Parents of food-allergic youngsters know that the most surefire way to safeguard their kids from trigger foods is to prepare all meals and snacks at home in a controlled environment. For this week’s series, I asked three top voices in the Twitter food allergy community, Kim Maes, Cybele Pascal and Robyn O’Brien — all parents of children with food allergies — for their favorite cooking tips, essential tools and strategies to prepare allergen-free food.
A well-stocked kitchen isn’t enough to safeguard your family from foods that could trigger an allergic reaction. You’ll also need to study up on cross-contamination, which may mean relearning several aspects of cooking at home.
1. Sanitize your hands, thoroughly and often. “I can’t stress how important this step is,” says Cybele Pascal. “Wash your hands between each step while prepping and cooking, with warm water and soap, and dry them on a clean paper towel or fresh dish towel.”
2. Clean and sanitize food-preparation areas before, during and after the cooking process. “Wash down kitchen surfaces. Don’t just wipe or brush them off — clean them thoroughly. I’m talking counters, cabinet knobs, the faucet and the surface of that salt shaker,” Pascal says. “Be sure that all equipment, pans and utensils have been thoroughly washed and sanitized before you use them.”
3. Assign dedicated “safe” shelves in your kitchen cabinet, pantry and refrigerator. “I separate shelves in my pantry and in my refrigerator to designate which foods are allergen-friendly and safe for the food-allergic family members,” says Kim Maes. “This [method] is great for caregivers who may not be aware what is safe for your children to eat.”
4. Assign dedicated “safe” kitchen appliances and utensils. Pascal recommends using separate cutting boards, with at least one that’s designated for preparing allergy-free meals. “You may also wish to have separate pans and utensils,” she adds. “More expensive, but less risky. Be sure to label them and keep them in a separate area when they’re not in use.” Pascal also advises parents to label and separate eating utensils for food-allergic individuals.
This article, written by Marissa Brassfield, originally appeared on CalorieLab