Meal preparation can be complicated, especially when accommodating food allergies, restrictions and preferences. Some households end up cooking multiple meals, which is hard on your budget and time management. But cooking for the family doesn’t need to be a stressful experience when you follow these tips and tricks.
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by New Seasons Market.
Instead of focusing on foods that you or your family members can’t eat, make a list of the foods that everyone can enjoy. Keep that list handy as you brainstorm your meal choices for the week. And don’t make things hard on yourself while you’re learning how to prepare new kinds of foods.
If you’re a dairy-free household, focus on meals that don’t naturally contain dairy (for example, stir fries) and save the faux macaroni and cheese for a time when you’re more comfortable making substitutions.
Plan, plan, plan.
With busy schedules, it can be overwhelming to try to come up with a dinner menu every night. Instead, take one day to look at the bigger picture and plan your meals for the entire week.
You can even develop a regular theme to help make planning easier: Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday, for example. You’ll save your time and sanity by planning once a week, instead of daily, and you can make one big shopping trip instead of multiple visits to the grocery store.
Make the team work.
Incorporate your whole family into the meal planning and preparation process. This can be a fun activity for kids and adults alike, and ensures that everyone will get a meal they enjoy.
Children of all ages can help with meal prep (stirring, washing vegetables, etc.), and will encourage them to try new ingredients and develop valuable kitchen skills.
Spice it up.
If you’re limited to a certain number of food items, you can easily change up the flavors with different herbs, spices and cooking techniques. For example, if you can only eat two sources of protein, prepare them in different ways, like baking, sautéing or roasting.
Or, try them with new combinations of flavors, like herbs, spices and marinades. Combine your main dish with different types of grains, vegetables or fruits inspired by different cultures or seasons.
Ready to start? Here are some of our favorite recipes that avoid common allergies, but are family favorites:
- Pizza is a go-to, but what if you can’t have a traditional crust? If you’re avoiding gluten, try out this cauliflower pizza crust, which bakes up crisp. Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor, without the dairy.
- Meals made with the Paleo diet in mind naturally avoid many common allergens. Spaghetti squash with luxe ragu is both a healthy and delicious option.
- If you’re avoiding dairy and eggs, but still want a decadent dessert, look no further than avocado chocolate mousse. Coconut cream and avocados blend together for a smooth and rich texture and flavor.