How Do You Feed A Family With Differing Dietary Needs?

by | Sep 18, 2013

I have always been conscious of living a healthy lifestyle. Having a degree in nutrition helps, I guess and it has certainly been the foundation for the choices I have made when it comes to cooking and eating.

In addition I have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome since my early twenties and have spent a long time trying to work out which foods are the triggers. This means that I now avoid tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and mushrooms and I follow a no yeast, low sugar diet to help control my symptoms.

But being in charge of feeding a family of five has been a challenge all of its own and I have made it my mission to steer my children towards making healthy choices for themselves. It is not always easy though.

Early on in my youngest child’s life I realised that there were some foods that he could not tolerate. So I put him on an elimination diet and worked out that the main offender is lactose. A paediatrician recently assessed him and agreed, though no formal tests have been carried out as yet.

For the most part that means that at home we are all lactose free because it seems ridiculous to make separate meals every time. I spend most meals experimenting and have worked out that I can make things with lacto free milk, cheese or butter without anyone noticing the difference. But whilst at the same time trying to avoid the foods that upset my stomach, this makes for some seriously challenging meal choices.

And the challenges just keep coming…

During the last year my husband has suffered stomach problems of his own, in particular a hiatus hernia and acid reflux and we are still in the process of working out what he can and can’t eat. What works best for him though is an alkaline diet, which in its purest form is essentially vegan. In other words the choices are limited and they are not child friendly at all.

So in order to feed my family a lactose free, low sugar, alkaline diet I sometimes feel that I need a phd in nutrition. It’s not always possible to please everyone, for example, I make some lovely vegetarian dishes that the younger children turn their noses up at. They would rather have a boiled egg or beans on toast, but they are learning that this is our way of life now and that they won’t get fed anything else!

It’s hard but if it means we are all healthier for it then I believe that it’s worth continuing. The hardest times, though, are if we go out for a meal. For my husband and son the choices are limited and I feel sorry for my son because he can never have a dessert.

To make up for it I worked out how to make a low sugar, lacto free cheese cake. Technically my husband should have avoided it because it was dairy, but we all need a treat now and then. Believe me when I say that it was delicious and what was even nicer was the fact that for once my offerings received a great big thumbs up from everyone.


  1. JulianeAshley

    I needed to read this post! I’m dealing with this currently since I have gluten and lactose intolerances but no one else in my family follows it or really understands my dietary needs. Thanks for this post… I’m glad I found you on the Zero to Hero challenge 🙂

    • Nicola Young

      It is very restrictive being both gluten and lactose free. I find it particularly difficult when we go out to eat. I have to phone in advance and check what they can offer. My main bug bear, though is the bread and I am seriously considering getting a bread maker to make my own.
      Please keep in touch and let me know how you’re getting on, share tips etc.

      • JulianeAshley

        I definitely will do! We tried making gluten free bread before, and it definitely worked well… but was slightly time consuming.
        I’m moving to a new city so I’ll be sure to post about how I’m going with GF there and hopefully share some recipes 🙂


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