In the first installment of our series, “The Importance of Planning Ahead,” we’re discussing planning ahead for the food allergic child’s birthday.
Recently, our bakery got a call from a mom who needed a cake for her food allergic child’s birthday party which was being held the next day. We love getting calls from parents who want a safe yet delicious dessert for their food allergic child! But, if you’re at all familiar with our bakery, you might know that we don’t bake until we get an order. We use no preservatives and keep no stock on hand; everything is made fresh for the customer.
So, unfortunately, we weren’t able to fill this parent’s request. I was the one who took the call, and I apologized to the parent for not being able to help out and hoped we might be able to serve their needs in the future, perhaps with a couple more days’ notice. As I got off the phone, it occurred to me that we get those types of calls quite often: someone just discovered our bakery on-line or saw me driving around with the cute cartoon baker on my back windshield, and they have an immediate, urgent need for a custom baked item for their food allergic child.
And so I started wondering: if you have a child with life-threatening allergies, should you ever allow yourself to get in a situation where you urgently need a safe food?
In my opinion, the answer is a resounding, “NO!”
As parents, we have a duty to keep our children safe and healthy. Parents of a food allergic child have extra complications in fulfilling this duty. It is imperative that you plan ahead every bite of food for your food allergic child to minimize the probability of having a reaction.
Waiting Until the Last Minute Can Be Dangerous
When you wait until the last minute to do something, what typically happens? You rush, you cut corners, you skip steps, you justify, you rationalize. You do whatever you can to get too much done in too little time. You think to yourself, “Oh, if I don’t get that one thing done, just this once, it will be fine.”
Most of the time, you’re probably right: it will be just fine. BUT, if you have a food allergic child and the step you skip is planning their safe food, then you could be setting yourself up for a tragedy. Additionally, you might be teaching your food allergic child that they don’t really have to be vigilant about what they eat.
If you plan ahead, your food allergic child will learn by your example. They will be better equipped to keep themselves safe as get older and spend more time away from you.
Planning Ahead for Your Food-Allergic Child’s Birthday Party
1. Start researching allergy-safe bakeries at least 1 month before the party. There aren’t many of us out there, but if you start looking early enough, you might just find a professional who can bake a safe and delicious treat for your child and give you the break you deserve! Make certain that they are “free of” your child’s specific allergens.
2.Find a boxed mix that’s safe. Depending on your child’s allergies, a brand name mix at your local grocery store might be fine. Please visit our educational website to learn how to read a label.
3.Bake it yourself from scratch if you’re so inclined. Food allergy cookbooks are everywhere these days, and many have wonderful desserts that are easy to make. Ask your food allergic child to give you a hand with the measuring/mixing. Turn it into an activity to do together. One of our family’s favorite cookbook series is What’s To Eat?
4. Plan the full menu ahead of time with your food allergic child. Select meal and/or snack items that they love and only serve foods they can eat.
5. Your child might even enjoy shopping for the food with you or helping select the serving dishes.
It Doesn’t Have to Revolve Around Cake
Who says you can’t have an amazing birthday party without cake? As with any food, read the labels completely and only select safe ingredients for your food allergic child. Here are some alternative birthday party sweets we’ve used in our house:
- Ice cream sundae buffet
- Decorate your own sugar cookie
- Roast marshmallows and make “S’Mores”
- Dip fresh cut fruit into:
- Warm fudge
- Cold pudding
- Powdered sugar “icing” (mix in a little water)
Why Does Everything Have to be So Much Work?!
Does it sound like a lot of work? Maybe. Will you have to work harder to plan a safe birthday party for your food allergic child than the parents of children with no food allergies? Again, maybe. Will you have to spend more time planning meals and snacks every day of your child’s life than will parents of children with no food allergies? Actually, probably so.
But like all things in life, it depends on how you look at it. You can be bothered and burdened by the hand you’ve been dealt. Or you can choose to embrace where you are, adapt, and get back to living. Either way, your child will learn from the example you choose to set.