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Accommodating Different Diets in the Same Household

Updated on January 16, 2014

Don't confuse diet restrictions with picky eaters.

I, personally have not been inclined to catering to "picky" eaters in my house. If I order a pizza with everything on it or make soup and you don't like one or two vegetables in it, just pick off what you don't like. Conversely, if you are allergic to mushrooms, I won't even order a pizza that is made in the same pan as a mushroom pizza may have been!

Food restrictions should always be taken seriously, whether it is due to allergies, sensitivities religious or other convictions.

Respect is paramount.

As in all things in life, it is important to respect others choices. If someone in your household has chosen to eat a certain way, respect their preferences. If you are having a vegetarian guest, don't assume that you can just take the chicken out of the soup. Ask them how they feel about it being prepared that way.

When members of the same household have different dietary requirements or choices, it can get complicated, ezpecialy if there is one person in charge of the kitchen! There are several ways to make this easier that will only involve a few changes at the start.

Be mindful of one another.

There are so many reasons why people may require different diets but that does not mean that a famiily cannot strive to be together and enjoy meals (or mealtime) as a family. We no longer keep certain products in the house because it is easier to have the ones that are ok for everyone. Be sure to read the labels before purchasing. I used to keep dry chicken powder to use as a seasoning. Now I only purchase vegetable soups. I keep a substitution chart in my kitchen so that if a recipe calls for eggs and I am making it for my vegan daughter, I can look up a viable substitute. Beware of anything prepared in a kitchen that may contain products that someone is allergic to, also.

Most of us don't have the time or energy to serve a buffet every night!
Most of us don't have the time or energy to serve a buffet every night! | Source

Be aware of ingredients.

Get in the habit of reading ingredients. In my opinion, it is easiest to cook using fresh ingredients. It really doesn't take much longer to bake a cake from "scratch" than it does to use a mix and you have so much more control over the ingredients. Start reading the ingredient section of the foods in your pantry and fridge. You may be very surprised at what they contain!

Keeping food sorted

Especially in the case of food allergies, you will probably need to keep your food stored separately. It is easiest if you color code. I use throwaway food containers. They last way a long time, are inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and most important, colors. Having individual colors for different members of the family, insures that someone will not accidentally eat the wrong thing. I have also found that it aids in "ownership" and responsibility.

Depending on the size of your pantry, it may be easier to dedicate a space to individual diets.
Depending on the size of your pantry, it may be easier to dedicate a space to individual diets. | Source

The Elimination Recipe

This is my own name for preparing a meal that should work for everyone. I decide on the meal I want to cook. Let's say, Beef Stew. I then write down the ingredients, including seasoning. Next step is to eliminate which products cannot be tolerated by certain members of the house. I see what's left when I am done. Will these ingredients still make a decent stew? If the answer is yes, then I just make the altered version and everyone enjoys the same food. If the answer is no, I either need to make revisions or separate dishes.

Randi's Elimination Stew

The ingredients for my recipe began like this:

  • 1/2 pound cubed beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 can green beans
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp powdered chicken soup mix.
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

This meal was meant to serve 6 people. Of these 6, one is a baby, one is vegan and one is allergic to mushrooms.

I decided to make only one pot of food, one size fits all. First. out go the mushrooms, next, the cayenne pepper. Last, anything that doesn't suit a vegan diet, meat and chicken soup mix. That left me with:

Potatoes, carrots, celery, green beans, oil, salt and pepper. Not a very exciting stew! Not too flavorful and not very nutritious. I decided to add beans for both the protein and heartiness of the stew. I substituted the chicken soup mix for a vegetable soup mix. I added a few more vegetables like butternut squash and zucchini. We ended up with a hearty, tasty stew that everyone at the table could eat. We accompanied it with couscous and a fresh spinich salad.

We do not do this for every meal, sometimes there are two separate stews on the stove, but we do try to make it work for everyone.

Elimination Stew!
Elimination Stew! | Source

Multi-Generational Families.

This article is a sister article to my hub:

Living in a Multi-Generational Household and Making it Work

This is all part of making it work!

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    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Ryem!

    • Ryem profile image

      Ryem 3 years ago from Maryland

      These are some really great tips!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Nell Rose. Much appreciated! Picky is hard enough and when you throw in diet restrictions, it can be a nightmare!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I love your idea behind elimination stew, and what a great way to figure out who can eat what so to speak! Yes I know what you mean, when my son lived at home he would eat certain things that my hubby didn't like, and I would eat other stuff completely! but stew seemed to hit the spot with all of us, and the ingredients were okay for all of us too, great hub!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Abby. It is definitely a challenge but a fun one! We are ok. It has been a tough year. How are you? Long time, no talk!

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Great hub, Randi! It can definitely be a challenge to prepare meals for the whole family with all the different taste buds. I hope you are doing well! :-)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Mary! I didn't realize you had celiac. That is a difficult one diet wise. I probably make more separate meals than I do things like that stew but I try to convince as much as I can. Thank you so much for the votes! I hope all is well with you!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Great job Randi! I have celiac so am the most difficult but there are ways to get around things. I usually prepare with and without but every once in a while my husband gets gluten free because its easier.

      Your stew looked scrumptious!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, cecileportilla! Welcome to my Hubpage! We have been perfecting this plan ever since I first wrote this. It's amazing how adaptable most recipes are!

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Really liked this hub. Excellent ideas!. I also have people in my own family with different dietary needs. Elimination diet idea great!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Eddy! we are still "ironing out the wrinkles" here but getting better and better with time! You hae a wonderful weekend, as well!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      What a great hub Randi and your obvious hard work has certainly paid off. Enjoy your weekend.

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Audrey! Easier and more like a "family meal"

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      We have a variety of eaters in our family--I like the elimination idea--so much easier I think than cooking 3 different meals

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Cris! I promise I will never tell your daughter!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Barbara, thank you so much for your very gnerous comments and votes! You made my day!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      What a great, interesting hub Randi! I have no diet restrictions but I am quite a picky eater. There, I said it! I never let my daughter hear that....trying to be a good example and to learn to eat whatever is on the table. Ya'know! :)

      Love your creativity on the elimination process. Great hub!

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 3 years ago

      Diets are SO hard to keep...But your Hub is Wonderful, and very easy to follow with other family members...I personally thought the Stew sounds delicious and the menu so versatile. Lots of Great Comments here Btbell.

      Voted UP & Interesting too!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Nellieanna! It sounds yummy!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, FlourishAnyway. I so appreciate your comments and sharing your experience. Family can be really funny about what they think is ok to do. So sorry, you had to call them out. That is always uncomfortable. Thanks so much for your votes!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 3 years ago from TEXAS

      Thanks Randi. Here's one such possibility, a recipe that was on the site where I learned about that good gelatin brand. I eat fruit only alone, not in or with other foods, so the almond butter will be my choice:

      Coconut smoothie…

      Ingredients:

      8 ounces homemade coconut milk

      1-2 tablespoons of almond butter or 1/2 cup strawberries

      1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds

      1 tablespoon Gelatin Powder

      natural vanilla extract

      1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil

      Ice and additional coconut milk as needed to thin

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This is a great hub with very solid suggestions, Randi. I particularly like your drawing the distinction between being picky and having a food intolerance/allergy. I also like that you've emphasized respect for one's choices (whether that is because of religion, philosophy, or other strong beliefs). It has been a sensitive issue for me in the past. As someone who went "cold turkey" 20 years ago in my decision to not eat beef, I was very serious about not permitting my daughter to eat it either. I had relatives who "forgot," found it humorous to sneak her just a taste of steak or roast beef, or figured that just a little wouldn't hurt. Very frustrating and after reminders and discussions failed I had to "break bad" on someone I loved to convey the seriousness of my message. Again, great hub. Voted up and more.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Frank!!! :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Nellianna, for stopping by and for your, as always interesting contributions! I agree that healthy food should be treated as mnedicine for your body, just as unhealthy foods are like drugs. Good luck with the gelitin. I like the idea of adding your own flavors. Besides the health factor, imagine the possibilities!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you for stopping by, Sheila! I do appreciate the idea of cooking for one. I had a very short "reprieve" last year when both kids were in school! Of course, I missed them like crazy but mealtime was certainly a lot easier!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Pamela! Much appreciated!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Glimmer Twin Fan, I know exactly what you mean. It has actually been better since my daughter became vegan! She has less expectations of me and takes way more responsibility in purchasing and preparing. Of course, she is 20! Good luck!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hey Joelle! I hope you are having a great weekend, enjoying your family! Thanks so much for your contribution!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      you did a great job with this hub it is so useful!!!!!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 3 years ago from TEXAS

      Excellent, Randi. Though I've never needed to prepare for different special needs, certainly different preferences have been factors over the years. Now that I cook only for myself, it’s all simplified except being vigilant about reading ingredients on any prepared items. Not only reading them, but being more aware of what some of the terms actually mean! I'm recently appalled to learn that some 'artificial' fruit flavors come from extremely unsavory animal sources!

      I've been eating Jello, following some dental work that required favoring soft foods, and have become rather fond of it, but now I think I may avoid it, especially some of the flavors. Also, the source of the gelatin itself is a consideration. Of course, gelatin comes from animal bones, but not all animal sources are equal, health-wise. Gelatin has so many health benefits, that perhaps I may look into using plain gelatin and adding my own flavorings. I have read of a grass-fed source of gelatin, namely Great Lakes Kosher Gelatin. It is obviously expensive, but surely worth it. I regard healthy food alternatives as my ‘medicines’. Since I take no actual medicines, that makes sense to me!

      Thank you for this useful article!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Blond logic. When my kids were young, they ate what was served them. I did, of course, cook what I thought they would like but I still taught them to try everything. Due to health, we have had to make some changes. I think this paved the way for choices, as well! Thanks for stopping by. Nice to see you.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I live by myself so most of the time preparing meals is no problem. Yet I always wondered what I'd do if I had guests and knew some of them couldn't eat certain things. Now I know. Thanks for telling me about the substitutions.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 3 years ago from United States

      It sounds like you have developed a very good way to cook and meet each person's needs. I think you have developed a very good plan by looking at all the ingredients before you start cooking. Very useful hub!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      My problem is that my daughter is very picky. Our fault, I know, but she is. We are still working on that, but as she gets older, it is becoming even more of a problem. I find my self making the same meals often because of it.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great job Randi! It's not always easy to accomodate everybody all the time. My two sons had at one time of their life (but not at the same time) a vegetarian phase. So when we are all together, and I prepare a dish with meat, I try either to prepare a vegetarian meal or I prepare the same meal in two different dishes... one with meat the other one with tofu. The main thing is use creativity to find solutions to enjoy a time together :-) I am doing it again this weekend :-)))

      Have a great weekend!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

      Good gracious, I should stop complaining. There are only two of us in the house and one of us (not me LOL) is a picky eater. If I had to deal with more, I think I would just live on take-aways.

      You have highlighted a big problem in many households. Getting the family to eat together, and respecting their wishes and requirements is a monumental task. Long gone are the days, "you eat what is put in front of you or you starve" attitude.

      Very useful.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Faith! It can definitely be challenging and more often than not, I have 2 pots cooking. It is just easier sometimes! Yesterday, I made fish with spinach and tomatoes. I made the same dish for my daughter with beans instead of fish. It still took me the same prep time. The only difference was one extra pot! Thanks for stopping by and your votes!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      How right you are, Marcy! About 2 years ago, I started developing severe food allergies. This changed a lot of things for me. This year, my daughter moved back in with her baby and then decided to become vegan. I had no idea how many foods have eggs and milk in them! Thanks for stopping by!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hi Jackie! I also started with beans years ago. My reason was more availability, price and quality of the meat when I lived in Israel! We have learned since, that it is much healthier, too! Thanks for stopping by!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Maria! It can feel daunting once in a while but, definitely doable!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Isn't that cool, Bill? It is a built in pantry. Unfortunately, it is not mine but it was too nice, not to use! Thank you!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Randi, Yes, that certainly can be tricky! Wow, your comparison with the stew before and after taking all out and then making it work for all was really helpful. Great hub. Up and more and sharing. Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

      Well, your photo sure makes me want to sit down and eat! This is a very timely topic, with the increased awareness of allergies, along with personal tastes and diet choices! Someone could go crazy trying to be all things to all people.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great ideas, I started using beans to replace meat years ago, not only better for you than questionable meat (sorry, lol) but a lot less expensive. This is where I would throw in my barley and lentils too, to fight diabetes! ^+

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Practical, doable and loving the respecting of everyone's nutritional needs and preferences.

      Fantastic work, dear Randi! Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a great looking pantry in that picture!

      We have a variety of eaters in our household, and it can be a challenge but we manage somehow. Nice to know we aren't the only ones. :)