourful fruit salad rainbow and watch it disappear just as quickly as the cakes.
We also love this watermelon pizza from the team at One Handed Cooks – watermelon slices topped with berries, banana and a sprinkle of coconut. You can even add a drizzle of yoghurt or chocolate, if including dairy is ok. So much fun and good for them too!
3. "Free from" birthday cake – no worries
Choosing your favourite birthday cake from the New Zealand Women’s Weekly Favourite Recipes was a tradition for many of us growing up and one you can carry on with your own kids. You could also try a modern resource, like one from renowned dietitian Sue Shepherd. She’s turned her attention to catering for people with allergies, and created a special allergy-free cook book packed with options, including delicious cakes.
Or if you are looking for a quick cheat the good news is many bakeries and cake shops now cater for allergies and food intolerances with “free from” birthday cakes available to order and you can also get allergy-friendly packet cake mixes at most supermarkets.
4. Easy gluten free savouries
Gluten free wraps and flat bread are a great solution for creating savouries that kids and parents will love. They make the perfect base for mini pizzas or wraps that can be sliced into bite size pieces like sushi.
5. Keep it simple
It’s best to keep the food fresh and avoiding adding extras like sauces, dips or marinades unless you have read the labels and know what they contain.
If you are buying anything pre-made always read the label and if there is no label ask the person serving the food. You can never assume a food that has been prepared or processed is allergy free. You may not know, for example, that mayonnaise on a pre-made sandwich contains eggs.
6. Get party ready
Before the party, make sure you put away any foods containing allergens – this may include Nutella, peanut butter, bread or even empty egg cartons.
Before you start preparing party food make sure you clean all utensils and surfaces to help avoid cross-contamination.
7. It’s not just about the food
Be mindful of food and props used for party games to ensure everyone can join in the games. Consider the lollies wrapped in the pass-the-parcel or a piñata; you may also need to rethink games like donuts on a string or egg and spoon races.
The same goes for party bags. An easy fix with these is to fill them up with small knick-knacks and games rather than foods so they are safe and fun for everyone.
8. Know the plan
No matter what precautions you take you can never guarantee that your party will be completely allergen free.
In the case of an allergic reaction, always ring an ambulance as severe reactions can quickly escalate and become life threatening.
If the kids are old enough to be dropped and left, be sure to speak with their parents beforehand so you have their contact details, can use an epi-pen if needed, and know their child’s allergy management plan.
For more information on entertaining for friends with allergies check out New Zealand Allergy website.
Try these tasty recipes that will be sure to make your allergy-friendly party a hit –