Has anyone in your family recently transitioned to a restrictive diet? Maybe someone identified that they’re eating too much sugar. Or maybe you’re in a unique position where everyone has different dietary needs.
When one person is gluten-free and another follows a plant-based diet, it can be overwhelming to think of what to make for dinner.
These meals are important to your family’s lives in so many ways. Food can fight depression and it can provide fuel for intense physical demands.
And since it’s not an option to ditch the family meals, let’s explore a few ways you can create an easy weekly menu when your family has strict diets.
- Get Clear on the Restrictions
It’s relatively easy to plan for calorie restrictions but it’s another thing to account for something complicated like a peanut allergy. Get clear on the things you can and cannot use in your weekly menu, and then see if you can create balanced meals for everyone.
There’s almost nothing more frustrating than realizing you’ve taken time and effort to create a special meal that someone cannot or will not eat. So, be sure you’re crystal clear on any restrictions people have (even if it’s foods they simply refuse to eat).
- Focus on Balance
Regardless of what you’re restricting, each meal should have a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Since vegetables are on almost every list of “approved” foods, try to fill each plate halfway with fruits and veggies.
The remaining portion of each plate can be divided equally among protein and whole grains. Depending on your family’s needs, the protein may vary from person to person, but if you so choose, you can cook an animal-based protein for one person and a plant-based protein for another.
- Choose Whole Foods
When you’re working with dietary restrictions, processed foods can often be a problem. If someone is trying to avoid a certain ingredient like gluten, peanuts, trans-fats or MSG, you’re going to have a lot of label-reading to do. Many processed foods contain all of these ingredients that can render your weekly meal plan unusable.
Instead, opt for whole foods that only have one ingredient, like fruits and veggies. If you want to buy something with more ingredients, look for the items that have the fewest ingredients.
Here’s a good tip: if you’re buying bread, look in the frozen section or in the bakery. The most damaging ingredients are the ones that help preserve foods for long periods of time. So, fresh-made or frozen bread is often healthier than the stuff that sat on a store shelf for an extended time.
Once you get into the groove of creating weekly meals for your family, even though they have strict diets, it’ll become a lot easier. As you find recipes that work, save them to a recipe file, so you have some go-to dishes that you can make often.
And it also helps to ask for input. Although it can be nice to accommodate everyone, it can feel overwhelming when you’re doing all the work. At the very least, ask for some input on what to make. And at best, ask for help planning and cooking.