Monthly Parenting Magazine

Meal planning for special dietary requirements

Meal planning for special dietary requirements

dietary requirements

Tired of cooking four separate dishes at dinner? Here are our top tips for adapting and adjusting recipes for specialist diets to save you time at meal times

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How to adjust your family meals for specialist diets

In the average household of four, 50% of family members are following a specialist diet, according to research we conducted.

If someone in your family home requires meals that are vegetarian-, vegan-, coeliac-, or pescatarian-friendly and this is something you’ve never had to accommodate before, you might find it difficult to adapt the meals you make for your family so they’re suitable for everyone. But, there are some simple steps you can take to achieve this, and we’re going to share some tips to help you out. Read on to learn more.

How to adapt recipes for vegetarian diets

If someone in your family has adopted a vegetarian diet, this will primarily mean they don’t eat meat. Although, depending on how strict they are, they may also avoid eggs and seafood.

Reducing meat intake can help save money and benefit your health. So, you should see having a vegetarian in your family as a fantastic opportunity to try out some new meat-free dishes.

However, it’s likely your family already have some favourite meals that you’d like to adapt to suit everyone. And, this is quite easy to do for vegetarians: you just need to look for some alternatives that satisfy your family’s tastes and ensure everyone is still getting enough protein. Pulses such as beans and lentils can often be used in place of beef or lamb mince, for example, and are a cheap, low-fat source of protein and fibre.

You can support your vegetarian family member and still serve meat to everyone else without having to cook two different meals, too. Instead of basing meals around the meat or poultry component like you might have been doing until now, try creating vegetarian meals with a side of meat. Then you can simply leave this off the plate of anyone who doesn’t want it.

BBC Good Food has a great in-depth guide to accommodating the vegetarian in your family. Reading it is sure to give you more inspiration.

dietary requirements

How to adapt recipes for vegan diets

People who follow a vegan diet tend to avoid all animal products, which means – as well as meat – they cut dairy products, eggs, and seafood out. This can be slightly trickier to accommodate, and you will need to check the packaging of the food you intend to buy or serve far more closely. You would be surprised by home many items have been made using animal products — even some brands of champagne aren’t vegan-friendly!

Sanaa Cooks offers a great guide to adapting any recipe for a vegan diet, which is well worth a read. For example, they recommend making simple substitutions, such as swapping meat out for chopped mushrooms, switching milk or cream for coconut or almond milk and using vegetable stock instead of chicken or beef. These are very simple changes that you’ll be able to make to accommodate your newly-vegan family member, and the other people in your household mightn’t even notice!

How to adapt recipes for coeliac diets

If a member of your family suffers from coeliac disease, this will mean that their digestive system has an adverse reaction to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye. So, there will be a lot of standard baked goods they need to avoid.

Adapting recipes for someone with this problem is quite easy, though. According to She Knows, it can be as simple as changing your flour to one that’s gluten-free, and buying your bread and pasta from a different section of the supermarket.

Serving food for someone who suffers from coeliac disease won’t mean that all of your meals are affected, but it’s important that you keep their needs in mind to avoid making any mistakes unnecessarily.

dietary requirements

How to adapt recipes for dairy-free diets

If someone in your family has adopted a dairy-free diet, they shouldn’t consume anything that’s made using cow’s milk.

BBC Good Food has a very helpful guide that outlines everything they can’t have, including some products that you might not expect to be a problem. For example, sauces and even biscuits could have a negative effect on your family member’s digestive system.

Fortunately, the rising popularity of veganism means that there’s plenty of dairy substitutes now on the market, which means you’ll simply be able to swap a lot of your usual items for those that suit someone who’s dairy-free. For example, you’ll be able to find lactose-free, almond and coconut alternatives to cow’s milk, and even dairy-free cheeses.

The most important thing is that you ensure your family are still getting enough calcium if they’re consuming less dairy. There are plenty of other sources, such as leafy greens, dried fruit, and pulses. So, it’s well worth getting more of these into your meals where possible.

Adjusting your family’s meals suit a specialist diet might seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you do plenty of planning and research to avoid making any mistakes and ensure that everyone is still getting all of the nutrients they need, you shouldn’t have any problems.