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Kids Parties: How to Cater for Gluten Free, Dairy Free & Vegan at the Same Time!

“You’re mad, bonkers, completely out off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret … All the best people are.” – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

So you have agreed to host 5 to 25 small children, also inferred that you will keep them ALIVE for the 2 hour length of the party … just add sugar … or not!

And then you find out that …
Phoebe is allergic to nuts … “like death anaphylactic allergic, Mum”
Ryan turns red if he eats cheese … “dude, like race car RED”
Amy is a coeliac … “which I THINK needs a gluten free diet but it could just be a type of lizard.”

You, my friend, are mad but also my HERO and you are the BRAVEST PERSON ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET right now. This should help.

Hi there, Emma here. I’m one of the ‘monkeys’ and a mum of four, including two with allergies. 

About 18 months ago my husband and I fell down the rabbit hole of allergies following the birth of our youngest child, Eli. This was my first real experience into the often scary and confusing world of allergies. 

Eli, who is now a cheeky 19 month old, has battled with multiple Non-IgE allergies that caused rashes, reflux, colic and other symptoms for most of his short life. 

The good news is that we are starting to come out the other side with him growing out of a couple of them (YAY). 

In terms of allergies, there are two main types: IgE mediated and non-IgE mediated. IgE mediated reactions typically happen immediately. They are generally considered more serious, as they often involve anaphylaxis. 

Non-IgE mediated reactions, while still serious, are typically delayed
and can take up to 48 hours to develop. They are usually more gastrointestinal related, for example colic, rashes, reflux and constipation and or runny explosive poo.

Non-IgE mediated reactions also include a group of reactions call FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome). FPIES reactions most commonly present 2-4 hours after ingesting the allergen and usually include profuse vomiting (and sometimes diarrhoea).

In recent years tree nut and peanut allergies have really come to the forefront of allergy awareness, but its interesting to note that cow’s milk protein is actually the most common allergy among babies, toddlers and children. 

While it’s important to be aware that any food can trigger an allergic
response, the most common include cow’s milk protein (CMP), soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, wheat, seafood, rice and coconut.

The biggest piece of information I have learnt is that allergies vary greatly person to person. So in terms of catering for an allergy free kids party your biggest asset would be to talk to the parents of the children with allergies. 

Some good questions to ask would be:

  • Does your child suffer from anaphylaxis to any foods? (if yes, omit these from your menu)
  • What are some safe foods I can provide?
  • Are there certain brands that work better for your child or to avoid?
  • Are there ways I can adapt my usual recipes to make it safe for your child’s allergy needs? For example, subbing butter and milk in a cake with dairy free spread and dairy free milk for a dairy allergy
  • Is there anything else I can do to make you and your child feel safe while enjoying the party?

Depending on the age of the child, severity of their allergy and how good they are at managing it, it may also be helpful to ask for a parent stay for the duration of the party so they can monitor their child. 

Some tips for preparing food for an allergy friendly party to combat cross contamination:

  • Wash hands, food preparation surfaces and utensils well with hot soapy water before preparing allergy friendly food
  • Read all food labels carefully for allergens. Note: allergens can be shown under different names, for example, whey and casein are forms of dairy.  If you are in doubt about a food containing an allergen, either seek an alternative that’s allergy free or speak with the child’s parent about whether it’s safe to use
  • Prepare allergy free food first, this is particularly important if serving non-allergy friendly food as well
  • Consider preparing a separate area or table to serve allergy free items and cover all food items
  • Provide separate utensils for serving each food item
  • Let parents and children with allergies know which food items are safe and label everything

For kids parties at home you may also need consider cross contamination risks from toys, play equipment and other surfaces. This type of contamination occurs when a child consumes an allergen then goes off to play without washing their face and hands with soap and water.

Its important to note in this instance that hand sanitiser does not remove allergens.

Some of my go-tos for allergy free party fare (we have dairy, soy, egg, nuts, tree nut, legumes and nightshade allergies at play):

  • Plain potato chips (interesting fact: did you know most flavoured potato chips contain milk?) and also include non-dairy flavours such as salt & vinegar!
  • Fruit skewers and fruit platters
  • Depression cake (also known as Crazy Cake) – this is our currently go to for birthday cake as it doesn’t contain any allergens except gluten but I have also successfully made it with gluten free flour
  • Veggie sticks with hummus

As parents we all want to keep our children safe but unfortunately for some kids parties can be a place fraught with dread and danger.

As a solution some parents may bring a lunchbox of prepared safe foods for their child eat, or some parents may offer to help cater and bring dish that is allergy friendly.

But from an allergy parent please know that your efforts to keep our kids safe AND also included is greatly appreciated.

For more information regarding allergies please visit https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/information and https://allergyfacts.org.au/

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