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Super Bowl Parties and Food Allergies


Updated January 08, 2009

Whether you're hosting a Super Bowl party and anticipating guests with food allergies, or whether you have allergies and are planning to host a crowd, one thing's for sure: this is one bash where gluttony's the norm. Is it possible to have an allergy-friendly Super Bowl party that will satisfy your guests who can (and will) eat anything and everything? Absolutely -- with some pre-party planning and creativity.

Do Your Homework

If you're sending out written invitations, ask guests to let you know about dietary restrictions when they RSVP. Spreading the word over e-mail? Include a request for anyone who's concerned about party fare to drop you a line. Whether your guests have allergies, dietary intolerances, or are avoiding particular foods due to IBS or ethical concerns, they'll appreciate the consideration. The benefit for you is, if at all possible, knowing well in advance which allergens to avoid and avoiding a scenario where a guest doesn't have safe food to eat.

Keep Ingredient Labels

I can't begin to count the number of times I've passed on party food that was likely safe because I couldn't confirm the ingredients. If you're expecting guests with allergies, keep the labels of packaged ingredients or condiments. Dealing with bulky containers you'd like to throw away as soon as possible? Write down the ingredient list (if it's short), or call the allergic guest and read them the list for confirmation if they're amenable to answering these sorts of questions before the party.

Segregate Unsafe Eats

Many guests with allergies or other dietary restrictions won't expect that you banish foods they can't eat from your household. However, if you're serving some unsafe foods at your party, one gesture that would surely be appreciated would be to set up a table with safe foods and a separate stash of plates, cups, and flatware, along with a prominent note asking guests to be careful about keeping the area allergen-free.

Prevent Cross-Contamination

Especially at large parties, consider having guests label disposable cups with their names using a permanent marker. If you're serving wine, charms on the stems can help avoid mix-ups. This can prevent guests with allergies from drinking from a cup used by someone who has eaten an allergen. Also, make sure that each item on a buffet table has its own serving utensil and that allergenic items are served on their own plates. (If a guest has a dairy allergy, for example, don't put meat or fruit on the same plate with cheese.) This will help minimize the chance of cross-contamination between serving dishes of safe and unsafe foods.

When In Doubt, Avoid Common Allergens

If you're expecting a large crowd and aren't sure what sorts of food allergies you might need to accommodate at your party, you can try avoiding some of the foods that are most likely to cause problems. Open dishes of nuts are major cross-contamination risks for those with allergies, and nut allergies are often severe. Shellfish allergies are the most common among adults and also tend to be severe. And while pizza is popular, wheat and dairy are both common allergies and intolerances.

Safe, Popular Eats

Chicken Wings
Photo © Moi Cody, stock.xchng

Homemade chili can be made safe for most allergies and is a classic Super Bowl party dish. Many chips are allergy-safe (check with your guests if you need specific recommendations); guacamole and many salsas are crowd-pleasing and safe for many allergies. Baked chicken wings or thighs are safe, as are some Italian sausages and other meats. And a large fruit salad complements salty food. Try a champagne dressing rather than corn syrup-preserved canned fruits to make fruit salad last longer.

When You're The Guest

If you've got allergies and you're not hosting the Super Bowl party, all the usual precautions for eating away from home apply. Never eat anything unless you're absolutely certain of all the ingredients and certain that it's free of cross-contamination. Expect the game to last at least four hours (including the halftime show and advertising time); you may be at the party longer if you arrive during pregame. Consider eating beforehand, bringing some portable safe snacks, or offering to bring a safe dish or two to share.

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