This is a guest post written by Lauren DeShazo.
Well friends, it’s that time of year again! Time where our schedules are even busier than they are now. Friendsgivings, Thanksgiving, classroom parties, school plays, Christmas and Hanukah.
Most of the upcoming holidays and events will revolve around food. I don’t know about you, but I love to eat! Some of the best times are those gathered around the dinner table with family and friends, sharing stories, enjoying a home cooked meal, and making new memories.
Now, if your family is anything like mine, cooking and dinner time can be a challenging one. You see, my son has recently been diagnosed with food allergies. He’s allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, soy, gluten, cashews, almonds, whey, and yeast. I know right?! Talk about a bunch of things we have to look out for. Having all those allergies makes dinner time and going to parties harder.
You know that saying “work smarter not harder,” that’s what my family and I are going for this year. Even if your family doesn’t have food allergies to work around, maybe someone who will be joining you this holiday season does. If so, I’ve put together five tips to help make cooking for food allergies a little easier.
Food Allergies: 5 Tips for Safe Cooking
Know your guest list. Whether it’s only five people or thirty-five people, know who will be eating. Call, text, or email your guest and ask if anyone has any food allergies. Make sure you write them down if anyone says they do! Knowing that there will be safe food for them to eat will feel like a weight being lifted for your food allergy guest.
Make a shopping list. I know that seems like a no brainer but some people, myself included occasionally, go to the grocery store without lists! Think of everything you’re wanting to make and write it all down. Then, write out a list for all the ingredients. Leave a space or parenthesis beside the ingredient you will need to avoid so you can write in the safe alternative.
Look up substitutions. This step might take a little time but thank goodness for Google! If you have someone coming over who’s allergic to eggs but your most beloved dish calls for eggs, find an alternative.
We use Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer for most recipes that call for eggs. You can find it at Target, Walmart, Publix, and even Amazon! If you can’t find that particular product, you can just use unsweetened applesauce! Use ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce for every one egg.
Also, I’m sure a lot of you will be baking this season and will use flour. Most flour comes from bleached or unbleached wheat. Do you have a guest coming that’s wheat or gluten sensitive? Gluten allergies or those trying to avoid gluten are more common these days. Try using an All- Purpose Gluten Free flour. They even make gluten free cake mixes!
Read all ingredients. There are so many ingredients in things it can sometimes be overwhelming. Be sure to read all labels carefully. After you’ve read them, read them again! If you don’t know what an ingredient is, Google it!
I’ve mom failed on multiple occasions by skim reading the ingredients only to get home and have one disappointed little boy.
Want an example?
Zebra Stripe gum. GUM! I saw it by the check out and told my five year old how I used to have that same kind of gum when I was a kid. How cool the wrapper was because the tattoos would show up on your tongue! So, of course he wanted it! I skimmed the ingredients and thought, it’s gum what could really be in it that he’s allergic to?!
We get home, unload the groceries and I go to give him a piece, re-read only to see soy lecithin on the ingredient list. Y’all, I felt terrible. I never would have thought that gum would also contain soy. He was so excited only to be let down because I didn’t take the time to read ALL of the ingredients. So be sure to double check or even call up the person with the allergy and make sure that whatever the product is, it is safe for them to consume.
Be aware of your prep and cooking environment. I don’t know about you, but come holiday season I’m in the kitchen making multiple desserts and goodies. I’ll have milk, spices, oils and more set on the counter alongside my baking dishes and cookie sheets.
Now, I know I’ve listed this at tip number five but it is one of the most important! Be conscious of your environment. Sounds a little silly right? But it is so easy to cross contaminate when you’re not aware.
*Start off with a clean prep surface. Lysol wipe those counter tops before you put all of your pots, pans, and ingredients up there!
*Be sure to wash your hands before, during, and after! I know, another duh moment, but when you don’t have allergies to be aware of on a daily basis, it’s easy to not even think about washing your hand before and after you touch something.
My son can’t have regular cheese or yeast. So, if I eat a slice of pizza for dinner and he asks me to refill his cup, I have to wash my hands before I touch his cup. If I don’t, my cheese and yeast from the crust germs will get on that cup which will then get on his hands which will inevitably touch his face. That will cause him to have a flare up and he will break out in red, splotchy, extremely itchy welts.
That pound cake over there you just poured in the pan called for flour and egg whites but the dish your working on now is for your food allergy friend, be sure to wash your hands before you began prepping. *Cook your food allergy guest’s dish before you cook the non-allergy foods. This will help eliminate the chances of contamination.
Having someone in your family or friend circle with food allergies is tough. As with life, we take the hard things and come up with a way to make them easier.
My son has been blessed with family and friends who take the time to read all the ingredients before bringing or making something he can’t have. It’s hard telling your five year old he can’t have something when all the other kids are eating and enjoying it. I am thankful we have such caring people around us who make sure my son is included.
I hope these five tips help you this holiday season! I’m still relatively new to the food allergy scene, but I know those tips have helped my family out a ton! I’m positive your food allergy friend or family member will be thankful you’ve taken the time to prepare a dish or meal that they can also enjoy.
And hey, if you’re wanting to make another memory for 2019, go shopping with the person who has the allergies and make that dish or meal with them!
Lauren DeShazo is a stay-at-home wife and mother with two adorable children. She truly has a “heart of gold,” as she always puts her family and friend’s needs and wants before her own. Since Lauren’s son was diagnosed with food allergies, she has made it her mission to learn about the ingredients she uses in the kitchen. One of her goals is to provide safe, tasty, and fun options her entire family can enjoy.
While you’re preparing for holidays and events, I have the perfect stationary to recommend! Check out the holiday cards and invitations Basic Invite has to offer.