When I first learned that my son had food allergies, one of the things that really worried me was birthday parties.
Over the past 12 years, though, I've learned a lot about birthday parties and special diets. Not only does my son have multiple food allergies, but both of my children are vegan, and that can make birthday parties a little complicated for both of them.
Here are 10 things I've learned about birthday parties and food allergies (or other special diets):
1. Birthday parties are about so much more than food. Of course there's cake and lots of times pizza, but the real fun has nothing to do with food. There are games or bowling or laser tag or arts & crafts -- you get the picture. Emphasize the fun, not the food.
2. You don't have to accept every invitation. If the party's not a good fit for you, you can always celebrate your friend separately. When my kids were little, they got invited to some parties at Chuck E. Cheese. Given a dairy allergy, we just figured a place with cheese in its name would cause all of us a bit more stress than we needed. We arranged for a fun playdate at another time to celebrate our buddy.
3. Be sure to bring any medicines your child needs. Epi-pens and inhalers are standard party-going supplies for us!
4. If your child is younger, you can ask if you can stay. My son wasn't comfortable going to a party by himself when he was younger, so I brought along a book and stayed out of the way until he felt confident enough to navigate food and social situations on his own.
5. Communicate. Make sure that the hosts know about your child's allergies. Let them know you'll be sending an alternative snack. Show your child and the hosts what your snack container looks like and where any rescue medications are stored. Ask your host if she knows what to do in an emergency and if she needs to know how to give an Epi-pen.
6. Follow the Golden Rule. Make sure that you ask your guests when you're the host about any diet issues and provide welcoming options.
7. All things pass. Birthday parties for older kids aren't so formal. It's much more about hanging out with your friends than actual parties, which makes it so much easier.
8. Pack your own safe food. If there's going to be pizza, bring your own slice. If there's going to be cake, bring a cupcake. It's never been a big deal for our kids to bring their own treats if the cake's not safe.
9. Share a recipe if your friends are looking to make something safe. Make sure they understand about the need to prevent cross-contamination, too.
10. Say "Thank you." It takes a village to keep our kids safe, and we should never take the extra effort for granted. I am so incredibly fortunate to live in a community who care as much about my children's safety and inclusion as I do.
In case you need a recipe for cupcakes, I have several in Welcoming Kitchen and Super Seeds, and here's a favorite from Kim's Welcoming Kitchen.
Happy Birthday Cupcakes (vegan, gluten-free, food allergy friendly)
- 1 1/2 cups oat flour (gluten-free if needed) )
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup sweet potato puree
- 1/2 cup canola oil or other neutral oil
- 1//2 cup applesauce
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, canola oil, applesauce and vanilla.
- Mix dry ingredients into wet.
- Stir apple cider vinegar into batter.
- Pour batter into an oiled standard muffin pan .
- Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.