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Allergy Basics

Keeping an Allergy-Friendly Kitchen

kitchenPhoto: Thinkstock

You’ve been given the list of foods to avoid and the task of reading the labels on everything in your kitchen.

You may be wide-eyed at the task ahead, but with a little preparation (OK, a lot at first), and maybe a few new tools, you’ll soon be able to make safe, nutritious meals for you and your family.

Yes, you’ve got to read through all those ingredients on food labels. Start with the help of a friend: have one person read the label while the other person checks the list of items to watch for with your allergen. You’ll get the hang of it with a little practice.

Consider too, whether an item may have become contaminated by another item. Did someone use a knife smeared with peanut butter to dig into the jam? It’s not worth it to keep 35 cents worth of jam if there’s a chance of a reaction. Face it, you will throw away food.

Will you keep some allergens in your home for those who don’t have the particular allergy? This is a personal decision that is based in part on necessity, part preference. Can the nutritional requirements of all family members be met on a diet restrictive of all allergens?

Since being prone to allergies in general runs in families, but you don’t inherit specific allergies, some families find that several members have different allergies. To accommodate all, they need to keep some allergens in the home.

If this is the case, special care must be taken to ensure there is no accidental exposure. You can employ:

- Special drink; special cup – Kids love to have their own special items. Having a cup for each child means they won’t drink from the wrong cup by mistake.

- Be alert when handling dangerous foods! Some parents have been known to implement rules such as: “No white liquids when Mommy is tired.” Keeping foods in different looking containers is helpful. If you purchase your soy milk by the carton, consider buying milk by the bag.

- Color code – This is great for the young child who can’t read but has mastered colors. A system of green (OK) and red (not OK) dot stickers works well. They can quickly find a safe snack by themselves and you have a built in system for recognizing which food is safe for whom.

- Label – Storing foods side-by-side can increase the risk of contamination by spills. A plastic container kept in the fridge and labeled with the individual’s name is a handy way of avoiding this issue. Babysitters will appreciate a container full of safe snacks in the cupboard that can be given out. Keep some safe foods at levels the children can reach and store allergens up out of reach.

Next: Safe Kitchen Gear

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