I love this time of year. The sun is (finally!) shining, the days are getting warmer, and the prospect of summer is right around the corner.
With the unofficial start to summer about to kick off this weekend, no doubt many of us will be attending a Memorial Day cookout or two. From firing up the grill to drinking a few cold ones with your friends and family, nothing quite says “Let’s kick off summer” like a good Memorial Day BBQ.
Summer cookouts and backyard parties also means having to adjust to how we cope with food allergies. Food is being prepared by different people in different ways, and not everyone may be aware of a family member’s food allergy.
Here are a few food allergy safety tips to help you stay safe this Memorial Day weekend.
1. Grills are a risk for cross-contamination.
Grilling is a staple of any Memorial Day party. Unfortunately, grills present a huge cross-contact risk for food allergens. If you’re like me, you probably scrape, scrub, and sterilize the heck out of your grill at home to remove any trace of allergens. But if you’re visiting a friend’s house, you don’t always know what food was last cooked on it or how thoroughly it was cleaned.
Consider bringing your own portable grill to the party, or ask your host to cook on a separate grill if they have one. You will likely reduce the risk of cross-contamination with other foods and still be able to enjoy some delicious BBQ.
2. BYOB: Bring your own buns.
If you’re gluten-free, ask ahead if your host is providing gluten-free buns for hot dogs and hamburgers. If not, there’s no shame in bringing your own. Just make sure Uncle Jerry knows the difference between the two and doesn’t try to steal one of your gluten-free buns instead.
You can also try making your own gluten-free bread with our variety of gluten-free flours and bread mixes. Try Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix, or if you’re adventurous and baking from scratch, Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend.
3. Beware of dips and dressings.
Dips, sauces, marinades, salad dressings, and other condiments are a potential nightmare for people with food allergies. Always read the label if the items are store-bought, as many products such as BBQ marinades contain wheat or nut ingredients. Worcestershire sauce usually contains anchovies, and salad dressings often contain soy ingredients. If they are homemade, avoid them altogether.
4. Avoid the dessert table at all costs.
Unless you made the dessert yourself, it’s best to resist the tempting spread of cookies, brownies, and sweets. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago at a summer backyard BBQ. What I thought was a harmless Italian cookie ended up containing peanuts. A trip to the ER later, I suffered the worst allergic reaction I’ve had in years.
Ice cream is also a high risk for food allergens, as many brands contain ingredients processed on shared equipment. Again, always read the label before you eat. If it’s a brand you’ve never had before, best to avoid it.
5. When in doubt, do without.
If you have a question whether or not something is safe for you to eat, ask first. Then, if you are still unsure, don’t eat it. You have no way of knowing for certain whether the nuts on that salad are only almonds, or if that BBQ sauce is truly gluten-free. Stick to what you know, avoid what you don’t, and always read labels.
6. Always carry epinephrine.
This last one should go without saying, but if you have food allergies, it’s recommended that you carry at least 2 epinephrine auto-injectors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten my Epi-Pen and wish I hadn’t. Epinephrine, not Benadryl, is the only line of defense for anaphylaxis and should be taken immediately if symptoms start to occur. Then, call 911.
I hope these food allergy tips allow you and your family to have a happy and safe Memorial Day! Until next time, happy snacking!