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Aug 6, 2010 01:22 AM

Help! I'm a foodie trapped in a family with weird diet issues!

Okay, I'm a college student who spends breaks at home with my parents. My dad has heart issues, so things need to be low-sodium and low-cholesterol. He can't eat anything too heavy too late because it gives him heartburn He also can't eat grapefruit. My mom is pre-diabetic, so things need to be low in simple sugars (ie: whole wheat). She's also taking a medication that makes it hard to eat anything too heavy (ie: basic pesto = too heavy). Spicy food and garlic have suddenly become distasteful and bacon makes her barf. Most of this stuff is fairly recent. I was so excited to eat things that didn't come out of my dining hall (AWFUL!!!!) but now I'm bored. Help? Thanks!

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  1. Cook for yourself? Go out to dinner? I don't see why your parents' restrictions should affect what you can eat. Am I missing something?

    6 Replies
    1. re: small h

      Exactly. You are an adult and unless your parents won't let you in the kitchen there is no reason you can't cook for yourself. Get a beginners cook book, , and learn to make exactly what you want to eat.

      Hopefully for you you won't be eating at dinning halls or your parents house the rest of your life so you might as well start learning to do for yourself now.

      1. re: bookhound

        I actually really like my parents. I couldn't find a job this summer, and my summer class doen't take up very much time. Cooking and helping out around the house is the only way I can contribute. I do my own thing for lunch, but I'm kind of at the end of my rope for dinner. I end up cooking a chicken breast or a piece of fish with a squeeze of lemon on top, some kind of veggie, and brown rice. And I CAN cook, thank you very much. I'm sorry if the OP sounded bratty, but I was braising lamb shanks at 12 years old and I can make a mean cioppino. It just makes my mom barf (literally) because it's too fatty or too spicy. The question isn't how to cook, it's what. I'm looking for something tasty that isn't totally boring.

        1. re: ferris91

          Pasta? I mean, I hate the taste of most whole wheat pasta, but you might be able to cover it up with some cream and parm '-)

          Other than that - stir-fry with veggies and lean protein, tho without heat and garlic.... hmm. Can they do ginger, cumin, other things that might make it interesting?

          1. re: linguafood

            Thank you! I may have been oversimplifying when I talked about our usual dinners. Whole wheat pasta is something we also eat a lot of. I was upset when we first started eating it, but after 11 years, you kind of get over it. No cream though...too rich for my mom. I can make a tomato sauce from scratch (because the store bought ones have too much sodium for my dad) and throw in some lean ground turkey.

            I may be able to do a stir fry (?) My mom is okay with ginger still. I tried to spice up some snap peas with a little ginger and soy with no complaints.

            Honestly, the biggest problem is richness. My dad can survive a little bit of excess salt and my mom can eat processed carbs as long as it isn't the main dish (for example, she can eat a baked russet potato with a little butter). But something like bacon or an alfredo sauce will make my mom sick and my dad uncomfortable.

            1. re: ferris91

              Ferris, you sound smart enough to be more creative with your cooking ideas. Very often you can do a simple dish, and then add a couple of more ingredients for a more special recipe. Examples:

              Make the simple tomato sauce for them, and top it with some fresh ricotta or goat cheese for you. Or saute some sausage and add it to your portion.

              Do plain or marinated chicken breast for the folks, and but rub yours with a spice rub before cooking.

              Make plain macaroni with a sauce of some kind for them, but turn your portion into mac and cheese.

              Do simple fish fillets for Mom and Dad, and serve yours with garlicky cole slaw, chopped tomatoes, and warm tortillas for fish tacos.

              And not to sound like an English teacher, but could you come up with another phrase for b*rf? While it isn't a cuss word, shouldn't we try to keep things appetizing around here? You made your point in your first post. No need to mention it again.

      2. re: small h

        I think s/he wants to eat with the parents, and is just trying to come up with some ways to eat the same meals as they do. I agree with what others have said about making the same basic dish and then spicing up your portion. That's fairly easy to do, and as far as spice goes, restaurants can adjust the spice level for each person and so can you!

      3. ferris, i feel your pain! dining hall fare is horrible and i'm addicted to spicy food, too. so, my ideas for light and low in garlic:
        try soba noodles - they're made with buckwheat and i think they're low-glycemic - just watch the salt in soy sauce and miso
        *brahmin indian
        brahmins traditionally avoid garlic, they often use asafoetida powder (hing) in it's stead
        and whole wheat basmati rice is actually good
        plus they include a lot of bean/pulse/legume/dhal dishes which are yummy, low in fat and full of fiber
        you can tone down the spicing to suit your mom, and then eat some pickle or chutney on the side to spice it up for you. don't forget to make some raita (yoghurt sauce/side dish) - they're super fast to make and are creamy and cooling without being rich.

        and aren't corn tortillas low-glycemic? you could try making some taco fillings (no packets, please!), with a chili-garlic salsa on the side for you and your dad, or maybe some enchiladas baked over with red or green sauce but hold the cheese and sour cream.

        hope it helps.

        1. I don' t think there is any way around a little bit of extra work when you're cooking to please all parties. I have a somewhat similar situation in that my kids don't enjoy food as spicy as I like to make it. Often I'll make a stir fry dish or sauteed vegetables and lightly sauce, take out half for them, and go to town with the rest. Lately I've been on a kick making sauteed zucchini and eggplant with a sauce made from Patak's curry past. Serve something like that along with a protein and healthy starch and everyone can enjoy. Also, something like pesto or fresh herbs can be added to a protein at the last minute as a topping so those who can't tolerate don't have to eat it.

          Kudos to you for cooking and trying to accomodate your parent's dietary issues.

          1. I know your pain, my husbands brother is going to be living with us for a period of time and he is allergic to nuts and dairy and is also a picky eater. However he is willing to try anything once as long as it doesn't have dairy or nuts in it. I think there are 3 things you can do to help the situation.

            1. Your splurges. Buy some things you like for you, that you can eat or cook when your all eating together. Or have a one night a week and go out to a restaurant . This way you aren't feeling like you are missing out all the time.

            2. Talk to your parents and find out what they like to cook, what are their favorite meals that fit the restrictions? I did this with my brother in law and it helped to find some common ground.

            3. If you are a foodie and love to cook then why not challenge yourself and learn how to cook a few things that have those restrictions. Look up healthy recipes, low sodium or recipes for diabetics.

            Also here are some resources and tips for you.

            Check out dash diet recipes. These recipes are good for your heart you can find some at

            Use a salt subsitute - you can find one like mrs. dash at the grocery store. My favorite is murel of flavor by penzey spices.

            Love and embrace your veggies.

            Kababs are an easy one and very interchangable according to peoples taste.

            Eat more fish. This is a heath benifit for all.

            Sauces on the side. Make your own sauces - chimichurri, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce and offer them on the side.

            When making things from scratch you have the opportunity to control the sodium and the sugar, I'm sure there are some great recipes here on chow you can find that would fit well.

            Also good luck. I know it's a huge adjustment but I'm sure you can find a happy compromise.

            1. Have you checked out the 101 Cookbooks blog? It's chock full of gorgeous, inspired, HEALTHY recipes. Sometimes I want to reach through the computer and smack the blogger, Heidi, (Heidi, if you're reading this, I swear I am coming from a place of loving butter, not violence) because she's so virtuous, but I keep coming back again and again for inspiration in my own cooking. She's really got a masterful use of whole grains and veggies going on, and you can punk it up from there.