More children and adults live with allergies, food intolerances, and diseases like Celiac Disease than ever before in history. It is harder to cook a meal or serve snacks for kids and adults with regular food that most people keep in their homes. But when you have a child or an adult that visit your home with these issues, it is crucial to follow these food preparation and serving instructions to prevent an ER visit or a very ill child or adult. Living with Celiac Disease as an adult, I am more prepared to avoid foods and instances where the food preparation or service of the food is questionable. Children are unable to always determine what is safe and what isn’t, so being aware and prepared is key. If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to prepare and serve safe foods for your guests.
1. Thoroughly wash your counters and prep areas before bringing out the food. All utensils used for foods that are gluten free, etc. should not touch items that have gluten or other allergy inducing foods. I.E. Peanuts should not be used at all in any food preparation if a child is allergic to them. Even the peanut dust can induce an allergic reaction. Best practice is to make your home peanut free for the day of the party to prevent a reaction.
2. When serving allergy friendly foods, you should use separate utensils and plates/serving trays. Do not mix allergy friendly foods with allergic reaction inducing foods. I.E. Gluten Free foods should not be on the same plate as foods that have gluten in them. Cross Contamination is just as bad or worse than eating foods with gluten in them.
3. Put signs next to the food to indicate gluten free, egg free, dairy free, peanut free, etc. so there is no doubt when picking foods to eat. It makes it easier for everyone if they don’t have to ask you about every single item, but be prepared for some questions. It’s nothing personal, we just need to make sure we eat only the items we are supposed to eat! And yes, brands are very important with these types of things!
4. Do not roll or place items in allergy inducing foods if they were already allergy free. I.E. Gluten Free pastry mix for cinnamon rolls that were rolled in flour that was not gluten free. Those cinnamon rolls are now no longer gluten free and cannot be served as gluten free.
5. Do not panic when trying to find allergy friendly foods. There are a lot of items that are naturally gluten free, egg free, dairy free, peanut free, etc. The more processed foods you buy, the less allergy friendly items you will find. I recommend sticking with fresh veggies, fruits, and other items that are naturally allergy friendly. Most products are now labeled with what it contains, but you will need to be more savy in figuring out what some items have. Not all dips, sauces, and dressings are allergy friendly. When making baked goods, stick to the brands that are known to be allergy friendly: Pamela’s, Bob’s Red Mill, etc. They are made in factories that are allergen free and also give you tips for taking out other allergens that the recipes may call for like eggs.
6. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Whenever in doubt or unsure of what to serve or what is safe, ask the parents or the adults who have allergies, food intolerances and health needs. We do not mind and we actually appreciate you asking us! This is a win-win for both parties involved! You learn a little more about our needs and we feel more at ease with the food choices you make.
These are some basic guidelines that will help make any party, play date, or get together safer for those with food issues and it will be a more pleasant experience for all involved. These steps are not any more difficult than preparing for a regular meal or snack, but are important to the safety and well being of those you serve. Once you follow them, it becomes easier with practice and those of us with food issues appreciate the extra effort you go to make us safe.