Apps to Help Manage Meals for Different Dietary Needs

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when my daughter At 5, my family was so acute with a set of dietary restrictions that it felt like someone had effectively emptied my kitchen cabinets except for a dusty bag of lentils and a salt shaker. Already a vegetarian, we had to remove dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and wheat after her doctors prescribed a year-long elimination diet to address her challenges with overeating and weight gain.

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Challenges abound. At home, meal planning was stressful and confusing. At the grocery store, I noticed the fine print on ingredient labels. Although I was good at shopping, sending my partner to the store meant teaching someone else all the rules and dangers. Once we got approval to eat out, it was time to find a restaurant that could meet our needs.

Nowadays, there are apps that make coordinating special dietary needs far more manageable. From apps to help you find recipes and sync grocery lists to apps that locate the nearest specialty bakery, plus apps that offer meal planning and more, accommodating food allergies and intolerances Easier than ever. Here are some apps I wish my family had back when we were going through this.

Grocery Store
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Photograph: Tanja Ivanova/Getty Images

Cost: 5 scans free, then $2.99/month

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iOS , Android

What it does: You can use Sift to scan the labels of grocery items to check for potential allergens. Each product screen displays a list of additives such as gluten-containing grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, dairy, and soy ingredients. Sift’s simple, clean interface is easy to use. This would have been an excellent app to add to a childcare provider’s or teacher’s device to scan for potential allergies to common snack foods when my daughter was in kindergarten, although of course I wanted the school to call me over and over again. Check it out

There’s also a button at the top of each set of Sift search results that allows you to search for “clean pantry items.” You can choose from dairy-free, gluten-free, low-FODMAP, nightshade-free, soy-free, or vegan items.

blind spots: Sift does not include labeling for “cross contamination,” which usually appears on packaging with language such as “Maybe” or “Produced on shared equipment…” if the person you’re shopping for If he’s extra sensitive to their allergens, you’ll still have to read the actual label in the store carefully. Also note that if your only allergy is eggs, this app doesn’t filter by that allergen (you can use “vegan,” which will disqualify all products containing dairy, eggs, or meat.) Also, if you have multiple allergies, the discovery process will take longer; Sift does not allow you to filter more than one ingredient at a time.

cost free

iOS , Android

What it does: Like Sift, you can use Open Food Facts to scan grocery items in the store to check for potential allergens. Its database of foods is maintained by users and participating producers. Open Food Facts displays ingredients and potential allergens on a single page, including gluten, dairy, soybeans, eggs, peanuts, sesame, and other nuts.

Since the app’s data is submitted by both food producers and everyday consumers, there is a substantial number of international products in the database. This information can be important when traveling somewhere if you do not know the local language well enough to read labels clearly. It was great for me to have this app on a family trip abroad, where I used it to make sure the snack food I was considering wouldn’t activate my lactose intolerance and make my whole day. will derail it.

blind spots: Like SIFT, Open Food Facts does not specifically state potential areas of cross-contamination. In addition, due to its open-source nature, some of the items I scanned brought erroneous results, including the presence of an allergen that doesn’t appear on the label itself. Always double check!

There are also other apps that offer leg up in supermarkets. Analyst There’s a grocery list and meal planner that you can share with members of your family, giving you the opportunity to leave notes on grocery items, which is especially helpful when you’re helping others out for a holiday dinner. Ask to shop for your family. Finally, if you don’t even know where to start with the new dietary restriction, small amount The app shares lists of foods that are safe for gluten-free, low-FODMAP, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan diets.

in your kitchen
Photo: Muscat/Getty Images

Cost: $2.49/month for one year or $4.99/month if paid monthly

iOS , Android

What it does: Yummly is an app with a browser-based counterpart and includes personalization options that allow you to automatically filter your results to match the content you’re avoiding. Yummly also includes a huge database of recipes that you can browse through and add to your meal plan. Some of the included recipes are more than just a recipe; An article titled “How to Scramble Tofu” featured in my Yummly Recipe List. And the recipes include a list of all the tools you’ll need for the dish, like pans and measuring cups—when I write a recipe for my teenage daughters to start making for dinner, they get all that. Allows to collect something that we need from the beginning.

In my opinion, the best part of Yummly is that you can export content to a shopping list that you can import into Instacart and order for delivery if the service is available in your area.

blind spots: is in this app Every thing It can do a lot, so it may take you some time to figure it out and figure out the best ways to use it, but it will be well worth your time. Some users report challenges logging in or the app crashing, so be sure to keep up with any updates.

Cost: $5/month or free with NYT membership

iOS , Android

What it does: The NY Times Cooking App allows you to search for recipes based on your tastes, and includes a collection of recipes for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free diets. The dishes are often—like the new York Times A little more sophisticated by themselves, but they make dishes that make you feel fancy. is my favorite Vegan Cheese and Black PepperLess fussy recipes than some of the others in the app and the ultimate comfort food for someone like me who can’t eat dairy products.

Recipes can be saved to your “recipe box” and ingredients can be added to a grocery list that you can email, text, share in Facebook Messenger or in “Notes” on your smartphone can save. I’ve taken advantage of the option to save recipes in collections labeled with the weeks in the month, creating a meal plan that’s easily accessible from the app’s home screen.

blind spots: Multi-word search in the app feels a bit messy. For example, my searches for “dairy-free” and “chocolate cake” gave me results like pudding and sorbet.

Aside from these apps, never underestimate the power of a shared family calendar. If you plan your meals a week in advance, use Apple or Google Calendar on your smartphone to include notes for each event. If next Tuesday’s calendar has an entry at 2 p.m. to defrost chicken, at 5 p.m. to start assembling a linked recipe, and at 6:30 p.m. to show up on the table, you’ve entered the “night’s table.” What to eat” is avoided. ?” and “How can I help?” questions.

eat outside
Photo: Muscat/Getty Images

Cost: Free for Basic Search, $19.99/year for a single user account, $29.99/year for a family account

iOS , Android

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