How to Plan Food Allergy-Friendly Meals for the Whole Family
Some families with multiple food allergies wind up cooking separate meals each night. This can be overwhelming. Instead, try to find foods and preferences everyone has in common. Aim to prepare food for everyone so you don’t have to cook multiple meals each night.
Why Plan Menus?
Planning a menu helps avoid stress
Picking up take-out food or finding other last-minute dinner solutions aren't always an option for families with food allergies. Advance menu planning is an organization and coping strategy that helps avoid mealtime problems. It helps ensure your family gets fed, while reducing stress and keeping everyone satisfied and happy.
How Far in Advance to Plan?
Although it may not be necessary to make specific menu plans for breakfast or lunch, it is a good idea to plan a full week of dinner menus at once. This allows you to make one big shopping trip.
Order foods in bulk at co-ops, wholesale stores, or shop for groceries online at Amazon.com.
This will also save you precious time. You can then enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that you're ready to prepare delicious, healthy and safe dinners for the entire week.
If you're feeling particularly industrious, you can plan an entire month of dinners. Repeat this plan each month until you or your family gets tired of it.
Working Around Your Limitations
If your child is allergic to many foods or hard-to-avoid foods, your family may need to make some adjustments. Many of your old favorites may now be off-limits, and you will have to learn a new approach to cooking and menu planning.
So where should you start? A good strategy is to focus on what your child can eat, instead of focusing on what your child cannot eat. Shift your point of view. If your child is allergic to milk and eggs, recreating egg salad sandwiches or macaroni and cheese may be hard at first. Instead, think about all the possibilities of things to make using the foods your child can eat. Create meals made with grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry and meats.
Keep It Interesting
Try to vary the menu. You might want to make chicken on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, hamburgers on Wednesday, fish on Thursday, and beans on Friday. But what if your child can only eat two sources of protein, such as chicken and pork? Then you need to come up with a variety of safe ways to make these items. Find recipes to make them baked, sautéed, grilled, roasted, stir-fried with vegetables and so forth. Use different seasonings. Combine the meats with different grains and vegetables. Do whatever you can to make things interesting.
Finding Recipes, Ideas, and Inspiration
Three meals a day, 7 days a week...you're going to need a lot of ideas and inspiration! Where can you look?
- Explore our Safe Eats™ allergy-friendly recipe collection: We have over 1,200 delicious, member-contributed recipes. Search the database by your special dietary needs, or browse by category.
- Get a specialty cookbook: There are many excellent food allergy cookbooks - some are available through KFA's Allergy Book Shop or at your local library. If you're avoiding dairy and egg, you'll also find many suitable recipes in vegan cookbooks. Gluten-free cookbooks written for people who have celiac disease can help those on a wheat-free diet.
- Resurrect an old recipe: If you're new to food allergy cooking, look through your recipe files. Check to see if there are any old favorites which are suitable either as is or with minor changes. If you already have a collection of safe recipes, look for a tried-and-true favorite that you haven't made in awhile.
- Find support and ideas on our private community and talk about What’s for Dinner or What's In Your Lunch Box?
- Watch a webinar about allergy-friendly lunch ideas or read a guest blog about How to "Savor the Flavor" With Food Allergies.