Cooking and Baking with Food Allergies
If you or your child has recently been diagnosed with a food allergy, you may find yourself looking for a new way to prepare food. How does one go about making a birthday cake without wheat? Are pancakes now off-limits because you are not able to use eggs? Will you have to give up frozen desserts because of a milk allergy? Fortunately, the answers to these questions are “no”!
With time, experimentation, and patience, allergy-friendly cooking can be fun and enjoyable. And, today there are more special diet cookbooks on the market than ever before, and several websites offer favorite tried-and-true allergy-free recipes.
Learn what ingredients you should avoid, and read food labels carefully so that you can successfully avoid your food allergen. Food manufacturers are required by law to use simple terms for food allergens (such as “milk” or “egg”) on food labels and must list these ingredients if they are present in any amount in the food.
Plan for extra time when grocery shopping so that you can read labels when you are not in a rush. Do not take short-cuts with label-reading!
Set up your kitchen and pantry so that it is allergy-friendly. For example, designate special shelves in the pantry or refrigerator where allergy-friendly products, such as specialty flour blends or powdered egg replacer mixes, are stored.
Some common allergy-causing foods (i.e., fish, shellfish, peanuts, or tree nuts) are easy to avoid when cooking from scratch. Other common allergens will require an ingredient substitution.
If you are avoiding milk, you may be able to tolerate a milk alternative, such as those made from soy, rice, or coconut, which can be substituted in equal amounts.
There are commercial powders that will replace eggs when baking from scratch, and others have had success with replacing each egg in a recipe with 1 packet gelatin mixed into 2 tablespoons of warm water.
Baking without wheat is particularly challenging, since no single flour will produce the same results in a baked good as standard wheat-based flour. A combination of flours made from rice, potato starch, tapioca often works best. You may need to experiment to find the combination that works best in your recipe. There are also several commercial wheat-free flour mixes available on the market that are convenient and work well in a multitude of recipes.
Cross-contact occurs when proteins from two or more different foods mix because they have come into contact with one another. When preparing allergy-free foods, clean all equipment, utensils, and surfaces prior to their use with hot, soapy water.
When cooking or baking, prepare extra portions so that you may freeze the extra for later use. Having a meal ready to go will save you time and energy on hectic days.
If you find a recipe you like (either one that is allergy-free, or one that you have successfully modified), keep it in a binder, or enter it into an online menu/recipe-planning application.