A Food Allergy Ah-ha Moment with the Holiday Meal

If your house is like ours at holiday time – managing food allergies with the holiday meal creates stress. Stress for us means arguments about what is safe for our son to eat, and what isn’t safe. Inevitably these stressful situations occur with extended family coming to our house for a holiday meal where we have entrusted others in the family to make safe foods.


Our son, Morgan, is almost 18 years old, so managing holiday meals isn’t anything new. We’ve concluded that eating at our house is a must. Other family members have dogs, cats, and others who have since passed away, were smokers. This is a recipe for disaster for our son and his asthma and allergies. The holiday meal is therefore the big issue to conquer.

We’ve always agreed that Morgan doesn’t eat food made by anyone else. Too many times well-meaning friends or family have tried to bake birthday treats or provide safe snacks for our son at a party. Unless the food has a label on it, we’ve always agreed that Morgan says “no thank you” and he eats the food we provide. We don’t know how others prepare food or what precautions they take in their kitchen. How well do they wash their baking pans? Did the spatula also pick up peanut butter cookies? There’s so many chances for errors in even the most well-meaning friend or family member.

But when it comes to family, it gets dicey. We can’t always cook EVERYTHING for the extended family and our family. That’s a lot of cooking and a lot of money to provide that much food. So, we ask them to bring certain foods, with a long list of “don’ts” attached: don’t bring anything with his allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish or shellfish), don’t bring anything that says “manufactured in a facility…” with any of his allergens, don’t make food at home – make it at our house in front of us – if you want Morgan to eat it. It’s a lot for others who don’t have food allergies to understand why all of this is necessary.

It’s taken years of education and plenty of discussions, and more discussions, to explain the seriousness of food allergies, and what happens when a mistake occurs. Our extended family has gotten really good at understanding what’s necessary to keep Morgan safe. Yet, do they understand enough to cook for him?

That brings us to this year’s holiday meal and celebration, which occurred for us last night. My husband had been the communicator with his brother and the family. When there was a change in the main course from a turkey to a ham, I began to get frightened. I was feeling uncomfortable with Morgan eating the turkey to begin with because it was going to be cooked at THEIR house! Now, with a ham there’s the glaze ingredients to worry about. My husband and I began a discussion about the issue, and brought Morgan in to determine how to deal with this change of plans.

Then I had an AH-HA moment!

Why are my husband and I arguing over this? Morgan is old enough to be responsible for this issue. He eats out with his friends and can manage restaurants. Surely he can get on the phone with family members and negotiate a safe meal for himself. It’s time for my husband and I to take a step back from all this and allow Morgan to self-advocate.

The result? The ham was cooked at our house; Morgan prepared the glaze after reading the ingredients and everyone had a wonderful time!

For future celebrations, Morgan will be on the phone talking with family members about the meal prior to the day of the celebration. My husband and I can find something else to argue about  😉  and we promised to not second-guess Morgan’s decision about what he eats. It’s up to him to keep himself safe.

Problem solved with everyone in agreement. Amazing!


2 thoughts on “A Food Allergy Ah-ha Moment with the Holiday Meal”

  1. I do the same always trying to keep my son safe. I had a Aunt make a Walnut salad for a party. You would think family would get it but they never seem to. I like your idea of having Morgan take control. My son is 17 and I agree it is time to pass the torch to them and let them start be responsible.

    1. I think it’s hard for anyone who doesn’t manage food allergies daily to remember that EVERY food needs to be monitored! Thanks for sharing!

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