Make Your Kitchen An Allergy Free Zone for Your Kids

While some families might opt to remove all food allergens from their home, this may not be the best solution for you.  Perhaps you have kids with multiple food allergies, or kids with different nutritional needs, or maybe you just feel that removing all the allergens is not for you. (That is ok, don’t sweat it, do what works best for your family.)  In any case, there are several precautions you can take to create an allergy free zone in your kitchen.

 

Keep in mind as you go about safe guarding your kitchen, that kids will be kids.  Remember that kids make mistakes, sometimes take things without asking, don't always return them to their proper place and of course don’t always ask for help.  However, in an effort to avoid cross contamination or food mix-ups, it is best as a parent to set forth a livable allergy free zone within your kitchen.

Try some of these tactics to keep your kids safe from food allergens:

  • Label It - To be certain that everyone who comes to your home knows which foods are “safe” and “not safe” put together a label system.  Be sure to label all foods, from the refrigerator to the pantry to the freezer to the counter, with a sticker system that is easy to understand.  Quite often it is easy to purchase green and red circle stickers and use these to represent green as “safe” and red as “not safe.”  Even the youngest of children can learn early on that green typically means “go” and red means “stop” indicating that these foods are okay or not okay for someone with those food allergies.  Upon every trip home from the grocery, have your kids involved in applying the stickers to the foods.  This will be a reminder of the importance of the labels in keeping the kitchen safe.  This can also serve as an easy way to educate babysitters, grandparents and visitors in your home. 
  • Shelf Space - To avoid mix-ups with similar looking food it is best to designate separate sections in pantries, on shelves or in kitchen draws to minimize mistakes.  Adorn the shelves or draws with a label or pictures so that even the youngest kids know which foods are allergen free.  It is best to not store the items side by side on a shelf, where it might be easy to grab the wrong item without realizing it. 
  • Keep It Clean -  Teach everyone the proper technique to wash their hands with soap and water before touching safe foods.  Explain how touching safe foods without washing them can contaminate the foods.  Remind them how the same goes for utensils and counter tops. It is important that do one “double dips” a knife into something like butter on toast, as it can contaminate the container it is in.  Counter tops should be cleaned prior to cutting or preparing food on them, even if you thought it was clean, it is better to do it again as a measure of good practice.
  • Keep It In The Kitchen -  In order to keep your house safe, it is very important that food is only eaten in the kitchen.  Once kids or family members take food to be eaten elsewhere, there is a greater risk for allergen residue and crumbs to contaminate other places in your home.  And with foods left behind in other spots, there is a greater risk for kids to mistakenly eat an item within reach without proper supervision.
  • Designated Dishes -  To help alleviate risk of contamination it is helpful to have a set of designated dishes, perhaps pots, plates or even cups.  For the younger kids it would be ideal to give them their own cups and plates, that they can easily identify as their own.  This way everyone else will be aware of what drinks or foods can be used in that set of dishes.  Allow your younger children to be a part of this process by having them choose a favorite cup, perhaps with sports or a theme from their favorite show.  Use this as an opportunity to make them feel special about their selection. 

    Follow these tips to set up your kitchen to be a safe, allergen free zone for your family.

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