Inclusivity matters at Christmas

Christmas with allergies and intolerances

The merry festive period is upon us and gorging on all the Christmas delights is not far away. The fun is due to begin.

We have at times found Christmas food indulgence challenging due to allergies. Many of the lovelies traditionally enjoyed at Christmas have been unattainable. Those with specific dietary requirements may have, in the past, missed out on a traditional Christmas dinner.

However, that no longer needs to be the case. With a little planning, taking a little care and having confidence, Christmas dinner need not be a scene of exclusion.

That’s why I have teamed up with Asda to promote the Christmas inclusivity campaign to help raise awareness of the importance of taking people’s dietary requirements into account at Christmas. I also want to encourage people to search the shelves for dietary friendly foods, find alternatives and make their own allergy friendly food.

Our first Christmas

The first Christmas after finding out our eldest had allergies was a frustrating time. We hadn’t really planned for Christmas food wise. Present wise we were all good – we knew what to do, but when it came to the food we wanted to enjoy, we were naïve. Everything we had previously enjoyed contained milk and/or eggs. It was a very frustrating time. For love nor money could we find a mince pie or Christmas pudding that we could enjoy. Many a Christmas party food that we had previously consumed with absolute pleasure at Christmas’s gone by now was unavailable for us to enjoy. The amount of foods that told us in bold lettering on the back of their packaging that we could not buy it left us without many of the usual Christmas pleasures. When it came to Christmas day, we had a prawn cocktail without a Marie Rose sauce, a major disappointment, sat back and watched family drown Christmas pudding in cream and consume frivolously whilst sipping a glass of eggnog. We realised that we would have to do a little bit more preparation for future Christmas’s and get in the kitchen ourselves and whip up some recipes. 

 Top tips for an allergy friendly Christmas 

When it comes to getting the food just right at Christmas I thought it would be helpful to share my top tips to help you have a magical Christmas feast. 

Tip Number 1: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

It would be rude not to use this classic motto, but it really does ring true. As our first Christmas shows not thinking in advance can really leave you snookered. The most important thing I would start off preparing is the Christmas menu. Have a think about what you plan on cooking, it will help you identify what you will need and what is available. And if the food items you want contain allergens you are unable to have, preparing early gives you the chance to shop around or find recipes to make your own.

Tip Number 2: Look around for alternatives

In years gone by if you had certain allergies or intolerances then many foods enjoyed at Christmas were just unattainable. I remember us trying to make a Marie Rose sauce for the first time, we lacked many of necessary ingredients from the off as the usual suspects are dairy and egg. We tried to find alternatives but to no avail. However, that is no longer the case. Over the last few years the number of alternatives that have come on the market is incredible. You can now replicate a Marie Rose sauce using alternatives such as vegan mayonnaise, so those prawns can have the dressing they deserve. It doesn’t stop there. You can get your hands-on loads of alternatives so pretty much nothing is out of reach for the dinner table this Christmas. 

Tip Number 3:  Check the free from aisles 

Five years ago, if you had allergies or intolerances many Christmas favourites could be out of reach. The free from aisles were bare to say the least. I used those aisles in the leanest of ways as they really were not much more impressive than a few shelves. However now you can find pretty much everything there is out there stacked nicely on a shelf in a dedicated free from aisle. You will always have a great selection of frozen free from goodies in the freezers. Just having a walk along the aisle, you are likely to find the items you are after, even if you didn’t think they would be available. We have stumbled across Christmas Puddings this year. We didn’t even know they made them but our usual perusal of the free from aisle introduced us to them. That is one job saved for the big day, as we won’t have to make one now. 

Tip Number 4: Have a go yourself

People often get daunted at the idea of preparing allergy and intolerance friendly food. However, it needn’t be a scary adventure to prepare food from scratch for loved ones with specific dietary requirements. The internet is a wonderful resource to find recipes for most meals. There are also loads of great Instagrammers and bloggers sharing recipes and allergy friendly food inspiration, so get following them. From a simple internet search, we’ve found recipes to make mince pies, Christmas puddings and numerous other Christmas fancies, all dairy and egg free. I would however recommend having a trial run of any foods you are doing yourself, especially a show stopper such as the Christmas pudding, just to be on the safe side. It makes sense to practice, plus you get to eat more pudding by doing this as well.

Tip Number 5: Wipe down and separate 

We do Christmas dinner at our house. We do the cooking, so we know exactly what goes into everything we cook. We also do not have any dairy or egg in the house. We made the decision that we would all live a dairy and egg free life, so we never have to worry about cross contamination when we cook at home because there isn’t anything to cross contaminate with. However, if you are cooking for people with dietary requirements and cooking foods which could cause cross contamination issues, make sure you take precautions. Prepare your surfaces. Make sure they are all wiped down before starting to prepare any food. When preparing and cooking the food make sure you keep the foods separate. I would recommend cooking the allergy friendly foods first, this reduces the risk of cross contamination, especially if you are using the same pans to make multiple meals. Keep all food prepared separate. If you are going for a buffet style deal, let those with dietary requirements go first. People tend to get a little free willed at buffets and things can get mixed up. Most of all just take your time when preparing foods, label if you are doing different batches but that look similar and be confident. 

And those are my top tips. Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy that Christmas dinner. 

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