Baking for the holidays can be a complete joy, but as the prevalence and severity of food allergies continues to increase, more home cooks are placing a greater focus on allergy-friendly holiday foods to accommodate family members and other guests at their table.
Food allergies are not only on the rise, but there has been a 50 percent increase in prevalence from 1997 to 2013 in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It remains unclear why food allergies are on the rise, but the CDC estimates up to 15 million Americans suffer from a food allergy, with the incidence in children being about 1 in 13.
Ask. It’s important to ask your guests in advance, if anyone has a food allergy. That way, you can curtail your menu accordingly. Similarly, if you are bringing dishes to a potluck or sending treats to school with your children, ask co-workers or your child’s teacher, about food allergies ahead of time. Many schools or organizations may automatically request nut-free snacks or desserts for safety purposes. While it may seem intimidating to you, your audience will certainly be grateful that you have gone out of your way to provide something they can eat. Sending a list of ingredients along to the school may also be appreciated.
Read labels. Knowing what to look for on a food label sometimes is difficult or confusing. Some ingredients have several names, so learning the scientific names is essential for management and treatment of food allergies. Most reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
Perfect prep. Since even a small amount of a food allergen can cause a reaction, it becomes essential to watch how you prepare and serve items. Some food allergy sufferers are more sensitive than others. However, when in doubt, always err on the side of being overly diligent and prevent cross contamination. Be sure to thoroughly clean work surfaces and utensils before use. Try not to multitask too much, juggling preparations for other dishes. Focusing on the allergy-friendly dish can help avoid any contamination from other dishes.
Get creative. If you are trying to cook without gluten, to save on cost, you may want to blend your own flour. If you do so, you will need to purchase a few different ingredients in order to closely replicate the similar texture you get from gluten. Otherwise, more options are now available to purchase premade gluten-free all-purpose flour in bulk.
While holiday baking for food allergies may seem intimidating at first, with some diligence and planning, you can make items that are not only tasty but safe for your guests. Food allergies can often lead children and adults to feel isolated at social events revolving around food. So, your kind gesture of having allergy friendly foods and beverages available will be welcomed.
Technical and scientific names of highly allergenic ingredients
Milk: Caramel color, casein, caseinate, dry-milk solids, lactalbumin, milk protein hydrolysates, natural flavoring, nougat, rennet casein and whey
Egg: Albumin, cholesterol-free egg substitutes, globulin, livetin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovovitellin, vitellin
Soy: Emulsifier, hydrolyzed protein, lecithin, miso, plant protein, protein extender, protein filler, shoyu, sobee, soy nuts, soy sauce, soya, soybean flour, soybeans, TVP
Wheat: All-purpose flour, bran, bread crumbs, bulgur, durum flour, enriched flour, gelatinized starch, gluten, graham flour, Kamut, miller’s bran, modified food starch, pastry flour, semolina, spelt, starch, vegetable gum, wheat germ