Food Allergy Family

Cooking one meal to meet everyone’s needs.

Cooking for five kids, with multiple food allergies, without breaking the bank or losing my sanity.
Apparently my husband and I have interesting genetics.

Our girls are a carbon copy of me; our boys a carbon copy of him. Yet, despite neither of us having any food allergies, our children seem to be particularly prone to them.

It all started with the birth of our third baby.

He was perfect, as babies are, in every way. Yet, within months, he had a confirmed food allergy to dairy. I was exclusively breastfeeding, so this diagnosis affected my diet as well.

Fast-forward two years: we discover our fourth child has a similar food allergy. This past week, just when we had it all figured out, we’ve confirmed multiple food allergies for my fifth child and started the process of confirming a lactose intolerance for my oldest.

We’re surrounded by allergies.

Luckily, after years of learning how to cope with food allergies, we’ve come up with a few simple ways to make it work without breaking the bank, making multiple meals, or losing my sanity.

Start Small

Learning to change something as all-encompassing as diet is no small feat. My biggest piece of advice is to start small.

Think through what you typically eat for breakfast, look at ingredients, and eliminate anything that includes the allergy. Then look at what your replacement options are. Sometimes just changing brands of food or how you prepare items is enough to eliminate the allergen.

Work through each meal of the day, noting what your typical menu consists of and where changes need to be made. Give yourself some flex time to make these changes, it does get easier.

Meals that Make it Easy

With a family of seven, making specialized dinners for each child isn’t an option. Instead, we have standard meals that everyone can enjoy.

The easiest types of meals are those that have different parts, assembled per plate. Tacos, stir fry, and fajitas are a few that we assemble at the table and can easily avoid allergens for my children. Similarly, chili, soups, and stews are go-to meals for us.

We’ve also modified a few favorite recipes to reduce the allergens. By making our own cream soup base, we’re still able to use tried-and-true casserole recipes. Similarly, by not cooking with allergens (such as cheese) but having it available to add to individual plates, we can find even more meals that suit everyone’s needs.

Swap Out Ingredients

Looking at your list of standard meals and identifying which ones just need quick modifications will save a lot of hassle.

Natural food stores sell fantastic allergy-friendly ingredients, but the price can add up. Instead, I’ve found it’s easiest to take a step back and look for simple substitutions that will work for multiple recipes.

For example, finding a substitute for butter was a must-have for many baking recipes. For us, coconut oil often fills that niche. The bonus was this could also be used when we cooked eggs or were greasing a pan. With this one ingredient change I was able to meet dietary needs in multiple recipes.

Similarly, milk could be substituted with our dairy-free alternative. Buttermilk could also be made by mixing a tablespoon of lemon juice, cup of dairy-free milk, and letting it sit for about five minutes. These small changes meant I could continue using the recipes my family loved without sacrificing flavor or buying many special ingredients.

Discovering food allergies can be overwhelming. By starting small and modifying ingredients, you’ll be on your way to successful meals the whole family can enjoy.

How has your family embraced the challenges of cooking with food allergies?

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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