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Parties -- Food Focus
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My child has been to a few parties and family gatherings since we started carefully watching what he eats. It seems that everything at a party is "off limits" for him. How do you deal with this? Do you bring just enough "allowable" food for your child? Bring enough for others? Excuse your child during the meal? I don't think he feels deprived at home where we all support him by avoiding the foods he can't have. But I can't expect everyone to understand what he can/can't have. Any ideas to make this easier??

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Actually, our families and friends asked for a "short list" of mainstream things my son can have so they are sure there's something for him. (A good host wants happy guests!) Our parents went so far as to order things from Miss Robens and Kinnikinick to keep on hand.

For potlucks, we bought some shockingly orange platters, and I bring a gluten-free food to serve on them(and utensils). Patrick knows that if it's on "his" plate, he can help himself (we tend to place this at the end of the row, or the beginning, to avoid contamination issues).

For dinners,we bring a main dish he can have, and keep it separate or have the hostess warm it up. We've NEVER had anyone be anything but completely happy to do it, but anyone who has us over knows Patrick has multiple allergies/issues, so they usually call and ask. I agree, it's a lot to insist that people know all about the gluten-free issues, and you would never want to insist. It's a great opportunity to teach, though. We bring gluten-free stuff for everyone and people are genuinely amazed at how good so much of it is -- which goes a long way towards reducing pity they feel about "poor Patrick", and that makes him feel more normal. You want your children to accept that they have to make allowances, but not eating or staying home never needs to be one of them. Birthday parties are a pain, though -- but he's 11, so there aren't so many to go to.

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I LOVE the bright orange dish idea...I'll have to remember that for the future, when my son can understand that sort of thing. In the meantime I have to agree with Ryebaby, most people don't truly understand the whole gluten free thing, but they also do not want to make a child sick and probably would feel horrible if they did inadvertantly. So, here's what I do when we are invited somewhere. I talk to whomever the host is and tell him/her what's going on. Thankfully this time of year most of the events we're invited to are cookouts, so I tell them that we'll bring a package of hot dogs that my son can eat. So far everyone has asked if there are specific brands, and that's just what they'll buy for the whole party. I then basically run down a whole list of things he can have by name-brand. And I make it very clear why it's Soooo important that it be specifically the brand(s) I indicate. Then, if it's a potluck, I generally offer to bring the dessert and then I bring a couple of things including ice cream, which is my sons favorite. So far everyone has been really great about trying to be accomodating. And even more so when they realize it's not a bunch of weird, freaky food he can eat, but normal mainstream foods but just specific brands. One thing I've learned through being so forthcoming with this issue is that there are a LOT more people out there dealing with this than I had any idea about! It's unbelievable.

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We are attending a large (100+) Boy Scout anniversary party, and they went so far as to ask for anyone with food allergies to please let them know -- turns out there are over 20 people with allergies that all fall into the "Big 8" so I am coordinating a whole "allergy free" grilling area! How cool is that!

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I have 3 kids ages 5-9, and we never hesitate to accept invitations to parties.

I always make sure I bring gluten-free cake or cupcakes, since there will always be cake they can't have. If it is my close friends party, they often try to cook foods we can eat (but I still bring something in case they get it wrong). I can't expect everyone to know all the places gluten can hide! There are just too many foods with gluten in them!

If they are my children's friends and we don't really know the family, then I always bring food for us to eat if there isn't anything acceptable. Sometimes I ask what they are serving, and offer to bring something. I don't always tell them before hand about our food intolerances, but if they ask why we are not eating their food I will tell them. Sometimes they just figure we aren't hungry. And we usually aren't the only ones not eating. There are an awful lot of people out there on weight-loss diets who avoid food at parties, too.

At potlucks I bring a main dish, a dessert and a side dish, and take our servings out before putting it on the table. This makes it so I know we have something to eat that will fill us up, and not be contaminated. Then I check to see if there is anything else acceptable to eat (usually this is a big NO, except for plain salad).

Sometimes my kids are disappointed that some (or all) of the candy in the goodies bags aren't safe, so I bring some and keep it in my purse to substitute for the bad stuff. The other kids at the party are more than happy to take the extra candy off your hands!!

My kids don't seem to feel bad, or feel left out very often. They know that they were sick before, and if they don't want to be sick anymore then they need to stay away from the foods that are bad for them. But I try very hard to make sure they are well provided for in any situation that might come up. And I make sure that the goodies we bring are at least as good as the stuff we are substituting it for, more often than not the gluten-free substitute is BETTER! :D

God bless,

Mariann

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