Ways to Accommodate Special Diets

When people in your household have different diets, how the heck do you cook dinner?

Here are some ideas that might help you, if you’re also struggling with feeding a family or group of people who might not all want to eat the same thing. With these easy meals, anybody can find enough to eat:

Burger night

Cook any combination of grass-fed beef burgers, turkey burgers, and veggie burgers all at the same time (if not necessarily in the same pan). Provide heaping plates of tomato slices, lettuce leaves, avocado wedges, sautéed mushrooms and/or onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo. Offer organic cheese slices and nitrite-free bacon, if you are so inspired. Serve wholegrain buns separately, for those who want them. Also serve a huge salad. Those who don’t want buns can put the burger of their choice atop a salad (my favorite way). Include a big bowl of fresh fruit.

Taco night

Fill plates and bowls with any of the following, and let everyone assemble their own: warmed whole grain tortillas, corn tortillas, beans, grass-fed beef, organic turkey, wild-caught fish, vegetarian meat crumbles, shredded cheese, crumbled goat cheese, chopped tomatoes or salsa, chopped white onions, sour cream or nonfat Greek yogurt, guacamole or avocado slices, and shredded lettuce or cabbage. For a side dish, include a plate of orange slices, with cinnamon on the side for sprinkling.

Stir-fry night

Cook brown basmati rice and buckwheat noodles. Stir-fry a big bowl of veggies, then flavor with tamari and sesame oil. Set aside. In the same wok or skillet, stir-fry some protein—beef, chicken, fish, or tofu cubes, or some of each (if using tofu, start with it first, then do the meats after.)  Let everyone assemble their own bowls. Sliced pears go nicely with this meal.

The main principle is the same for all of these ideas: the meal is DIY, assembly required, and simple. Nobody has to cook different dishes for each person, and beyond having to wash a lot of serving bowls, clean-up is simple, too. Everybody gets good, healthy, fresh food, which they can customize to their own dietary preferences. As long as you always include some raw vegetables and raw fruit on the table, and then let people pick their proteins and additional carbohydrate sources, you’ve got your bases covered.

Eve Adamson

Eve Adamson is a freelance writer, book author, and collaborator who specializes in co-writing diet and health books with celebrities and experts. She’s also a food-obsessed co-op fangirl, CSA junkie, and aspiring locavore who has no problem following Michael Pollan’s advice to “eat food,” “mostly plants,” but still struggles with the “not too much” part. She lives in Iowa City with her equally voracious family.