Some of us naturally plan ahead, including what our family will have for dinner each week. Others of us are more inclined to meet each moment, including dinnertime, with a “take it as it comes” attitude.
However, when a family member has food allergies, there are good reasons for meal planning those who are planning-resistant may want to consider:
- Nutritional Benefit. Making sure all family members eat a balanced diet becomes a bit trickier when certain foods must be avoided, especially if there are multiple allergies to contend with.
- Peanuts and tree nuts, for instance, provide us with protein, healthy fats, vitamin E, niacin, magnesium, and chromium. Cow’s milk provides protein, fat, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine, and a slew of vitamins. In a family where milk, peanuts, and tree nuts are avoided, meal planning helps ensure that other foods with similar nutrient values are consistently purchased and prepared.
- Financial Benefit. When grocery shopping from a list based on planned meals, we are less likely to make impulsive buys, and more likely to eat the perishables we purchase before they wilt, go sour, or turn rancid. This can translate into significant grocery savings, and maybe offset the expense of any allergy-related specialty items we regularly purchase.
- We can also, if so inclined, make better use of coupons by planning our meals.
- Peace of Mind Benefit. Although planning meals takes time and thought, it eliminates the time and energy we otherwise spend, at the end of a busy day, trying to pull a meal together. For most parents it’s far less stressful to arrive home knowing what’s for dinner, than to walk through the door wondering what’s for dinner.
- Planning meals can also prevent extra trips to the store. This is an important consideration with food allergies since some of the products we use might only be found at out-of-the-way specialty shops, or online.
- Teaching Benefit. We can give our kids a valuable life skill by engaging them in the meal planning process. This could be especially helpful for food allergic children who will someday be preparing safe meals on their own.
Meal planning is not complicated or time-consuming if we stick to making mostly uncomplicated dishes. Even people who love to create recipes and spend time in the kitchen know the value of simplicity:
I think the best shortcut is to choose really simple recipes. Because I think you can make simple recipes that are as delicious as complicated ones. ~ Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa