During the holiday season, many of us are in the full swing of cooking, having our shopping carts and refrigerators filled to the brim with food. Inviting people over for dinners or going to potlucks, it is always good to be mindful of those attending that have food allergies or intolerances. Here at Nima, many of our team members have food allergies or special diets, so when cooking for potlucks, we like to follow a few simple tips.
• Read all the labels! It’s important to always read through the ingredient list for anything that might contain gluten or one of the top eight allergens (wheat, milk, soy, egg, fish, shellfish, peanut and tree nuts). To learn more about how to read labels for gluten, reference this blog post! When in doubt, it’s best to leave it out!
• Don’t be afraid to ask those you are cooking for what they can eat. Sometimes it is best to ask instead of cooking things you think may be safe but aren’t.
Always cook all gluten-free, allergen-free dishes first to reduce the chance of cross contamination. Since this is not always possible, especially if you are cooking a lot of different dishes, below are some helpful tips while cooking.
• Keep a designated gluten-free, allergen-free area when cooking. This is a good way to avoid cross contact. Avoid wooden utensils, cutting boards or any other kitchen appliances that have been used for gluten/allergen-containing foods before, as wood grains can hold onto gluten and allergen proteins even after washing.
• If you are cooking gluten-free, allergen-free dishes and other dishes at the same time, use separate utensils. It might be helpful to tag those utensils that are used for gluten-free, allergen-free cooking with a color, so it is easy to keep track. We all know how common it is to have a messy kitchen while cooking!
• Although this is not always possible for those that are cooking for others with allergies, try to use separate cookware if possible, such as toaster, microwave, oven, cutting board. Since this is not always possible, thoroughly clean all cookware before cooking gluten-free, allergen-free dishes, and for electric appliances, use foil or toaster bags to keep gluten-free, allergen-free foods from coming in contact with allergens.
• To reduce the chances of cross-contact, dispose of any extra utensils that are lying around. Only have those utensils out that you are actively using.
• If you are cooking gluten-free, allergen-free dishes and other dishes at the same time, wash your hands often while cooking. Wash them every time you switch between dishes.
• Keep a designated gluten-free, allergen-free area when cooking.This is a good way to avoid cross-contact through people sharing utensils between gluten-free, allergen-free and other dishes. You can also label each dish with allergens that the dish may contain. We like these printables from ConsumerSafety.org.
• We hope these tips help you when you cook for those in your life that have allergies. Remember your best resource for information is the person you’re serving, so if you’re unsure, just ask!
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