Goodbye eggs, milk, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and sesame! While it would be rare to have a camper who has all these allergies, you may have multiple campers with allergies to several of the top nine allergens. In this case, you might consider serving a full menu without any of these allergens. Impossible, you might say? Consider these suggestions and see how achievable it can be.
Naturally Allergen-Free Foods as Your Foundation
The following foods are free of the nine most prevalent allergens, so predominantly using them to build your meals will provide much of the nutrition needed and stabilize your menu cost. Also, most of your campers will be nonallergic to these foods:
- Meats: beef, poultry, pork
- Carbs: rice, potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, squash
- Vegetables: all are free of the top nine allergens
- Fruit: all are free of the top nine allergens
- Oils: olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, avocado
Allergen-Free Staples for Menu Completion
Allergen-free foods are manufactured to replace the original allergen-containing foods. Adding these to your menu allows enjoyment of foods some campers might not otherwise get to experience. These foods may be ordered in bulk through some major food service vendors or online via sites like Amazon or Walmart. Retail quantities may be purchased at big box retail stores, big chain grocery stores, and health food stores. Check your food service vendor website or request a product list from your representative. These foods are generally more expensive than naturally allergen-free foods. At a minimum, you will need the following replacement staple foods for a successful menu free of all top nine allergens:
- Gluten Free Flours: Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur (see Gluten-Free Flour Mixes paragraph for specifics)
- Milk Products: rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk (see sidebar for more information on coconut)
- Cheese: Daiya
- Yogurts: Daiya, So Delicious (coconut milk version only)
- Butter: Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spreads, Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks for baking
- Dressings: Hellman’s Vegan Dressing and Spread
- Egg Substitutes for Baking: flax egg, chia egg, or Bob’s Red Mill or Ener-G Egg Replacer
- Breads: Katz Gluten Free Egg Free
- Buns: BFree Soft White Rolls or Sliders (sliced)
- Pastas: Barilla Rice and Corn Egg Free Pastas; Tinkyada Brown Rice Pastas
- Doughs: Wholly Wholesome Pizza Dough Balls; Brandon’s Best Allergen Free Pizza Crust
Coconut as a Food Substitute
Although the Food and Drug Administration classifies coconut as a nut, it is botanically a one-seeded fruit in the drupe category and lacks some of the proteins that individuals with tree nut allergies are generally sensitive to. So many people with tree nut allergies can safely eat coconut without experiencing an allergic reaction (American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 2014).
The Journal of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology published a study in 2010 that compared the relationship between sesame, coconut, and nut allergies in children. Findings showed that children with peanut or tree nut allergies were not more likely to be allergic to coconut (Nohe, 2020).
Daiya yogurt and some So Delicious yogurts are made with coconut milk. Be sure to check for coconut-specific allergies before serving these products to campers and fellow staff.
Mentionable Information about Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
Just a few years back, one would have had to mix between three and seven gluten-free flours and xanthan gum to come up with a solid gluten-free baking flour. Today, a number of gluten-free manufacturers have taken some labor and guess work out of gluten-free baking by offering gluten-free all-purpose flours, gluten-free equivalents to basic baking flours, and gluten-free specific mixes for pancakes, breads, brownies, etc. This is fortunate, because your greatest challenge in providing a menu free of the top nine most prevalent food allergens is in providing fresh baked goods. To accomplish this task, you must first choose a baking flour or mix that is free of gluten, eggs, nuts, and dairy.
Two high-quality, reputable gluten/egg/nut/dairy-free flour brands are Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour is comparable to King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour.
While the King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour is best for converting non-yeasted recipes, King Arthur Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour is best used for recipes designed to be gluten free. Either of these King Arthur gluten-free flours may be used for breading chicken or steak (Hamel, 2018).
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour is recommended for savory breads, rich chocolatey brownies, thickening gravy, or breading meats because of its rich flavor from the dried bean ingredients. It does not contain xanthan gum, which will need to be added to most recipes. It is better suited for yeasted recipes due to the high protein content.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour works well in savory and sweet recipes like quick breads, cookies, cakes, and muffins. Xanthan gum is already an ingredient in this mix, which makes it a simplified cup-for-cup replacement in many standard baking recipes (Barnes, 2018).
Top Nine Allergen-Free Sample Breakfast Options
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit or raisins and dried cranberries
- Daiya yogurt with fresh fruit
- Fruit smoothies made with rice milk and/or Daiya yogurt
- Bacon, turkey bacon, or ham
- Gluten-free, egg-free blueberry bread
- Gluten-free, egg-free banana bread
- Orange juice or apple juice
- Rice milk or oat milk
- Cold cereals: Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Chocolate Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, and Cocoa Pebbles
- Breakfast tostada with black beans, tomato salsa, and avocados
- Grits with ham and Daiya cheddar
Top Nine Allergen-Free Sample Dessert and Snack Ideas
- Fresh fruit
- Peach, apple, or cherry oatmeal crisp with dairy-free butter (Earth Balance Soy Free)
- Jell-O with fruit
- Fresh fruit salad
- Fruit pizza with gluten-free sugar cookie crust
- Gluten free, egg-free brownies, cakes, and cookies
- Santita’s tortilla chips and fresh salsa or picante sauce
- Air-popped popcorn without butter
A Sample Meal
Embrace the challenge of providing meals and snacks that won’t cause any worry about allergic reactions from the top nine allergens among your campers or fellow staff. Here are a couple of new recipes to get you started:
Chicken Taco Stew
- 20 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Strips
- 1/2 cup Onion Powder & Garlic Salt
- 7.5 each Chopped Onions
- 2 #10 cans 6 lbs Stewed Tomatoes, canned
- 2 #10 cans 6 lbs Tomato Sauce, canned
- 2 #10 cans 6 lbs Mild Rotel Tomatoes
- 8 4 oz boxes Carroll Shelby's Chili Kit large spice packet
- 1 # 10 can 6 lbs Kidney Beans, canned & drained
- 1 #10 can 6 lbs Black Beans, canned & drained
- 1 #10 can 6 lbs Whole Kernel Corn, canned & drained
- Sprinkle chicken strips with onion powder and garlic salt. Sauté with olive oil in tilt skillet.
- Drain liquid from stewed tomatoes and save the liquid. Pour into tilt skillet.
- Chop stewed tomatoes into smaller pieces on a cutting board. Pour these into tilt skillet.
- Pour Rotel tomatoes and tomato sauce into skillet.
- Add Carroll Shelby's Chili Kit seasoning (the large packet only).
- Stir and close lid. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add kidney beans, black beans, and whole-kernel corn.
- Stir and close lid again. Simmer for approximately 15 to 20 more minutes.
Provide cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, sliced limes, and avocado for toppings. Serve with tortilla chips and/or lime tortilla chips.
Gluten Free Dairy Free Peach Crisp
- 2 Number 10 Cans of Sliced Peaches
- CRISP TOPPING
- 6.25 cup Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Flour
- 6.25 cup gluten-free quick oats
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups brown sugar
- 3 cups melted Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Mix crisp topping ingredients together in bowl (See crisp topping section above).
- Spray canola oil spray lightly in two
- 18 x 26 two-inch-deep cake pans.
- Lay peaches in cake pans. Then, crumble crisp topping over peaches.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until top of crisp is browned and peaches are bubbling.
- Remove from oven and serve warm with dairy-free vanilla ice cream.
Kimberly Whiteside Truitt is former food service manager at Camp Gilmont and Camp Zephyr and has served on Camping Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee. Kimberly was a presenter at the 2018 and 2020 North American Food Service and Maintenance Conferences.
- American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (2014). Tree nut allergy. ACAAI. Retrieved from acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/tree-nut-allergy
- Barnes, W. (2018, May 17). What’s the difference? Gluten free all purpose flour & gluten free 1-to-1 baking flour. Inside the Mill. Retrieved from bobsredmill.com/blog/recipes/whats-the-difference-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-gluten-free-1-to-1-baking-flour/
- Nohe, M. (2020, February 3). Is coconut a tree nut? Allergy Amulet. Retrieved from allergyamulet.com/blog/is-coconut-a-tree-nut
- Hamel, P. J. (2018, March 20). How to choose which gluten-free flour to use. King Arthur Baking. Retrieved from kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2018/03/20/how-to-choose-which-gluten-free-flour-to-use