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Six of the Biggest Fears That Stop You From Building a Food Allergy Meal Plan That Works Every Day
After 12 years of being a multiple food allergy mama, I’ve made many cooking mistakes. Although I’m still not perfect, there are definitely things I can share with you to make your life easier. I may have spent years learning these specific tactics, but you can take them and bypass many of the common food allergy cooking challenges TODAY.
Fear #1: I know I need to cook differently to accommodate the allergy, but I don’t know where to start
When my kids were first diagnosed with food allergies I would grocery shop and think and try to cook like I used to before food allergies. What do I mean? I didn’t change my focus so I was stuck at the store for hours reading labels for products that didn’t work for my family. I would leave the store feeling overwhelmed and tired and hope that I’d have enough to cook a few meals that week.
The problem was that I focused on what we COULDN’T eat instead of on WHAT WE COULD EAT. By re-framing my viewpoint, it makes a huge difference in how much time I spend reading labels and shopping.
TAKEAWAY: The right viewpoint will help you focus on what you CAN eat instead of what you wish you could eat or CAN’T eat. Changing your view in this way will help stop the overwhelm of label reading because you’ll be searching for more whole, unprocessed foods.
I’ve gone into MORE DETAIL on how to start in the following video.
If you want to learn more about this, check out my upcoming FREE masterclass. I’ll be talking about how to cook differently to accommodate food allergies so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Fear #2 I don’t have the skills to cook without the proper pre-made allergy replacers
Yes, there are some really good food allergy replacements out there, but you often need to spend time seeking them out and “vetting” them to make sure they're actually safe. Not only that, but they’re expensive and many times you need to shop at different, speciality stores to get them.
When my family started out with food allergies, I searched high and low for replacements that I’d often feel disappointed with. They just NEVER quite tasted the same, and I’d always wish for the REAL thing because I KNEW what I was missing.
Yes, a few great, well-chosen replacements are essential to increase your dinner options and enjoyment. When creating a meal plan, you’re free to add a new replacement every once and awhile, but a good plan will give you freedom from constantly hoping for and searching for and vetting new replacements.
TAKEAWAY: Try finding a replacement for the “basic” building block ingredients that are used to create recipes. An example would be sour cream or eggs or nuts. Now you can create almost any recipe using that replacement. This will save you from having to vet all the pre-made, finished products like meatballs.
Fear #3 I’m too overwhelmed to think about adding meal planning too
This happens all the time, but without making a change, we can’t get out of our overwhelm. Without a plan in place, you’re forced to have the “what’s for dinner” weight on your shoulders Every. Single. Day. In the world of food allergies, reliable take out and restaurants are few and far between.
I still fall into this trap sometimes too. I’ll use my meal plan for a few months and then veer off to try something new. Without realizing it, I’m pulled into constantly thinking about safe food when I could be spending that time with my family. As soon as I get back to my plan, I feel those stresses melt away and my time is mine again.
TAKEAWAY: To start, try making a list of your family’s favourite 5-7 meals. Then create a grocery list with everything you need to make those meals. You’ve now taken care of a week of meals and can re-use that menu and grocery list as many times as you want!
This is one small step in creating a meal plan. By completing all of the small steps in the right order, your food allergy cooking system will be created in no time.
Fear #4 I don’t like to pre-make and freeze food
As a food allergy mama, you’ll need to be prepared with safe food for almost everything you do, which includes travelling and social events. Remembering this and taking it into consideration while planning will keep you from last minute panic. The freezer is our FRIEND, mama!
We've always loved to travel which is why we kept at it even after food allergies became an issue. But let me tell you, it hasn’t always been easy.
When I started to plan for bulk cooking and baking sessions, I found that I could actually take some of the travel worries away by integrating these needs into my cooking routines.
For example, making double batches of baked goods and freezing them to tote along as snacks, OR making an extra batch of safe waffles for camping. Not only that, but I was prepared with an extra lasagna in the freezer for potlucks and social activities too.
TAKEAWAY: If there’s a meal your food allergy kiddo likes, freeze individual portions to take along with you as a safe meal for social events. This is one small thing out of several that you can easily add into your meal plan. These small steps make food allergy life way simpler!
Fear #5 I’m afraid my kids won’t get to enjoy the same “kids food” that all the other kids eat
You’re forced to constantly look for that great brand of chicken fingers or mac and cheese or pizza that works for your LO’s allergen. You’re constantly perusing Facebook groups so you’re first to know when a new product comes out. Luckily, you’re able to get fairly quick responses when you ask about whether a product is safe.
Despite all of this, you STILL feel like there’s a weight on your shoulders when it comes to cooking safe and delicious food that your family can eat.
This is because as many products as you find, you still need to string those products together to create meals day after day. And as much as you need safe meals, at the end of the day, one more new kid-friendly product doesn’t make a huge dent when you’re cooking 365 days of the year.
TAKEAWAY: Take note of one or two main product options (such as safe chicken fingers or safe mac & cheese) and keep them in your freezer or pantry. Use them to complement your regular cooking instead of using a different product as the main part of every meal, every day.
Fear #6 I’m afraid a meal plan isn’t flexible enough because I like to make what my family feels like on the day
This is a really important one because in reality, a good meal plan is a framework that you can use to “drag and drop” the meals and preferences of your family. In the same way that it helps you remove the food allergens, it can also be used to stay true to your family’s likes and dislikes. It’s made to serve you, not “box you in”.
TAKEAWAY: A good meal plan allows flexibility for allergens and likes & dislikes. It also allows you to make changes if you want to “go rogue” and make something off the cuff every once and awhile.
There are lots of ways to make food allergy cooking easier, but combining them into one, cohesive meal plan is the best way to fully take advantage of every single one. There is a bit of work in the beginning, but the end result will make it ALL worth it!
A great food allergy meal plan is possible. If you like this topic and want to learn more, check out my new, free masterclass:
What about you? What do you fear about creating a meal plan? How will you get over it so you can build a meal plan that works? Let me know in the comments!