Feeding a family with different dietary requirements

Family at kitchen table

Preparing a meal that the whole family likes can be hard at the best of times. Throw in fussy eaters and different dietary requirements and it is no wonder that navigating the mealtime maze can often feel like a daily battle. But it doesn't always have to be that way. Mumsnet users share their tried-and-tested methods for meal ideas that can be prepared without spending too much extra time, money or effort

Plan with a positive mindset

Meal planner

“I find planning meals so much easier since I changed my focus from what each person can't eat, to what we can all eat. It's a very subtle switch but has made planning so much easier.”

Broaden their dietary horizons

Three generations eating together

“After doing 'Veganuary' this year, we felt and looked healthier, so we decided to do a vegan day and a vegetarian day every week, involving the children. We love roasted vegetables and have found a new love for pure vegan products. We have had no real hiccups and as for price, we found no real difference. Health-wise, my and DS2's eczema has significantly improved.”

Make it easy for yourself

Cooking with a child

“I have my own dietary limitations and two children with their own different needs also. I combine homemade and convenience foods and batch-cook as much as possible, to make the cooking load lighter.”

Beware the trigger foods

Family eating together

“We look after our grandsons while their parents work, one is intolerant to dairy, soya and eggs, the other is a very fussy eater. We bake our own bread as so much store-bought has soya in it.”

Leave room for creativity

Sharing food

“I make the same basic meal that everyone can eat and then there are things that can be added to it for those that want it. We also have a lot of meals as 'serve yourself'. Everyone makes themselves a meal out of the things they can eat; the only real rule is that they need to take at least one portion of veg.”

Stay in the know

A table of vegetarian food

“My daughters both have multiple allergies so I usually use Facebook message boards and apps to hear about new products or good vegan cafés.”

Organisation is key

Jars on kitchen counter

“We keep everything that we can (pasta, rice, dried pulses etc) in Kilner jars to minimise the risk of cross-contamination and so that we can see what's what at a glance. We also have separate freezer drawers for gluten-free and non-gluten-free foods to make it easier to keep track of what we have.”

Work around a staple

Young boys at the dinner table

“I find basing the main meal around salad, potato, rice or spaghetti is the way to go. It is easy then to add fish or pulses or meat. I have one veggie in the family so no real issues. Everyone eats lots of fruit and breakfast is porridge in winter and toast with spread in the summer. Heart health is my main concern for the family.”

Get fancy with meal times

Mum preparing food

“I do have to cook separate meals for different family members as we have all have dietary restrictions and sensory issues and there are very few things that everyone can or will eat. I find the easiest thing is to have a theme and with a few minor alterations, we can all have a meal together.”