Practical Ways to Enhance Your Cooking Experience Through Tech

We live in an age with advantages our grandparents never dreamed of. Technology is constantly opening new doors for anyone who loves to cook--no more leafing through newspaper clippings or handwritten notes to dive deeper into culinary explorations. To take advantage of all the tech available today, here are some tips to keep in mind as you broaden your palate and hone your skills in the kitchen:

Use your smartphone.

It might be hard to beat some of the recipes that have been passed down through your family over several generations. Nonetheless, there are more convenient ways to learn about new dishes these days. With the wealth of apps and websites available, you can discover countless new cuisines and find detailed directions on how to make them part of your personal menu.

However, when using your smartphone to find recipes, plan meals, shop for ingredients, and do other cooking-related tasks, pay attention to how much data you're using, especially if you're in an area without Wi-Fi. Overage charges can drastically raise your phone bill, and that counteracts some of the money-saving advantages of eating in.

Take advantage of great apps.

There are so many apps on the market today that can help food lovers, amateur chefs, and busy parents alike with everything from managing recipes to meal planning, from grocery shopping to cooking. Here are a few of our favorites to spice up your cooking:

BigOven -- This app offers more than 350,000 different recipes to choose from. It also ranks recipes by popularity and allows you to search for specific types of recipes.

Yummly -- This app also has plenty of recipes to discover, along with video guides on how to make them. It's especially helpful for people with food allergies, as you can narrow your search to foods that accommodate specific allergies.

Grocery iQ -- As the name suggests, this app is primarily for grocery shopping, and it helps you shop smarter by adding items to future grocery lists. All you have to do is take a picture of the item or scan the barcode. 

SideChef -- Out of all the cooking apps on the market, GeekWire points out this one might have the most bells and whistles. Among other things, it allows you to access cooking instructions and connected smart appliances with your voice.

Cook your favorite restaurant dishes.

One benefit of dining at local restaurants is that many of the dishes are created specifically for those restaurants. If you have some favorites that you would like to try at home, St. Louis Mag suggests asking the chef for a recipe next time you eat at the restaurant. You could also try contacting them through social media or email. 

Even if you can't get all the recipes you want, you can use the restaurant menus as a starting point for ideas to research. Food52 recommends letting your palate be your guide so you can savor those menu delights at home without the hefty price tag. 

Stock your kitchen with handy devices.

One of the most impressive types of cooking devices to surface in the past decade is the sous vide machine. While there are many different brands and forms, all sous vide machines are designed to do just what it sounds like--enable amateur chefs to cook with the sous vide method. This method used to be available only to chefs at high-end restaurants, which is why it's currently one of the hottest trends among foodies.

Other devices to consider adding to your kitchen include:

  • A digital assistant (e.g., Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.)
  • A Wi-Fi slow cooker
  • A digital thermometer
  • An automated pressure cooker

No matter what level of chef you are, you can grow your cooking expertise by using technology. Remember to make sure your data plan is sufficient, and take advantage of some of the helpful food apps on the market. Lastly, ask for recipes from your favorite local restaurants, and look into all the great devices that can boost your kitchen experience. Bon appetit!

Image via Burst

Balancing Healthy Eating with Summertime Treats

Summertime: a time of lazy mornings, firefly-lit evenings, all-day swimming, state fairs, and neighborhood tag. Yet the idea that kids eat healthier and exercise more in the summertime is somewhat of a myth. One study published in Obesity concluded that children are more likely to gain weight over summer breaks than during the school year.


There are a number of contributing factors. Kids often have fewer regular sleep-wake schedules, which can disrupt sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. They're spending more time in front of a screen. The food served at home may be less nutritious than what's served at school.

Beat the summer pounds

It's so easy to grab a bag of snacks when you're looking for something to fill your rumbling tummy. But resist the urge by keeping processed foods away from your pantry and offering these options instead:

Fruit kabobs. Watermelon, which is 92 percent water, helps keep you hydrated and full without you consuming too many calories. Pineapple bursts with sweet, juicy goodness, improves bone strength and eye health, and boosts the immune system. Both fruits hold their shape well, so get out the cookie cutters and thread them onto bamboo skewers with a few blueberries and strawberries mixed in to add other pops of flavor and color.

Love a little tart with your sweet? Eat a handful of cherries. Their anthocyanins help speed up fat burning and decrease fat storage. Cherries also contain beta carotene, vitamin C, and other compounds that help fight cancer.

Add a handful of raspberries to your breakfast cereal. They're a great source of fiber and cholesterol-lowering pectin. The antioxidants fight against heart and circulatory diseases and cancer, and the ellagic acid contains anti-inflammatory properties.

Make a fridge snack station for your kids stocked with frozen yogurt bark, watermelon pops and slushies, apple "donut" slices, raspberry and coconut energy bites, and more.

Healthy recipe hacks

Certain foods are synonymous with summer, like funnel cakes, corn dogs, macaroni and potato salads, burgers and ice cream sandwiches. No one says you have to eliminate these delicious foods from your diet--but try to only indulge in them as occasional treats, and try these alternatives instead.

Instead of a corn dog, aim for hot dogs that have fewer than 150 calories and 14 grams of fat. Eat it on a whole-grain bun, and top it with lower-sodium condiments. Make your own lobster rolls with just a bit of low-fat mayo on a whole-wheat roll, and add only a tiny bit of butter.

Make faux fried onion rings by coating sliced onions with egg whites and a mix of whole wheat flour, panko breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese. Spritz with cooking spray or olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. No deep frying required!

Choose unsweetened tea over other sugary drinks. With zero calories and antioxidants, make it yourself using tea bags rather than buying mixes or ready-to-drink options at the store. Check out these nine thirst-quenching recipes.

Grill corn on the cob. Corn's lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants that help lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older folks. Corn's insoluble fiber also feeds the good bacteria in your gut to help with digestion and keep you regular.

Looking for other recipe hacks to "healthify" favorite foods? Try these 90+ recipes from Food Network.

Boost your mental health

Everyone benefits from healthy eating. Incorporating certain foods into your diet even reduces feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, and sadness--each of which negatively affects your mental health. 

For example, plant nutrients--called flavonoids--decrease the risk of depression. One study reported that participants felt happier after consuming blueberries. Blueberries also have a positive effect on memory, learning capacity, and motor skills. We all know turkey's reputation for creating tryptophan-induced comas, but it turns out that tryptophan also raises serotonin, a mood-regulating and brain-boosting chemical. So, bring on the low-fat cheese sticks--because cheese contains even more tryptophan than turkey!

Summertime shouldn't include a vacation from healthy eating. Try some of these tempting, tasty treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth instead.
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Making a Low-Vision Kitchen: Adapting your Cooking Area for Visual Impairment

According to the World Health Organization, more than 2.2 billion people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. If you have low-vision you know how tricky using your kitchen can sometimes be. However, this should not deter you from cooking. There are a number of things you can do to make your kitchen much more user-friendly.

Get Your Kitchen Organized

  • Develop a system: Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. Keep herbs and spices together on the same shelf or in a wall-mounted spice rack. Keep utensils on a rack or in a holder close to the kitchen counter you use to prepare your food. 
  • Get hot on labeling: For jars and containers that look similar, you may want to consider labeling them in braille so you can tell instantly which is thyme and which is basil. There are other tactile signifiers you can use. For example, put a rubber band around the milk carton so you can distinguish it from the juice.
  • Make the most of lighting: If you have partial vision, install lighting under your cabinets to brighten up your counters. Adjustable arm lamps are also handy for focusing light on an area where you are working. Seating yourself with windows in front of you or beside you can also help.
  • Make cabinet doors safe: Make sure that you close cabinets after use to avoid accidents with open doors. When you do open them, open them fully. To avoid accidents, you can place a strip of brightly-colored tape down the edge of all cabinet doors so you can see where they are when they're open. 
  • Keep a good contrast: Use a cutting board that contrasts clearly with the items you're preparing if you're partially-sighted. When choosing oven mitts, dish towels and utensils, make sure they contrast with countertops so that you'll find them easily. 
  • Use a timer: When you're waiting for food to cook, always use a timer so you don't have to keep checking the oven. Not only will you know when the food is ready, it will also help you remember to turn off your appliances.

Using Appliances

  • Low-vision assistance: These days, many manufacturers offer appliances with dials that are large-print or braille, features with contrasting colors or marking kits. Ask about these features before you make a purchase.
  • Simplify cooking: If you love homemade bread, a bread machine is ideal. For soups and stews, use a crock pot. If you're in the mood for some barbecue, a George Foreman grill cooks on both sides to eliminate hassle. Small countertop appliances are often safer than using the stove or oven.

Cooking Tips

  • Record your recipes: Want to use your favorite recipe over and over? Record it to your mobile device so you can use it whenever you like. 
  • Use all of your senses: Listen to the sound of food cooking. Learn to recognize the feel of food when it is cooked and of course, use your sense of smell in the kitchen; many foods smell differently when they are done.
  • Take a sniff: Smell spices before you add them to make sure you have the right one.
  • Control cold liquids: When you're pouring cold liquids, keep the tip of your finger hooked over the lip of the vessel you're pouring into so that you don't over-pour. Listen to the change in sound as your pour. 
  • Control hot liquids: You can't do the same with hot liquids or you might burn your fingers, so you'll have to listen very carefully. Make sure you don't splash yourself, and avoid hot steam on your hands and face. Pour dark liquids into a light-colored vessel and vice versa. 

If you are visually impaired, you can still have fun in the kitchen. Just remember to be careful, take your time, and use all of your senses. Your dinner guests are sure to be impressed with your culinary skills!

Image credit: Pixabay: congerdesign

Should You Go Vegetarian?

Animal agriculture is a leading source of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, making going meatless one of the best things you can do for the planet's health. But what about your own health? Is a vegetarian diet really better for you, or is it all hype?

The case for going vegetarian

The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are well-documented. Eating vegetarian is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer of any type or dying from any cause, according to  Harvard Health. Vegetarians are less likely to be overweight or obese than meat eaters, in turn reducing their risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.

Reaping the benefits of vegetarianism involves more than cutting out meat. After all, many highly-processed foods are vegetarian, but that doesn't make them healthy. Vegetarians should both eliminate meat and up their intake of whole, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Many people worry that a vegetarian diet can't provide enough protein. The truth is that most Americans get more protein than they need. Along with all that protein, Americans are getting higher cholesterol and an increased risk of death from diabetes or cancer. Most people only need 46-56 grams of protein per day, an amount that's easily met via vegetarian proteins like legumes, whole grains, tofu, and tempeh.

Fermented foods in the vegetarian diet

Tempeh? If you're not familiar with this great vegetarian protein, it's time to learn. It's one of many fermented foods that introduces beneficial prebiotic and probiotic foods into the gut microbiome, but it isn't the only fermented food vegetarians should include in their diet. Dark chocolate, sauerkraut, and kefir are just a few that help to improve gut health. The fermentation process also strengthens immunity, makes food more digestible, and increases the bioavailability of nutrients like iron, which can be harder to get in a vegetarian diet.

Getting started with vegetarianism

A nutritionally-adequate vegetarian diet isn't a difficult concept. However, it is important to plan before making the switch.

The first step is deciding if you'll include eggs and/or dairy in your diet. Eggs and dairy make it easier to get enough protein and vitamin B12, but aren't necessary for a balanced diet. Vegetarians who exclude eggs and dairy should take B12 supplements and/or eat fortified foods to get enough of this important vitamin.

The simplest way to transition to vegetarianism is by replacing meat in favorite recipes with a vegetarian protein. Beans replace meat in chilis and tacos, tofu delivers protein in stir-fries, and veggie burgers offer a convenient alternative to beef patties. Once you're comfortable with these meatless meals, experiment with new dishes like whole-grain salads, vegetarian curries, and tofu scrambles.

Eating out can be difficult when you're vegetarian, but restaurants are increasingly catering to plant-based eaters, and many cities have dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurants. If eating at a new restaurant, check the menu online to look for vegetarian options. If you're stuck at a restaurant without a vegetarian entree, take a mix-and-match approach to side dishes, salads, and appetizers to create a satisfying meatless meal.

Going vegetarian might not turn you into a superhuman overnight, but over the long term, a vegetarian diet makes a real impact on your health. And not only is eating meatless good for you, it's also easier than you think. Start experimenting with vegetarian cooking, and consider making your own switch to meat-free living.

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How to Teach Your Children to Cook Safely


Teaching your child to cook is great for their development. They learn a lifelong skill that keeps them from becoming dependent on takeout (expensive!) and frozen foods (gross!). It instills patience while they are waiting for their cake to bake or for the soup to simmer. They grow more confident as they learn to master new dishes and skills. Cooking as a family is also a great opportunity for bonding, since it gives you plenty of time to talk to each other and learn about one another. Your child will cherish the memories you make together in the kitchen. 

Of course, the kitchen can be quite dangerous. From contamination to cutlery, it can be a dangerous place, so there are various safety precautions you will need to teach your child. 

Back to the Basics

Before you ever break an egg, make sure your child is briefed on the kitchen safety rules we often take for granted. While you may wash your hands without thinking twice, your child needs to know why we do it and when it is necessary. Help your child wash his or her hands before you cook, after handling raw ingredients, and in the event they touch something unsanitary during the cooking process. 

You will also need to explain to your child about the dangers of cross-contamination and how bacteria and other harmful microbes can cause foodborne illness. Always separate raw food from cooked food and wash anything that raw food touches. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables and keep uncooked foods away from those that will not be cooked, such as salad greens.  

Dress for the Occasion

While you should make sure your child is properly attired when working in the kitchen, it's also important to lead by example. If you have long hair, tie it back. Always wear shoes in the kitchen to protect your feet from burns or falling objects that can break the skin. Avoid loose clothing, and remove any jewelry you normally wear. Basically, you want to dress comfortably but without extra appendages that could get caught, stuck, or fall in the food. 


Many home fires begin in the kitchen, so make sure your child knows how to put one out before a small flare turns into a devastating problem. Teach them to call you or another adult immediately in case of fire. Their first instinct may be to throw water on the fire, but that can be a big mistake; instead, you should always have baking soda on hand to smother flames. If there is a fire in a pan, remove oxygen from the fire by putting a lid on it. Your child shouldn't have to do any of this-- taking care of dangerous flames is your job. However, it's still important to tell them how to handle a fire in the kitchen so they have the knowledge instilled in them and they can recall it once they are grown. 

Know about Knives 

Knife safety is one of the most important kitchen lessons for everybody, not just children. Show your child how to properly pass a knife to another person and how to place them in a dishwasher. When they are old enough to chop ingredients on their own, always use a sharp knife. Dull knives are more likely to slip and injure. Monitor their knife use until they are comfortable enough to do it on their own. 

Cooking with your child is an incredibly rewarding experience for you both. However, since the kitchen can be dangerous, you need to instill safety lessons as soon as possible. Go over the dangers of cross-contamination and foodborne illness. Lead by example by dressing in a fashion that reduces accidents. Teach them about fire safety, but put out the flames yourself. Finally, take your time when teaching them to use knives, and monitor them to make sure they don't injure themselves. These little lessons will help your child grow confident in the kitchen as they learn a healthy skill for life.

Photo via Pixabay

Affordable Nutrition Tips for Seniors

Nutritional deficiency can affect people of any age, but seniors are at a higher risk of missing some of the vitamins and minerals they need. As we get older, our nutritional needs change. As a result, the diet we've had for most of our lives might not do the trick anymore. Here's a look at how to tell if you need to change your diet and ways to do so that won't break the bank.

Signs You Need to Make a Change

You can't fix a problem you don't know you have, but there are a few signs you might be missing out on some vital nutrients. One big clue is if your day-to-day diet is identical -- or close to it. Everyone falls into certain routines in life, and food is one area where most of us tend to settle into familiar patterns. However, if you tend to mostly eat the same foods or the same kinds of food every day, it's possible you're missing out on valuable nutrients.

Take a look at your diet throughout the week. Is there a lot of variety? Do you get plenty of fruits and vegetables? What about healthy protein sources? Eating the same things is OK if you're covering all of your nutritional bases, but if you're not, try to mix it up with some new recipes.

How you feel is another great tool to gauge whether or not you're getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Feeling lethargic or achy? What about depressed or anxious? There are several physical and mental signs of nutritional deficiency that you should know.

Seek Medical Guidance

If you suspect you're missing out on a particular nutrient, don't just go with your gut. Contact your doctor, and ask for a full nutritional panel. This will identify anything missing from your diet. This blood work can also reveal any nutritional absorbency issues, such as celiac disease.

If you're a Medicare Advantage Plan subscriber, you may be able to get further guidance when it comes to hitting nutritional goals. These plans provide low-cost opportunities for you to meet with medical professionals who can give you solid techniques for hitting both nutritional and exercise goals. Sometimes, a little extra support is all you need!

Grocery Goals

Shopping for food is most likely your biggest opportunity to up your nutritional intake. However, not being a mindful shopper can quickly lead to a high grocery bill. Here are ways you can get what you need without spending a ton of money -- you might even find your grocery bill gets smaller!

  • Frozen Fruits and Veggies - Fresh produce is great for you, but there are several drawbacks to only buying from the produce section and skipping the freezer aisle. Fresh fruits and vegetables have a much shorter shelf life than their frozen counterparts, so you could wind up throwing much of what you buy away instead of actually eating it.
  • Low-Cost Proteins - If meat is your primary source of protein, you can cut costs by focusing on less-expensive protein sources, such as eggs and beans. Try to make meat a special-occasion food and get your regular protein elsewhere.
  • Off-Brand, On Budget - Most of the time, store-brand products are just as good as their name-brand counterparts; often, they're even packaged on the same production line. If you have a name brand item you absolutely love, feel free to keep it on your list, but keep generic and store-brand items in mind as low-cost alternatives.

Focus on getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs, and you're likely to feel more energized, have an easier time managing your weight, and get sick less often. The right foods can keep our bodies as healthy as possible, so make sure you're getting everything you need to function at your best. After all, you deserve it!

Photo Credit: Pexels

3 Simple Steps to Turn Your Kitchen into a Meal Prep Station

If you're on social media, you've likely seen meal prep ideas scattered across the profiles of friends, family, and celebrities. That's because prepping healthy meals is the easiest way to keep yourself on track with diet and nutrition. You can set aside some time on the weekend to get plenty of wholesome meals and snacks ready for your entire family, which can be helpful when your weekdays are packed with to-dos. To make that meal prep less stressful, though, you need to have your kitchen set up properly. Here are a few tips to help you do just that. 

Start by Cleaning and Organizing Your Kitchen

At the core of a successful and stress-free meal prep routine is proper organization, so check Pinterest for organizing tips that will streamline the process in a way that works for your kitchen. For example, these pantry cleaning ideas will make it easy to find ingredients. You can label cute glass storage containers to keep your pantry looking tidy and organized enough to share on social media, and use crates to keep meal-prep containers and bags neatly tucked away. 

Add a Few Meal Prep Tools and Essentials 

One staple every meal-prep chef needs is a cutting board. Small ones work great in cramped kitchens, but if you have the counter space, a large board will help you knock off multiple food-prep steps with less cleanup. To make chopping all those healthy fruits, veggies, and proteins a little easier, you should also invest in a collection of knives. At bare minimum, you should have a sharp chef's knife for slicing and chopping, but paring and serrated options are perfect for handling veggies like soft tomatoes and shallots. Finally, no meal-prep kitchen is complete without a set of containers. You can choose from glass, metal, or plastic, but think about getting matching sets to keep your pantry looking tidy. 

Make Cleaning Up a Breeze

Preparing meals ahead of time is an effective and simple way to achieve your health goals. On meal-prep days, though, you are bound to be left with some messes in your kitchen. Since you worked so hard to get it clean and organized before, make sure it stays that way. Use these 15-minute kitchen-cleaning tips to make all of those meal-prep messes disappear so you can get back to enjoying your weekend. Keep your trash can or compost bin handy while dicing and slicing so you can scrape away scraps as you go. One of the perks of meal prepping is dealing with fewer dishes, but you can let the dirty ones soak while you move on to other cleaning steps.

Setting your kitchen up for meal prep is pretty simple. You just need to keep your kitchen organized and have the right tools for prepping and cleaning. Then, you will be all set to prepare healthy meals and snacks for your family.

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A Guide to Stress-free Holiday Entertaining

Hosting friends and family for the holidays should be fun. Unfortunately, many of us lose sight of having a good time because we get too busy worrying about making everything perfect. If you'd like to put some more joy back into your holiday season, this guide to stress-free holiday entertaining can help.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead and scheduling as much as you can help you stay on track during the preparation period and on the day of the party. Knowing what details you need to take care of and when you need to address them will keep you from feeling overwhelmed throughout the process.

How to Throw A Fabulous Holiday Party on a Budget

Holiday Party-Planning Timeline

6 Christmas Party Invitation Dos and Don'ts
Why You Should Use Holiday Party Catering
Top 5 Tips for Getting Guests to RSVP

Don't Attempt to be Martha Stewart

If you aren't crafty, and if you aren't the world's best cook, give yourself a break when it comes to decorating and cooking. Make simple DIY crafts to stay within your budget or buy inexpensive ready-made ones, and stick to easy recipes you can make ahead of time or slow-cooker meals.

60+ Christmas Crafts That Double as An Activity and Decorations

50 Quick and Easy Holiday Decorating Ideas

Easy Crock-Pot Holiday Dinner Recipes

10 Great Make-Ahead Holiday Appetizers

15 Quick and Easy Holiday Desserts

Make Your Home Comfortable

If you're filling your home with lots of guests and holiday decor, things can quickly go from cozy to cramped. Getting clever with rearranging a few key pieces of furniture and how you decorate will help the space feel more inviting and help you feel more at ease.

Cleaning Tips for a Party-Ready House: Easy 7-Day Plan

Party Prep Tips: Making Space for a Crowd

8 Ways to Keep Kids Entertained While Adults Mingle

What to Do With Your Pup During a Party

Design a Budget

One of the best ways to limit your stress when it comes to party planning is making a budget you can adhere to. As you shop for your party, don't underestimate the power of online deals either. There are plenty of ways to feed your guests and decorate your home without spending a fortune. 

How to Save Money on Holiday Party Invitations

25 Fun and Festive DIY Party Decorations

Affordable Mixology: Fancy Cocktails on a Budget
Easy Christmas Party Favors

Be Kind to Yourself

Even when you're well-organized, holiday hosting is stressful. Take breaks when you need them to allow yourself to reset via some self-care.

Smart Ways to Eat Healthy During the Holidays
5-Minute Yoga Sequence for Stress Relief

4 Reasons to Keep Exercising During the Holidays
How to Get Better Sleep During the Holidays

The holidays certainly can be stressful, but if you go into the season knowing that hiccups will occur and that it will be OK when they do, you will enjoy them so much more. Plan your time wisely, don't worry about being perfect, and take some downtime when you need it so you can savor every moment.

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How to Make Your Kitchen a Safer Space for Family Members with Food Allergies

Photo: Pexels

If you’re living with a food allergy or share your home with a loved one who does, you understand the constant fear of allergen exposure. It’s a fairly common situation for American families, since about 4 percent of adults and 5 percent of children are allergic to one or more types of food. The most common food allergies include:

  • Dairy (milk and milk-based products)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

When it comes to making your kitchen a safer space for family members with food allergies, the easy answer seems to be to keep hazardous foods completely out of your home. Of course, the solution is rarely that simple, especially for families with members who don’t suffer from this condition. However, there is a lot you can do when it comes to food storage, kitchen organization, food handling, and clean-up to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Our guide explains how you can improve your kitchen’s safety when you or a loved one has a food allergy.

Photo: Pexels

Food Storage and Kitchen Organization Safety

The way you store your food and organize your kitchen can play a huge role in the health of those with food allergies. These strategies will help you create a safer atmosphere.

Assign Allergens to the Lowest Storage Shelves

Organizing your refrigerator, cabinet, and pantry shelves is key when it comes to food-allergy safety, so place any items containing allergens on the lowest shelves to help reduce the risk of cross contamination. In your refrigerator, cold products may drip onto food below, which could lead to huge health risks if dangerous ingredients fall onto “safe” foods. You should also be sure to use a drip tray of some sort directly under the foods in your fridge that could cause an allergic reaction, even when they’re placed on the bottom shelves. Meat, shellfish, soy, and other products have a tendency to leak, providing more opportunity for cross contamination should their juices flow onto shelving. As a bonus, you’ll have a way to remove these items without having to touch their packages.

It’s wise to apply this same thinking to the areas where you store products that don’t need to be kept cold or frozen. It’s still possible for these items to spill or leak, so keeping them low is a good way to avoid dangerous situations.


If you have young children, you’ve probably already taken childproofing measures. However, you’ll need to be extra vigilant when food allergies are a factor, especially if you store dangerous foods on low shelves. Not only will this protect your child from eating something they shouldn’t if they’re the allergy sufferer, it will also help ensure kids who don’t have food allergies touch the fare and then touch other items, which could lead to cross contamination and put someone else in your home at risk.

Use Secure Packaging

As often as you can, opt for airtight, leak-proof packaging. Styrofoam trays covered in plastic, which grocery stores often use to hold meat and seafood products, have a habit of leaking, as do single-use plastic baggies. Glass storage containers with latching lids are a great solution. You can also opt for silicone storage bags, which use a plastic slider to secure them more tightly than the seal on single-use baggies. They also sit upright, which helps prevent spills, and as a bonus, they can be kept in the freezer and even boiled to make food prep safer and simpler.

What’s more, secure packaging makes it more difficult for kids to get into any food they’re able to reach (despite your best childproofing methods!). Anything you can do to more tightly enclose products containing allergens will help you create an overall safer kitchen.

Label Your Items

It’s a good idea to label all of your ingredients as “safe” or “unsafe” in your fridge, cabinets, and pantry. Color-coded containers are an easy way to accomplish this, or you can simply write the words on pieces of tape.

Be Careful with the Dishwasher

Especially if you have curious kids, you’ll need to be mindful of placing dirty dishes, utensils, and food storage containers in the dishwasher. In addition to childproofing this appliance as necessary, be sure you close the dishwasher as soon as possible when adding anything contaminated to it. Don’t keep it open if it’s going to take a few minutes to load, because this gives kids an opportunity to expose themselves to something harmful. Pets are another factor here — dogs and even cats that lick up or put their paws or noses in the contaminant could transfer it to your loved one when showing their affection. It’s also a good idea to run it right away if there are any allergen particles left on anything inside.

Photo: Pexels

Food Prep and Cooking Safety

Preparing food for someone with food allergies can feel like a challenging — or even scary — endeavor. These tips will help take the stress out of making and serving meals.

Make Allergen-Free Meals First

Preparing contaminant-free meals before making dishes that contain allergens is the number-one rule for families with food-allergic members. Doing so will not only help keep them safe, it will also make many of the steps below easier to follow (or even allow you to eliminate them).

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands with hot, soapy water any time you’ve touched something containing a food allergen and move on to working with the ingredients, food-prep tools, dishes, and silverware for the person with food allergies. Always err on the side of caution by thoroughly washing your hands if you even think you may have touched something potentially harmful.

Use Multiple Cutting Boards

The same way you wouldn’t place produce on a cutting board you just used to prepare raw meat, you shouldn’t use the same board for working with “safe” ingredients and those containing allergens. Even if you wash them between uses, you may run the risk of cross contamination. To be as safe as possible, buy multiple cutting boards that are assigned to allergen-free and general use.

Use Separate Tools

You should also use different knives, spoons, tongs, and other kitchen utensils when making food for and serving it to those with food allergies. Similar to cutting boards, having designated tools for different meals is a great way to ensure there are no accidental mix-ups. Color-coding or using a numbering system (marking food-safe tools with a “1” and general-use items with a “2,” for example) simplifies keeping like cutting boards and food-prep tools together.

Be Aware of Airborne Particles

When you’re mixing as well as when you’re cooking on the stove or even in the oven, there is a risk of particles moving from one dish to another. To put safety first, try these tips:

  • Use separate parts of your counter to prepare liquid and powder products that can splatter or waft through the air, potentially contaminating allergen-free food.
  • Move pots and other cookware as far away from each other as possible on the stovetop, and always use lids on items when you can.
  • Cook allergen-free food items separately from those with contaminants in the oven. Even if you space out cooking sheets and baking dishes, ingredients may splatter or drip on one another. Plus, if the allergy is severe, fume exposure may present a serious health threat.

Clean Everything Thoroughly

Once everyone has cleared their plate, make sure you clean everything well. If you use a dishwasher, use our safety recommendations above. If you wash dishes by hand, be sure to use hot, soapy water, scrub each item thoroughly, and only soak items you’re absolutely certain children and pets can’t reach to avoid risking cross contamination.

Also be sure to clean your food-prep and eating surfaces, including your countertops, kitchen table, and placemats (opt for plastic or silicone versions rather than cloth, since these can be wiped down between uses and won’t have to be thrown in the laundry after every meal). If you suspect anything spilled in your refrigerator or pantry while pulling out your ingredients, be sure to sanitize the shelves as well.

Lastly, be sure to clean other surfaces you likely touched while preparing your meal, including:

  • Refrigerator handles
  • Cabinet knobs and handles
  • Food storage containers and lids
  • Doorknobs
  • Sink faucets

Use Disposable Towels and Rags

The best way to avoid cross contamination is to use paper towels to wipe your hands and clean your countertops any time you’re handling food that may trigger an allergy. If you prefer using cloth towels, be sure to change them out immediately if they come into contact with an allergen. Similarly, if you wear an apron, be sure to avoid wiping your hands on it — if you accidentally do, take it off, and put a new one on right away.

Photo: Pexels

Other Safety Steps

In addition to taking care when storing ingredients, preparing food, and cleaning up after meal prepping, there are other measures you can take to ensure dangerous foods don’t come into contact with those with food allergies. Use these safety strategies to protect the health of every member of your family.

  • Keep an eye out for warning signs of an allergic reaction. There are some minor, non-life-threatening symptoms, such as itchy skin, teary eyes, and an upset stomach. If the individual has signs of anaphylaxis, including difficulty breathing, a rapid or weak heart rate, or loss of consciousness, call 911 immediately, and administer their epinephrine autoinjector (common versions include Auvi-Q, EpiPen, and Symjepi) as prescribed and according to its instructions.
  • Be extremely careful shopping. In addition to looking at ingredient labels, you should also be wary of the production process of foods. For example, if you or your loved one has a tree nut allergy, it’s best to avoid any product that shares manufacturing equipment with products containing them.
  • Teach children with food allergies what to say to other food preparers and handlers in order to stay safe. If you have a young child, you may be programmed to provide the information about the nature and severity of their allergy to others, but it’s important they also learn how to talk about it as early as possible.

    Discuss how to give this information when they’re at school, friends’ homes, and restaurants. They need to be able to state exactly what the allergy is and what happens if they ingest it, so be specific. For example, you may coach them to say, “I’m allergic to tree nuts, and if I eat them or any food that has been exposed to them, I will go into anaphylactic shock.”

    However, try to use age-appropriate language. While you want your child to understand the severity of the condition, you also don’t want them to live in constant fear. When having this conversation, be sure to answer any questions they have and reassure them that as long as you work together to make everyone aware of their food allergy, there is nothing to be scared of.
  • Have a family discussion about the food allergy. Children of all ages need to understand the severity of the issue and the importance of taking action to keep you or your loved one safe.
  • Let anyone who enters your home know that you or a family member has a food allergy, and preferably, tell them ahead of their visit. This will prevent them from bringing anything into your home that could trigger an allergic reaction.

Having a food allergy or living with someone who does is stressful in the best of times — and terrifying during worst-case scenarios. Being cautious when you’re shopping, laying out your kitchen, preparing meals, and cleaning up will go a long way in not only keeping your entire family safe, but also in giving you peace of mind.