(Good Things Utah) Food allergies can present a unique challenge for cooks and dinner guests. But there are some simple ways to craft an inclusive dinner menu for guests with food allergies or sensitivities.
“The key is to ask,” said Carly Alba, a registered nutritionist with Intermountain Healthcare.
“If you’re hosting an event, it’s important to reach out to your guests beforehand, on the RSVP or in a private conversation, to see if they have a food allergy you can address,” Alba said. “Talking to guests in advance can result in a much more fun, inclusive experience for everyone.”
Food allergies and hypersensitivities affect millions of people in the United States, the FDA reports.
Allergic reactions to foods can be life-threatening and vary from hives to anaphylaxis. People with food intolerance or hypersensitivity can experience gastro-intestinal symptoms after eating certain foods, which can be painful but are not life-threatening.
Here are some ways dinner hosts can include guests with food allergies:
- Ask the guest what foods they can eat, and how to safely prepare and serve them.
- Know the FDA’s major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans, and as of last year, sesame.
- Read the fine print. All food labels are required to state whether they contain any of the major food allergens, and whether they were processed in a facility that also processes any of the major food allergens.
- Do not serve certain foods if an allergy is severe (peanuts, for example).
- Be mindful of cross-contact. This can occur by using the same utensils, serving trays, toasters, or cutting boards that have had contact with allergen-containing foods.
- Serve a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Allergen-free bakeries or certain store-bought products also can be good options.
“Serving a variety of fresh foods and foods free of common allergens is a good way to ensure guests can eat something and be included at your party,” Alba said. “Food is often used in social settings, and a little effort up front can go a long way in building relationships.” More information about foods and nutrition can be found at IntermountainHealthcare.org.
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