Food Foundations

Menu Planning for Special Diets

Food Foundations Sub Food Foundations News

When planning your menu it is always important to consider the needs of children who require special diets. Special diets can be for children who have an allergy or intolerance, or children who have a special diet for cultural or religious reasons, such as kosher or halal foods.

Planning your menu well to cater for these children will save you time, assist with budgeting and ensure you are meeting nutrition requirements of all of these children.

Here are some considerations when planning for special diets:

  1. Educate yourself on the special diets you cater for. Collate information on all of the special diets you cater for and ensure you understand which ingredients must be excluded and what alternatives can be offered.
  2. Ensure you have standard recipes – this will make it easier to assess if they can be adapted to meet the needs of the children with special diets.
  3. Can you cater for special diets in your standard menu? Wherever possible, provide meals which can also be served to children with special diets. For example, a meat and vegetable stir fry with rice noddles could be suitable for children who are allergic to gluten, dairy, egg and seafood.
  4. Do you have enough equipment? Will you need more cooking equipment to prevent cross-contamination of meals for children with special diets? For example, do you have a second toaster that can be used for children who are coeliac?
  5. Do you have enough time? Do you have sufficient time to prepare an allergy-free meal prior to cooking the regular meal?
  6. Check the labels of ingredients in your pantry – are there particular ingredients you use that can be replaced with an allergen-free alternative? For example, using a gluten free soy sauce.
  7. Communicate with families of children with special diets – they may be able to offer suggestions on how they have adapted recipes at home to meet their child’s dietary needs. Allergies and intolerances can often change, so make sure parents provide regular updates.