How to Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest

Three Parts:Assessing Your Guest's NeedsBuying the Right FoodsPreparing the Food

Food allergies are very serious and may be fatal in some individuals. If you host a dinner party or have house guests, there's a chance that one of your guests may have a food allergy. Your guest may require alternative food options. You may even have to remove that allergen from your household completely. With careful planning and medical preparedness, you can accommodate a guest with any food allergy.

Part 1
Assessing Your Guest's Needs

  1. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 1
    Ask about allergies. The first step to accommodating a guest with food allergies is to find out what your guest is allergic to.[1] Be specific when you ask about allergies - for example, if your guest has a nut allergy, ask them, "Is that just peanuts, or are you allergic to tree nuts as well?" Common food allergens include, but are not limited to:
    • peanuts
    • tree nuts
    • milk
    • eggs
    • wheat
    • soy
    • fish
    • shellfish
    • sesame
  2. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 2
    Determine how severe the allergy is. Some people with allergies can be around the food they're allergic to, they just cannot eat it. In this case, it may be safe to buy and prepare that food for other guests, as long as precautions are taken.[2] Other individuals may have more severe allergies. These individuals may experience symptoms from merely breathing in the same room as their allergen.[3]
    • Ask your guest how severe the allergy is. Make sure they're honest and straightforward to avoid any potential problems.
    • If your guest's allergy is severe, you'll need to avoid having that food out (or any traces of it left behind) when you prepare your meal. You may even need to remove that food from your home altogether for really severe allergies.
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    Be gracious. Anytime you host a guest, you should make that individual feel at home. If your guest has a food allergy, they might feel self-conscious about that allergy. Many people worry about being an inconvenience or a burden on others, especially if they have special needs that must be accommodated.
    • Let your guest know that you are more than happy to make accommodations for their allergy.
    • Don't make a big deal about preparing a separate meal for your guest. This may make them feel even more self-conscious about their needs.
    • Try to offer at least a few different options to your guest. If they stay with you for a week and eat the same meal(s) every day, the meal may feel a little repetitive.
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    Be prepared for an allergic reaction. Even with careful planning, there is always a risk that your guest could come into accidental contact with an allergen. Mild reactions can occasionally be treated at home, but severe allergies may be fatal and will typically require hospitalization.
    • Mild allergic reactions may include hives/rash, redness/itchiness of the skin, stomach pain (including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea), sneezing or coughing, runny nose, nasal congestion, or a strange taste in the mouth.[4]
    • Skin rashes and itching can be treated with creams, lotions, and antihistamines. Swelling can be treated with corticosteroids in some individuals.[5]
    • Signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, a tight throat, a faint pulse, pale or blue skin, swollen tongue or lips, widespread hives/redness, severe gastric reactions, or feelings of anxiety/confusion/disorientation.[6]
    • Epinephrine should be administered if your guest experiences anaphylaxis. If symptoms do not improve or if they return, you may administer more doses after waiting at least five minutes from the previous dose.[7]
    • Call emergency services (911 in the United States) for any severe reaction. While you wait for emergency services, have the individual lay flat with their legs elevated and keep the individual warm with blankets to avoid a drop in body temperature.[8]

Part 2
Buying the Right Foods

  1. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 5
    Find allergy-sensitive recipes. Once you know what you can and cannot work with to prepare food for your guest, you may be able to easily modify a recipe you already know. If you cannot do this, or if you'd rather get creative in the kitchen, you can purchase a food allergy recipe book in bookstores or online. You can also find recipes online for free by searching for "allergy-friendly recipes."[9]
    • Consider using websites that are written by organizations or medical professionals. These tend to contain more reliable information than a personal blog or website might offer.
    • If possible, look for recipes written or approved by a licensed nutritionist.
    • A nutritionist's abbreviated credentials may be CNS (Certified Nutritional Specialist), CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist), RD (Registered Dietitian), CCN (Certified Nutritional Consultant), CN (Certified Nutritionist), or MD (Medical Doctor).[10]
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    Read labels. Before you purchase or prepare anything for your guest, you should read all the labels on those products. Food labels will state whether a given allergen is in that product. Labels will also say whether a product "may contain" a given allergen.[11]
    • Carefully read the labels and ingredients of every product you purchase before making food for a food allergic guest.
    • In addition to the ingredients list, the label should disclose whether the food was prepared on any shared equipment that could create a cross-contact risk.[12]
  3. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 7
    Find substitutes for milk or egg allergies. For guests who are lactose intolerant or who have an allergy to dairy or eggs, you'll need to provide some type of allergy-friendly substitute. Fortunately, dairy and eggs are two of the easiest foods to substitute when cooking for someone with allergies.[13]
    • Nondairy milk made from rice, soy, almond, or other nuts can be a good alternative if your guest is allergic to dairy.[14] You can also buy nondairy cheese, yogurt, and other foods.
    • If your guest is allergic to eggs, try scrambling tofu, using frozen yogurt, or topping sandwiches with avocado or hummus instead of mayonnaise.[15]
  4. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 8
    Make alternatives to seafood for fish or shellfish allergies. Seafood is an umbrella term that covers both fish and shellfish. Some people are allergic to just fish, others to shellfish, and still others to both. If your guest is allergic to any type of seafood, you'll need to get creative.
    • Use canned chicken instead of canned tuna for guests with a fish allergy.[16]
    • You can also mix olives and sun-dried tomatoes into cream cheese and serve it on a bagel as a delicious alternative to smoked salmon or lox.
    • If your guest has a shellfish allergy, use risotto cakes instead of crab cakes. You can also serve other meats or meat alternatives instead of shellfish.[17]
  5. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 9
    Cater to a soy allergy. Soy allergies can usually be avoided if your guest eats meat. However, if your guest is vegetarian or vegan and has a soy allergy, you'll need to find substitutes that meet your guest's dietary needs.
    • Avoid soy by using seitan or a meat product instead of tofu. You can also use rice milk, nut milk, or dairy instead of soy milk.[18]
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    Make food for someone with a wheat allergy. Individuals with a wheat allergy cannot eat many food staples like pasta or bread. However, that doesn't mean that you can't make a delicious meal for that individual.
    • Try using pasta made from corn, rice, or quinoa for guests with a wheat allergy.[19]
    • Search online for other alternatives or ask your guest what they usually use instead of wheat products.

Part 3
Preparing the Food

  1. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 11
    Keep the allergen separate. Cross-contact is the accidental exposure to an allergen that takes place during a food product's storage, preparation, or serving. Even if you don't actually cook or serve the allergen, it's still possible to expose your guest to that allergen if you're not careful.
    • Keep the allergen(s) as far as possible from the rest of your food and your food preparation area.
    • If your guest has a severe allergy, you may need to remove the allergen from your household altogether.
    • Ask your guest about the severity of their allergy to determine the best course of action.
  2. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 12
    Thoroughly wash cooking and eating equipment. To help reduce the risk of cross-contact, you'll need to thoroughly clean your cooking and eating utensils and equipment, as well as the food preparation area. You should do this before preparing or handling the allergic guest's food and after you've handled or prepared the allergen.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water anytime you handle or come into contact with an allergenic food.[20] You should also wash your hands before handling or serving the allergic guest's food.
    • Make sure your utensils, dishware, and cookware have all been thoroughly washed with soap and water before preparing or serving any food to your guest.
    • If your guest dines with you regularly, you may want to consider buying utensils, cookware, and dishware that will only be used for allergen-free foods.[21]
    • Dishwashing liquid alone may not be enough to effectively remove certain allergens like peanut protein from tabletops and other surfaces. Try using soap and a commercial cleaning product like bleach to ensure all preparation and dining surfaces are safe.
  3. Image titled Prepare Food for a Food Allergic Guest Step 13
    Prepare the alternative dish(es) first. If cooking food for other guests that contains the allergen, cook the food allergic guest's meal first to avoid cross-contact. That way if any cross-contact occurs, it will only be the allergy-friendly food coming into contact with the allergen. Keep the allergic guest's food covered and as far as possible from the other food which contains the allergen.[22]


  • In addition to cutlery, dishware, and cookware, you should also use separate dishcloths or disposable paper towels while preparing your guest's food.


  • Severe food allergies may be fatal. Make sure your guest has medication on hand in case of accidental exposure, and seek emergency medical attention any time your guest experiences the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Allergies and Immunization | Dinner Parties