An important step in hosting someone with a food allergy is preparing the kitchen. This task initially seems daunting. But I promise with a few simple steps, your kitchen can be food allergy friendlier in no time.
Step 1: Put Away Food Allergens, If Possible
Something I have to commend both my parents and in-laws on was their thoughtfulness when it came to my son’s food allergies. Both sets of grandparents, instinctively placed all peanuts, tree nut and sesame seed products out of reach from my then toddler. This didn’t mean that we didn’t keep a close eye on him in the kitchen, of course. But it did give us all some peace of mind knowing that he couldn’t reach these items on the top shelf of the pantry.
Step 2: Create a Safe Snack Drawer
Again, I relay this wonderful idea from my parents and in-laws who cleared out a drawer in their kitchens and filled it with safe snacks for my son. Now in elementary school, he knows that if he’s hungry he can safely choose anything from that drawer. Should you lack space in your kitchen: don’t despair! You can create a safe basket or storage bin instead. When educating the food allergic child, be sure to make this safe space a big deal. A special snack drawer will help everyone in the house learn which snacks are safe and deter the child from roaming uninvited amongst potentially unsafe food.
Step 3: Plan Your Meals and Okay Them Before Shopping
If your visit includes meals at home (including breakfast!), it might be a good idea to talk to the child’s parents about this before grocery shopping. There may be some hidden ingredient problems that parents who are well-versed in managing food allergies can warn you about as well as some simple substitutions to keep the meal on track. For example, a sesame seed-allergic child cannot typically eat regular breadcrumbs. A dairy-allergic individual cannot eat anything made with butter. But both have simple substitutions found at local supermarkets.
Step 4: Pots and Pans; Cutting Boards and Counters
If you regularly cook with the child’s food allergens and plan to use your cooking tools to prepare a meal, you’ll need to wash them. I encountered this problem right away upon discovering my son’s food allergies. He was just diagnosed as severely allergic to peanuts right after I had made delicious peanut butter dessert bars. Agh! I called my allergist for some guidance on what to do. He suggested we rinse off any peanut debris and stick the whole baking pan in the dishwasher. That’s it!
I would also recommend you run all cutting boards in the dishwasher, if possible (or otherwise thoroughly clean) and wipe down all counters to avoid any cross-contamination issues.
Hope this guide has been helpful so far!