What’s the best thing about Christmas? When we ask our children that question the first answer is usually “presents”, but it’s quickly followed by “yummy food”.
We have children with multiple food allergies, but they get just as much pleasure out of Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and all the other lovely festive treats as everyone else. What they like best of all is not being left out or having to eat something different but instead being able to join in with everyone else and eating the same food. Getting Christmas right takes a little bit of planning, but if you’re organised you can easily cater to include people with food allergies.
THE RUN-UP TO CHRISTMAS
At the start of December our children get very excited about advent calendars. There are lots of chocolate-filled ones available that are suitable for allergy sufferers. Some are dairy-free and free from soya, and others are made in factories that don’t handle nuts so it is possible to find a brand that suits your child’s specific allergies. Have a look at the Christmas section of our free-from directory of products to find something suitable. You can also get simple advent calendars where the window opens onto a Christmas scene involving no food at all. However, at home we have a wooden reindeer with little drawers that we can fill ourselves and the kids love discovering what’s inside. We often fill them with dairy-free chocolate coins and sweets or with non-food items like rubbers or stickers. There are some lovely wooden advent calendars in the shops and for us it has become a real sign that Christmas is round the corner when the wooden reindeer makes its appearance.
DECORATING THE TREE
We also really enjoy decorating the tree as a family and we hang red and white striped candy canes that are free from allergens and look really pretty. You could stick a little loop of string to dairy-free chocolate coins and hang them on the tree alongside all your other decorations. If you’re using Jamie’s recipe for chocolate coins, make sure to use a dairy-free chocolate and remove the nutty toppings. Little bags of dairy-free chocolate coins also make very nice stocking fillers. It’s really good fun making chocolate coins with your children. If you use dairy -free chocolate, this Jamie Oliver recipe works really well.
In the weeks before Christmas, schools tend to have lots of festivities going on and they often involve food. We make sure we send in a few dairy-free chocolate Santas so our kids have something nice to eat while the other children are having treats. Be aware that tins and selections of chocolates that are often around at Christmas contain nuts, so if your child can have chocolate but is allergic to nuts, make sure he or she knows to be cautious if these are being handed round. At this time of year people also often have bowls of nuts out, so it’s worth being aware of this and cautious if your child has a nut allergy.
In the run-up to Christmas we enjoy making mince pies to have on hand if people pop round or we have a festive drinks party. Our recipe is completely allergen free and absolutely delicious. If you or your child has allergies, you can make a batch of mince pies to take with you as a present if you’re going to Christmas parties – a nice gesture in itself that also means you or your child can have a nice festive treat along with everyone else. You can even leave a mince pie out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve. He’s sure to enjoy it! Some mincemeat is made in factories that handle nuts, so you can make your own if you prefer or you can just use jam instead.
THE BIG EVENT – CHRISTMAS DINNER
Cooking Christmas dinner can seem like an overwhelming prospect, especially if you have lots of guests. We think it’s worth remembering that you are essentially just making a big roast, so don’t panic! Christmas dinner tends to be naturally allergen free anyway which is great news for food allergy sufferers and for you, too, as you don’t really need to do anything special to accommodate kids or adults with restricted diets. Why not try this delicious Jamie Oliver recipe for turkey and simply replace the ordinary breadcrumbs for gluten-free ones when you’re making the stuffing? Check out our directory of ‘free-from’ Christmas products for gluten-free brands.
For perfect roast potatoes, try this very easy Jamie Oliver recipe and stick to flavour combo one if you want to go for a healthier option using olive oil, or flavour combo three if you want to be a little more indulgent and use goose fat (avoid flavour combo two, though, as it uses butter). We know allergen-free gravy can be tricky to find as it often contains gluten, celery or egg, so if you’re struggling to make gravy that’s suitable for your guests, give this recipe a go. It’s very straightforward and really tasty. Complete your roast turkey with a big selection of vegetables (including must-have Brussels sprouts) and finish it off with cranberry sauce. You’ll have a truly delicious Christmas dinner that looks and tastes amazing. Nobody will know it’s allergen free, but those with allergies will be very pleased to join in with everyone else.
CHRISTMAS PUDDING FOR ALL
When it comes to Christmas pudding, you can make your own allergen-free Christmas pudding from scratch or you can cheat. There are some very nice off-the-shelf ones that are totally free from allergens. We have listed a few here that we think are absolutely delicious and just as good as those that contain nuts, butter, flour and eggs. It makes life much easier if you can serve all your guests the same pudding: not only do you only have to produce one rather than two, but it also saves worrying about cross contamination.
We hope our ideas give you some inspiration for the festive period and make life a little calmer over those hectic December weeks. Everyone, including those with food allergies, will enjoy Christmas and feel happily sated after a delicious meal. All everyone then has to do is pull on their wellies and go for a long walk to work off Christmas lunch.