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How to Cook for Different Diets

by Registered Dietitian Joni Gerken

You might be told by your doctor that you need to follow a specific diet related to a health condition. So what do you do if your significant other must follow a different diet related to their health conditions. You may wonder if there is a way to avoid cooking two completely different meals every day. Fortunately, in most cases there is, and here are few tips to simplify this.

1 Balance Food Groups

Most therapeutic diets have a major component in common, they consist of balancing food groups to not under-eat or overeat any specific nutrient.For most of my nutrition educations, I utilize MyPlate because it is a great visual of what a balanced meal looks like. For people with diabetes, it represents a moderate to low carbohydrate intake that is consistent from meal to meal, and prioritizes complex carbohydrates. For people with heart disease, it is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. For people with kidney disease, it is conservative in protein, and balanced in micronutrients. A balanced diet also helps to promote disease preventions for everyone in the house.

*Go to to learn more about MyPlate meal patterns.

2 Serve Sauces on the Side

Serve sauces and condiments on the side. Everyone may be able to eat the main item, but the sauce or condiment might be the issue due to content of fat, sodium, or sugar. A simple solution is to serve the item plain or with limited seasoning, and allow the individuals to decide how much sauce they want to put on. This can also be done with side dishes. Allow those who very much want a side dish to have it, but others can avoid it.

3 Sub the Protein

One common obstacle I find people ask about is vegetarians and omnivores trying to enjoy meals together. To not have to cook completely different meals, consider meals that you only have to substitute the protein. An example of this would be burgers. The vegetarians could enjoy a veggie burger, while the omnivores enjoy a beef or turkey burger. Then everyone can eat the same sides and condiments.

4 Cook in Bulk

Cooking in bulk can ease the daily work. Cook extra so that those that might require specific foods can have these leftovers for another meal. This way you aren’t making everything from scratch every day.

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