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Allergies : A Safe and Happy Holiday

Dips, casseroles, desserts, and homemade treats abound this time of year, making the holidays particularly challenging for anyone with a food allergy. Food is at the center of our holiday festivities, and an allergy doesn't mean a loved one has to miss out on all the fun. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers the following tips for hosting guests with food allergies.

Start at the store. Learn which ingredients are problematic and read all ingredient labels. Keep the labels for everything so an allergic guest can double check. When shopping, avoid cross-contact by keeping allergenic foods in plastic bags or a second cart, and keep them separate at the checkout and in the car.

Set up a storage system. Label allergen-free foods to avoid confusion. Keep foods that contain the allergen on shelves in the fridge and pantry below allergen-free foods.

Conscious cooking is key. Use separate utensils, cookware, and small appliances (food processors and blenders). Prepare and cook allergen-free foods first on/in cleaned equipment and surfaces.

Wash and sterilize. Wash and sterilize everything that will come into contact with the allergen-free food. Wash hands with soapy water. To clean surfaces and larger appliances, use a dry towel to wipe down crumbs first and then wash or sterilize.

Avoid cross-contact while serving. Serve guests with a food allergy first, and carry their dishes separate from others. Don't double-dip with utensils -- a squeeze bottle for condiments is a great option for avoiding cross-contact. Clearly label options that are allergen-free. If you're hosting a guest with a food allergy, avoid make-your-own dishes with a high risk for cross-contact, like salads, sundaes, and topping bars.

If your non-allergic guests would like to contribute to the party, suggest alternatives to food, like flowers, wine, coffee, or holiday-themed napkins and plates. With clear communication and preparation, all of your guests can focus on enjoying the holidays and spending time with family and friends.
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