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Menu Planning for the Food Allergy Cook
How to plan food allergy-free mealsPlanning 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?
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 LimitationsIf 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 InterestingAn 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 InspirationThree meals a day, 7 days a week...you're going to need a lot of ideas and inspiration! Where can you look?