4 Different Dietary Needs: 1 House

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What do you do when everyone in the family has different dietary needs?

These days, making dinner for my family of four is challenging at best. We have two vegans (one is very strict), one on the keto diet, and one who will eat whatever he is given. Let me start at the beginning.

Food Allergies

I remember the day, about 20ish years ago, that my doctor told me about my food allergies. I had always had seasonal allergies–you know, hayfever, and I knew I was allergic to animals. But I was shocked to find out that I was also allergic to wheat, peanuts, corn, and soy. Ugh! I went straight to the grocery store after my appointment and started looking at ingredient labels. I quickly became overwhelmed. And sad. Really, really sad.
Corn, soy, and/or wheat were in nearly everything! Ketchup (corn syrup), salad dressing (soybean oil), canned soup (wheat)–these are just a few random examples. The way it was looking, I’d never be able to eat again.
wheat corn soybean peanut allergy
No wheat, corn, soybeans, or peanuts!
gluten free
Wheat allergy = gluten free


Wheat was the biggest culprit for me, so my doctor told me to focus on eliminating wheat from my diet and as much of the others as possible. I’m not Celiac, thankfully, but the easiest way to eliminate wheat was to become gluten free (GF). Interesting factoid: by being completely GF, my skin improved a lot. If on rare occasions I HAVE to have naan, my skin breaks out. Never fails.

Anyway, as time went on, though, I found a rice-based pasta we liked and made do with the few GF offerings that were available at the time. Think cardboard sandwich bread here. Things have gotten MUCH better in the last few years, but I’m still waiting for yummy GF bread, especially naan. Can somebody develop amazing GF naan, please?

The good news? It greatly reduced the amount of processed food we were eating as a family. Those three things (wheat, corn, & soy) are cheap ingredients, so they’re added to a lot of food–mostly processed. Did I completely eliminate processed food? No, of course not. But I’m so glad that I found out about my allergies when I did, because my family’s diet was much better for it.


A few years ago, my daughter and I gave up dairy because of our migraines. There’s an association between migraines and dairy products as well as fermented or aged foods (all of which have higher levels of Tyramine <– an enzyme). There are many, many foods that have tyramine. For example, leftovers should be eaten within 1-2 days; the longer a food is around, the higher the tyramine levels.

The easiest way to address this was to give up dairy, so that meant eliminating even more foods from my diet: cheese, milk, sour cream (oh, I miss you sometimes), ice cream, whipped cream, and so on. Add those to the foods I’d already given up, and the list of foods I avoid has gotten longer and longer.

Dairy free different dietary needs
No cheese, no milk, no ice cream...
vegan plant-based diet
No animal products!


Now, let’s fast forward to four years ago when we moved to Portland, Oregon… My daughter started by eliminating red meat from her diet, then poultry, and then she went strict vegan.

Because I liked the way I felt on a mostly plant-based diet, and for the reported health benefits, I went vegan about a year ago.

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the idea. Can I give up shrimp? and eggs? and chicken taquitos? What will be left for me to eat if I give up all animal products?

Well, I decided it was worth a try–as long as I wasn’t super strict with myself. For example, I haven’t given up macarons or pavlova. Granted, I don’t eat them often, but they are my favorite treats, so don’t get between me and my delicate French cookies.

On occasion I allow myself to “cheat” on my vegan diet (obviously), and by so doing I stick to it quite well most of the time without pining for all those foods I’ve given up. My husband has been leaning towards a more plant-based diet too. He has really cut down on his meat consumption and often eats vegetarian or even vegan.


In the meantime, my son was becoming more of a carnivore. He abhors anything that’s vegan. He won’t even try it, which is a real shame because there are some INCREDIBLE vegan dishes. It’s a sibling thing really; she tells him about the horrors of slaughter houses as he puts a forkful of meat in his mouth, so he just eats more meat, and cheese, and eggs to annoy her. Sigh. To top it off, he has recently gone on the keto diet to lose weight. I think in the dictionary keto diet is listed as an antonym of vegan diet, is it not?!

meatasaurus meat lover keto
All meat, all the time

What do I make for dinner?!?

So, do you see what I’m up against here? The struggle is real, people.

My love affair with Pinterest started when my daughter was transitioning to a vegan diet. I had never made vegan food before, so I searched for recipes that were already vegan and GF (for me) or could be easily adapted.

I was able to make vegan versions of all kinds of foods and would have a meat “add in option” for my husband and son. This worked well for quite awhile.

Over the last few years, I’ve accumulated a large collection of recipes, which I pinned on my Persnickety Meal Planning board. Eventually, I had so many that I had to separate them onto other boards. Now I have Persnickety recipe boards for sweets, Middle Eastern, drinks, and so on.

Long story short, it’s more difficult now to find recipes that will serve all of us. My son usually makes his own food, my daughter too. I’m teaching at night, so family dinners happen, if they happen, only on the weekends. If you have any tips or ideas, please share because I still have a hard time!

Different dietary needs in 1 house

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