Cooking for someone with food allergies involves a lot of thought and attention to detail if your kitchen is not typically an allergy-free zone. These three categories can guide you step-by-step as you prepare an allergy-friendly meal for someone you love.
STEP 1: Cleaning
They say cleanliness is next to Godliness, and when dealing with food allergies, there has never been a truer statement. Clean, clean, clean! Clean your countertops with a disinfectant spray and a clean washcloth or a disposable paper towel. Clean your pots, pans, measuring cups, utensils and any other tools you’ll be using during the process. All of these supplies should be washed with hot water and soap and then dried with a clean dish towel. You could also run these items through the dishwasher instead of hand-washing and drying.
STEP 2: Ingredients
When looking at recipes and making your grocery list, you might think that you have the majority of the ingredients you need. Think again! Cross-contamination can cause allergic reactions, so it is important to use brand new ingredients, even if you already have them!
When purchasing foods, it is important to read the nutrition label thoroughly and check the ingredients. Once you’ve done that, do it again! Double-checking is key. Before you begin cooking, have another set of eyes check the ingredients (preferably the person with the allergies or their guardian).
Taking a photo of the nutrition label or saving the actual wrapper is a must! Those with allergies need to see with their own eyes that the ingredients are safe.
STEP 3: Serving
Serving the meal is the easiest part of the process, but it is still important to do your due diligence! Often times, there will be a full meal served with a salad, entree, sides, etc. and not all of these courses will be allergy-friendly. Be sure to clearly label which items are allergy-friendly and include each of these items with its own serving utensils.
Be mindful of cross-contamination, specifically when serving appetizers. For example, if you are creating a cheese and cracker plate, do not put the gluten-free crackers on the same tray as the regular wheat crackers. If you have a fruit and vegetable tray, place the dips on a separate tray, as they may have allergens in them.
Cooking for someone with food allergies does not have to be stressful. Effective cleaning practices and clear communication are all you need to keep everyone safe, full, and happy!