As many of us know, Christmas time is all about celebrations, gatherings, and indulging in delicious food, but people such as Julianne, the founder of Creative Nature, really struggle at this time of year due to life threatening allergies. We have been in contact with 2 allergy sufferers to hear their thoughts and experiences with living with allergies during the festive period, and here is what they have to say…
Olivia Harris, 26, has been allergic to tree nuts and seeds since she was 7 years old.
Olivia finds it difficult all year round living with food allergies, however during Christmas time in particular, she struggles because…
New lifestyle and health trends have made eating out/shopping out incredibly challenging. Two noticeable difficulties are that my mum has to make her won Christmas pudding as store bought generally contains nuts; and, more often than not, I cannot eat anything at Christmas fairs as the food is nutty.
I would love to be able to go to a Christmas fair i.e. Winter Wonderland and just get a bag of pick n mix. I’ve never been able to do this due to the contamination of products and serving equipment. Likewise, I can never have crepes from those types of stalls as they make the nutella crepes on them, so the risk is far too high. It’s so Christmassy to be able to do this but I just simply can’t. I’d love to be able to do this even just once.
We asked Olivia if she would like to see more allergen friendly products on the market and she replied…
YES! Not just food related, but skin products as well!!! It is simply not good enough in every aspect.
So if you suffer from an allergy of need to cater for somebody that does, you might want to take a look at our snacks and home baking kits here.
Our super-foods are also top 14 allergen safe, and can be used for beauty and skin cosmetic ingredients. Such as a pink crystal salt body scrub, or spirulina face mask, both with a whole range of natural benefits.
Olivia has given us some valuable top tips for eating out at any time of year…
- Always check menus ahead of time
- Call the restaurant before hand and check their allergy information.
- When you arrive at restaurants, speak to the manager privately to avoid that guaranteed line of questioning from those you are dining with and order / explain first.
Amanda Orlando, 29, is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy protein, and legumes and has been since she was just a few months old.
Amanda has shared a story with us about home baking around this time of year…
A story comes to mind about baking, passing on traditions, and cooking with and for others as an act of generosity. My aunt taught me how to bake, and I remember baking gingerbread cookies with her and my older brother, when we were little kids. She had a special cookie cutter that poked a hole at the top of each cookie so that they could be strung up on the tree like ornaments. Of course, none of them made it to the tree; they were too tasty. That started my annual tradition of baking gingerbread cookies, and as time went on, I started making them for my family by myself. She always kept allergy safe ingredients on hand so that if I was coming over, she could bake me cookies or rice krispy squares, or some other delicious treat. It taught me that baking for others can truly be an act of love and generosity, which I will always remember. Even if what you made isn’t picture perfect, it can be a different kind of perfect.
Amanda’s top tips for travelling with food allergies at this time of year are:
- always travel with a stack of allergy cards that the server can hand over to the chef
- stick to simple and familiar foods
- research the cuisine before visiting the country/city so that I can get an idea of what’s common, and which foods or ingredients may pose a risk
- research the supermarkets where you are visiting, and map out where they are in relation to where you are staying
From expreience, Amanda knows that connecting with others in the food allergy community can be very comforting, and she invites others to say hello if you want to talk to someone who can relate! Her blog can be found here
Emma Blair, 18, has been severely allergic to peanuts since she was 7 years old.
Emma told us that she finds Christmas a difficult time of year for dealing with her severe allergy, and here is why…
At this time of year a lot of products contain nuts and a lot of products also carry the ‘may contain’ label. This makes it really difficult when finding safe things to eat as a lot of the Christmas themed products may contain nuts. It’s also difficult as food is gifted a lot at Christmas and when I receive food gifts more likely than not I can’t eat them and have to either re-gift them or give them to a family member.
One food that Emma would love to be able to try at Christmas is…
Christmas themed desserts. I have never been able to try them and they look so good. Occasionally supermarkets have a nut friendly dessert but when I go in to the shop they are always out of stock! I want to try them because my mum always slaves away in the kitchen on Christmas Eve making desserts from scratch that are safe for me to eat. If I could get my hands on a nut safe dessert it would take the stress of baking away from my mum as she’s stressed enough at Christmas time
I wish there was a lot more allergy safe options in the supermarket. They have gluten free aisles in supermarkets, I wish they had nut free aisles so it would make it easier to pick food.
Alyssa Bauder, 22, has been allergic to peanute, tree nuts, and shellfish for her entire life, however she has grown out of her egg, tomato, apple, banana, cantaloupe, and melon allergies since the age of 3!
We asked Alyssa what she wished she could say to all non allergy sufferers…
I want all non-allergy suffers to understand how severe my allergies actually are. I have run into several situations in school, on planes, and even at sporting events where I was given a hard time for politely asking for nut products to be put away. People will say “Is your allergy really that bad?” or “Is it really that big of a deal?” – and the answer is yes! My food allergies are not personal preferences, and I am not just being a picky eater. This is a real life-threatening condition that needs to be taken seriously.
Alyssa told us about her difficulties when dealing with her allergies around Christmas time…
My friends and extended family often forget about my allergies, or do not fully understand the severity of them. I have found myself at several holiday parties where there are blatant (and even hidden) allergens on the table. I rarely eat home cooked food that is not made myself, but during the holiday season, there is no way to avoid Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It is important to always been asking friends and family for their recipes before helping yourself.
With my allergies, I generally have to steer clear of all of the holiday desserts. Even when someone assures me that their dessert is “nut-free,” there is no guarantee it was safe from cross-contamination in their kitchen. Having to skip out on dessert every year is disappointing because I definitely have a sweet tooth. However, now that I’m older and have become more passionate about cooking and baking, I always whip up a sweet treat myself to pass. That way I always know there is something safe for me to have after dinner.
And when eating out around Christmas time…
Lots of restaurants feature special holiday menus around Christmas time, so places you normally deem safe may be using your allergen in their kitchen. Just recently I was dining out at a restaurant in Chicago I had safely frequented, but because of the holidays, they added a Reese’s Cup cocktail to their menu. I was thankful that I noticed this menu change and informed my waitress about my allergy before ordering. Always keep an eye out for holiday specials!