How to Introduce Your Dairy-Free Diet to the Family

When you have a special dietary need in your family, such as when you’re trying to eliminate dairy products, family meals can be a bit more challenging. For example, when you start talking about taking the cheese off the pizza or finding a substitute in which to dunk your cookies, finding a middle ground may be difficult.

When making a meal in a household where some people eat dairy and others don’t, you may find yourself frustrated trying to figure out what to serve. The solution requires you to talk through the options with your family members and negotiate a solution that works for the majority of family members most of the time.

As you’re trying to plan meals, talk through the possible solutions with everyone in the family. And think about the following possibilities you have when feeding the gang:

  • Whip up two meals. If you have the extra time, you may consider creating two entree options — one with dairy and one without. Doing so isn’t the most practical step to take because with most families it usually makes more sense to fix one meal that everyone can enjoy. However, in some instances, you can make one dairy item and one nondairy item without much extra work. For example, on pizza night, make one pizza as cheesy as you want and the other dairy-free.

  • Focus on good food. Put some extra love into the food you prepare to help it be as appetizing as possible. If you make the food look attractive and taste good, everyone will want to eat it — even if it doesn’t contain a speck of dairy.

    Set a vase of flowers on the table. Use a tablecloth or pretty place mats. Display food on attractive platters and use garnishes, such as fruit slices or sprigs of fresh herbs. All these special touches entice the family to enjoy what they’re eating.

  • Ask everyone to be flexible. On occasion, it may be necessary for the dairy avoider to scrape the cheese off the lasagna or eat an apple when everyone else is eating ice cream cones. It may at times also be necessary for dairy eaters to make do with nondairy dishes and products to make it easy on the family. That’s especially true if someone has a dairy allergy, in which case scraping the cheese off the noodles isn’t good enough.

    Dinnertime is a convenient time to focus on getting others involved. This is true because the meal is a little less rushed than breakfast, and family members are more likely to be home. Use the opportunity to give kids a few tasks related to planning and preparing dairy-free entrees.

  • Adopt a spirit of adventure. Encourage everyone in the house to get involved in meal planning and shopping for nondairy alternatives like soymilk and nondairy cheese. It can be fun to experiment with foods that are new; this experimentation may even raise everyone’s awareness — and interest in — healthy eating.

  • Go with the dairy-free least common denominator. Choose foods that are dairy-free at their most basic states. For example, baked potatoes, green salads, and tacos are all naturally dairy-free. If you serve these alongside a range of topping options, everyone has a choice of what to add, including dairy and nondairy ingredients. For example, let the dairy-eaters add grated cheese, creamy dressings, or sour cream. Dairy-free diners instead can go with the avocado slices, plain soy yogurt, salsa, or chopped tomatoes.

If you find it difficult to reconcile the needs of the dairy eaters and dairy avoiders in your home, talk to other people who are living with similar circumstances. Surf the Web for chat groups or blogs where people share their tips for managing meals in families with members who avoid particular foods.

You can maximize your family’s satisfaction with nondairy meals by making their favorites — often. Some tried-and-true options are so good that family members aren’t likely to notice that they’re dairy-free.

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