Safer Meal Tips When Hosting Guests with Food Allergies
The number of people with food related allergies and intolerances is rising and rising. Even if you don’t have a direct family member with an allergy, you are likely to have a friend or a friend of one of your children who suffers from food allergies. It can be hard to know what to cook for them, especially when it is an allergy rather than just an intolerance, as some allergies can be life threatening. As more and more of us are going to come across people who do have food allergies and intolerances, it is important to know what can help you to deal with them, what to do when preparing food for them, and just how to not cross-contaminate foods. With all of that in mind, here are some things to consider.
Planning ahead really is crucial, which is why it can be tricky if one of your children brings a friend home from school and let’s you know that they have a peanut allergy right when you are preparing dinner! Where possible, though, it is important to plan ahead. In most cases when it comes to people with allergies, they will usually let you know, especially if they are aware of their allergy.
In order to prepare an allergy-friendly meal, then it is a good idea to check with the guest exactly what they can and can’t eat. You should also be honest if you don’t feel that you are able to cater for them, and often they will be able to bring something that they have prepared and will be able to eat. If they have anaphylaxis with their allergy, for example, then you can’t guarantee that your kitchen is nut-free, as an example. In this case, they may be best bringing something themselves so they know exactly what is in it and the environment in which it was prepared.
Understand safe food preparation
When you are just cooking for your family in your kitchen, you will know what you are doing and taking steps to avoid contamination. However, if you are preparing a number of dishes, including one that needs to be free of a particular allergen, then it can lead to disaster if you’re not too careful. Even something as stirring a spoon into the dish that needs to be allergen free that was on a countertop that has come into trace contact with an allergen could be enough for problems if the allergy is bad enough. Some food preparation tips to follow are:
Clean your kitchen thoroughly before you start cooking, as well as any dishes and utensils that you plan to use. You want to get rid of any trace allergens that could be on surfaces.
Have separate preparation areas for the allergy dish, as well as specific utensils just for those dishes.
Cook the allergy-friendly meal first, as a way to avoid any cross-contamination, especially if there is risk of any airborne transfer.
Wash your hands before and after cooking, as well as after coming into contact with an allergen.
Make sure that foods are covered during and after preparation, in order to avoid any cross-contamination from foods that could spray or splatter on it.
If you are keeping foods in a refrigerator, keep any allergy-safe foods on the higher shelves, to avoid the risk of anything falling or dripping into it.
Make sure that you label foods and dishes that have been made, especially if there are some that are not allergy-friendly. This can be important for children, so a must if you have children around the house who have allergies.
Make sure that utensils are kept separate for each of the meals that you are preparing.
When serving foods, keep the allergy-safe dishes separate from others.
Look out for accidentally allergy-free foods
It can be an overwhelming thought to have to prepare food for someone with an allergy. Everything can suddenly seem dangerous, even when you wouldn’t have given it any thought before. The good news is that there are many foods that are ‘accidentally’ allergy-free. For example, if you have a child’s friend coming round to play and they are lactose-intolerant or dairy-free, snack foods like Oreo cookies are actually dairy-free! The same goes for things like rice and oats if you’re preparing a meal for someone who is gluten-free, these are naturally or accidentally gluten-free anyway. So if you’re wondering is oatmeal gluten-free, then the answer is yes, and you’ve got breakfast sorted for a gluten-free friend coming to stay. These things aren’t as complex or as scary as it may initially seem. Check labels and also speak to your friend and check what some of their favorite allergy-friendly snacks are, for example.
Purchase premade food
If you need more than snacks for the meals that you prepare, then it is a good idea to consider getting some premade food. It can help to give you some peace of mind that what you have is going to be suitable for their allergies, as the label will say so, which can save you some time and stress. There are so many things that you can get that are allergy-friendly these days, from desserts, to main dishes, and everything in between.
Keep communication open
It is a good idea to keep communication with your friend or family member open. Getting them involved in the planning and the cooking can help, if to give you some peace of mind rather than anything else. From their perspective, some people who have allergies can be reluctant to eat away from their home, as they worry about what is in it and if it is going to be safe for them. However, it will help them if they are part of the process of cooking the foods, preparing the meal plan, and being part of the preparation. They can see what is going into the dish and the precautions that are being taken to keep the dish free of contamination. When you work in a collaborative way, it helps to give you the time to learn more about allergy-friendly cooking, which is always going to be a good thing.
Preparing food for someone who has an allergy can be hard, and if it is a child of your own, can be a bit of a minefield as you try new things and see what does and doesn’t work for them. Some people can grow out of certain allergies or intolerances and some are there for life. That is why it is so vital to keep talking to them, asking them for their tips and advice, or what they usually would do or would eat. Many allergy children are pretty clued up on what they can and can’t have, no doubt because it has been drummed into them by their parents as to what is safe or not. So having children over with an allergy shouldn’t be something that is stressful or hard. Ask questions, double check things, and keep communication open with them. Get them involved with it too, and it can make a big difference to ensure a safe and happy meal or snack for all.
Have you had much experience with allergies in your home? It would be great to hear what you think and what has helped you at times like this. Allergies can occur at any time in life, so it is always wise to be prepared and to be ready for this kind of thing when it comes to cooking and food preparation.