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Food Allergy Resources

Menu Planning for the Food Allergy Cook

February 2009

How to plan food allergy-free meals

Planning menus for a child with food allergies can seem like a daunting task. Couple this with some children's natural fussiness, and many parents become understandably overwhelmed.

As much as is practical, we recommend that you try to prepare food for your entire family which is also safe for your food-allergic child. Although some of your family may balk at the change in diet, keep in mind that it is a lot of work to cook two different menus for each meal.

Why Plan Menus?

When caring for a child with severe food allergies, picking up take-out food or finding some other last-minute dinner solution isn't always an option. A menu is a plan that will help you to avoid mealtime problems. Think of advance menu planning as an organization and coping strategy that helps ensure your family get fed while your stress level remains low and your sanity remains intact.

Grocery shopping list
Planning a menu in advance helps avoid stress

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 trip to the grocery store (or stores) on your least busy day, and then enjoy the piece of mind that comes with knowing you're ready to prepare delicious, nutritious, and safe dinners for your family for the entire week.

If you're feeling particularly industrious you can plan an entire month of dinners and then simply repeat this plan each month until you or your family gets tired of it.

Working Around Your Limitations

If your child is allergic to multiple items or to more-difficult-to-avoid items, your family will probably need to make some major dietary 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. For example, if your child is allergic to milk, eggs, and nuts, don't waste your time trying to "replicate" the egg salad sandwich or macaroni & cheese that used to be your standbys. Instead, think about all of the possibilities of things to make using the foods your child can eat. In this example, you can focus on serving delicious meals centered on grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry and meats.

Keep It Interesting

An obvious key to menu planning is to try to vary the menu. For example, 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. Explore recipes for baked chicken, sauteed chicken, ground chicken, grilled chicken, ham, bacon, pork chops, pork roast, stir fried pork 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're going to need a lot of ideas and inspiration! Where can you look?

  • Explore our Safe Eats™ Database: KFA's Safe Eats™ Database is full of delicious, member-contributed recipes. Search the database by your special dietary needs, or browse by category. Many new recipes are added each month; to find the latest additions simply log in to the database and click on "New Recipes" on the left- side menu (near the bottom of the page).

  • Get a Specialty Cookbook: There are a number of excellent food allergy cookbooks on the market today, many of which can be ordered through KFA's Allergy Book Shop or found at your local library. If you're avoiding dairy and egg, you'll also find many suitable recipes in vegan cookbooks; those on a wheat-free diet should also explore the gluten-free cookbooks that are marketed to people who have Celiac Disease.

  • Browse Through a Mainstream Cookbook: Take a trip to the bookstore or library and browse through a variety of cookbooks. Look at ethnic cuisines, recipes relating to specific cooking styles or equipment, cookbooks that focus on specific ingredients, collections from celebrity chefs, and more. You're bound to get some terrific ideas!

  • Resurrect an Old Recipe: If you're new to food allergy cooking, look through your recipe files to see if there are any "old favorites" which are suitable either as is or with minor modifications. If you already have a collection of safe recipes, look for a tried-and-true favorite that you simply have forgotten about and haven't made in a while.

  • Go Grocery Shopping: Take a trip to a new grocery store and look through the aisles for new foods to try as ingredients or main dishes. Sometimes a new find at a grocery store can provide the inspiration you need.

  • Ask for Suggestions: Ask for ideas in our Food and Cooking Forum (registration is free). Our members can be relied upon to come up with new. This is also a great way to get help modifying a recipe to meet your needs. All you have to do is ask!

Related Resources

Approved by KFA Medical Advisory Team July 2007. Updated February 2009.

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Page last updated 7/29/2012

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