You’re vegan; s/he’s an omnivore. You eat gluten-free and dairy-free; s/he does not. You have a sensitive stomach, s/he can eat anything. And your kids have not quite developed a sophisticated palette yet. You are trying to stay true to yourself and your diet but it’s hard.
How can you juggle these different food preferences and diets without spending all day in the kitchen or giving in and eating something that doesn’t agree with your body or your values?
Here are 5 tips to make it work so you can stay sane and healthy.
First and foremost, you need to communicate your restrictions to your partner/family along with your reasons. This will make it easier for them to understand what and why you are doing it.
The why is just as, or perhaps even more, important than the what because it helps your partner/family understand. If they understand the pain or discomfort a food causes you, they will be more likely to support you and work with you to make it work.
Don’t Get Mad If…
Don’t get mad if your loved ones still want your restricted foods in the house. They may understand why you are cutting out a food and say they want to support you, it doesn’t mean they will want to cut it out too. They will still want their favorites/your restricted food in the house and that’s okay.
We all need our comfort foods
It would be unreasonable to expect them to give it all up for you. Their unwillingness to give it up is no measure of how much they love or support you.
Together, you must work together to make it a safe place for you given your restrictions and the extent/seriousness of your reaction to the food.
Keep Things Separate
Generally, it’s easy to keep bread and cheese separate but life and recipes are more complicated than that. When possible, keep ingredients like animal proteins or problem vegetables separate so you can add things to individual plates rather than the entire dish.
For example, garlic and onion can be very problematic for people. Keep it separate by sautéing the garlic and onion in a separate pan and serving it on the side. You can also try using a garlic and onion oil infusion to still get the flavors in your foods.
Also, consider designating certain cutting boards or areas in the kitchen for restricted foods so you can stay safe.
Experiment & Ask for Feedback
When it comes to soups and sauces, it’s really hard to keep things separate. These will require some compromise. Here you will have to pick an alternative or substitute that works for everyone.
The good news is that soups and sauces have so many ingredients that most of the time, the substitution is not detectable. Ask for feedback and adjust your recipe accordingly.
Turn it into a fun experiment and try different alternatives until you find the winning combination.
Batch Cook Soup, Stews & Proteins
By nature, soups and stews are big batch foods.
You can store the extras from your experiments (see #4) in serving size portions to eat later.
Instead of always experimenting, pick who the soup or stew will be made for and store extras for later use. If the one you just made doesn’t suit your food restrictions, grab one of your previous soups from your freezer.
Roasting or grilling bigger amounts of proteins like chicken and steak is easy. Store extras in portion-sized amounts in the freezer to add protein to any dish later. This is great if one of you is vegan/vegetarian and the other is not.
Juggling different preferences, restrictions, and taste buds is challenging. With a lot of communication, empathy, organization, and creativity, you can all eat happily together. And more importantly, you can stay true to you and your health.