Can you imagine designing a full restaurant menu that accommodates ANY and EVERY dietary restriction or food allergy? Gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo… the list trails on for days. Dietary restrictions and allergies can look different from one person and/or culture to the next. Giving plentiful food options and substitutes allows for both a safe and inclusive menu that will leave all your guests happy & healthy.
Contrary to having a ‘picky eater’, both dietary restrictions and allergies can be a cultural belief or potential cause for illness (some life threatening). While food allergies and restrictions can cover an array of categories on the food pyramid, the most common are: peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans etc), fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, corn and wheat. I have compiled 5 simple, clear tips to help tackle the daunting task of tackling a variety of dietary restrictions and allergies. Let’s jump right in to start easing your mind!
#1 PLAN AHEAD
- Before cooking with kids, make sure you know about any dietary restrictions or allergies. This will allow you to plan a menu that accommodates everyone's needs.
#2 PROVIDE OPTIONS
- Offer a variety of options that are suitable for different dietary restrictions. For example, if you have a child who is gluten-free, provide a gluten-free flour option for making pancakes or cookies.
#3 READ LABELS
- Be sure to read the labels on all ingredients to ensure they meet the dietary restrictions. Many packaged foods contain hidden ingredients that may not be suitable for certain diets. Some examples of hidden ingredients that may be camouflaged in packaged food: Hydrogenated fat, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and nitrites/nitrates.
#4 SUBSTITUTE INGREDIENTS
- Look for substitutions for ingredients that do not meet dietary restrictions. For example, you can use a plant-based milk substitute for dairy milk, or try using honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar.
#5 INVOLVE THE KIDS
- Get the kids involved in the process of accommodating dietary restrictions. Teach them about different dietary needs and ask them for suggestions on how to make a recipe suitable for everyone. This will help them to understand and appreciate different dietary needs and preferences. Odds are kids will either have or know someone who has a dietary restriction(s) in the future; therefore, exposure to this early will help them in the future.
Dietary restrictions and food allergies do not have to damper your cooking activities or even complicate them. Being aware of them is the most important tip, and they can easily be accommodated in any recipe or cooking experience. Providing safe, delicious alternatives to foods or ingredients will keep your kids happy & healthy!
SAVE & SHARE WITH A FRIEND!