It’s not so easy to pick up food on the run or throw together a quick meal when you have a child with a food allergy. Having a plan in place when it comes to meals helps you avoid unnecessary stress and hunger as well as a potentially dangerous allergic reaction.
Depending on your family’s schedule, you may choose to plan for dinners only or for lunches and breakfasts, too. Regardless of how extensive your planning is, having organized menus makes mealtime easier and more pleasant.
At First Pediatric Care Center, we can help you put together an allergy management plan, which often includes menu planning. Dr. Margaret Lubega educates you on your child’s allergy and helps you pinpoint which foods they can and can’t safely consume. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready for advanced planning and shopping to make meals as healthy and low stress as possible.
What’s involved with menu planning?
Once Dr. Lubega has done an evaluation to diagnose your child’s food allergies, you’ll have a better idea about what foods to include in your daily menus. By planning meals a week or two in advance, you can do one big shopping trip and save time and aggravation. With practice, you may be able to plan out a full month in advance for even more convenience and time-saving benefits.
Menu planning usually means you plan out the main dish, sides, and beverages for one or more meals during the day. Snacks may also be planned in advance, too. Having a lunch and snack plan can be especially helpful if your child goes to school and has to eat away from your home on the regular. You can even include restaurant meals in your plan, researching menus in advance to determine which restaurants and menu items can accommodate your child’s dietary needs.
What are the benefits of menu planning?
With menu planning in place, you save valuable time and scrambling when someone in the household asks, “What’s for dinner?” Plus, you have time to plan meals that everyone in the family can eat. Instead of your child with a food allergy feeling like they have “special” meals or their own foods, menu planning allows you to come up with items that are inclusive of everyone.
What are your tips for menu planning?
Your first step in menu planning is to make a list of the foods your child can eat. Rather than focus on the negative – the foods that are off the menu – focus on the foods that they can enjoy. Explore multiple ways to prepare these foods. This is especially helpful if your child is limited to just a few protein choices. Grilling, roasting, and sauteeing all contribute different flavors and textures to food, creating a sense of variety even when the item served is the same or similar.
Meal planning is more fun when the whole family gets involved. Keep in mind everyone’s schedule – including late nights at practice or work – and also consider their likes and dislikes.
Pick recipes that fit the whole family’s needs, that are simple to fix, and that pique everyone’s interest. Don’t just cater to the preferences of your child with the allergy. When everyone has input, your allergic child is exposed to a variety of foods and learns that meals aren’t just about them. It helps them be exposed to many flavors and not get stuck in a food rut.
Talk to us about ways to get all the nutrients your child needs, too. If whole grains, eggs, dairy, shellfish, or nuts must be avoided, your child may be missing essential fats, B vitamins, or calcium. Dr. Lubega can help you get these nutrients in different forms that won’t aggravate your child’s allergy.
Menu planning may seem daunting and time-consuming at first, but in actuality it makes mealtime seamless and stress free. If you need help in managing a child’s food allergy in regards to their menu, nutrition, or medications, call First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina, or book an appointment online.