It’s a FANTASTIC tradition. After a family is blessed with a new baby, neighbors, friends, and family bring over meals to ease the family’s adjustment. This all used to be fairly straightforward when people tended to eat the same thing. Bring over a casserole/dessert/salad and help out. But now we live in a world where people eat a diversity of diets.
Gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, no artificial dyes or preservatives, free range and hormone/antibiotic free meat and dairy… and the list goes on. Sometimes moms also have to cut out dairy, soy or other foods to safely breastfeed a baby with food sensitivities. Sometimes these changes are beyond even just feeling better, they are lifesaving. If someone in the family is diabetic or has an anaphylactic food allergy, even one meal that deviates from their diet could be life-threatening. This can make it really awkward for both parties to simply bring over a meal. I think there are probably more families than ever in a situation where they have changed dietary habits.
So how do you navigate the tricky waters of bringing meals to families that have different dietary restrictions? Here are a few suggestions- and they work great for many different situations like funerals, illness, holidays or neighbors who have just moved in:
If you’re going to be preparing a meal for them, ask if they have recipes they can share with you. This way, you’ll know they have something they will look forward to eating that will meet their dietary needs. You might even find a new dish to make for dinner too.
Not comfortable actually making a meal? This is totally OK! There are a lot of really good reasons that you may not feel comfortable actually making a meal for someone even though you really want to help. If you have strong feelings about working with animal products, you yourself have food allergies that make it difficult to handle certain types of food or someone in the family has a potentially life-threatening allergy and there are concerns about cross-contamination of food that is brought in. It could also be as simple as geographical distance. Maybe you or the family who is expecting live in another state (or even another country). There are still lots of ways to help:
Offer to pick up some staple items or snacks so that the family will have some extras on hand during the postpartum recovery period. Having good quality food on hand that requires little or no effort and thought to prepare is a lifesaver when a new baby comes- especially if there are older siblings who will need someone to prepare food for them. Nut butter, hummus, bread, tortillas, crackers, cereal and milk substitutes, dried fruits and nuts are a few examples of quick but nutritious foods that can help a lot in the tiring days after a new baby arrives. Ask about specific brands, especially with food allergies. Most families will have some go-to snack items that fit their particular needs. In addition to the local grocery store, you can also order items on Amazon.com, which can be especially nice for multi-packs of certain foods. If you want to get really creative, you could even put together a gift basket or gift box to welcome the new baby.
Gift cards. In my opinion, this is another great option. Ask the parents if there is a particular restaurant or grocery store that they would be nice for picking up a quick healthy meal like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Chipotle, etc. Some restaurants have menu items that fit different diets and allergies and will even have an order online option. Gift cards can be really nice if you want to send something helpful but can’t ship anything perishable because of distance. You can also send an Amazon gift card so the family can stock up favorite staples in bulk packs too.
Is this different than bringing over the traditional dinner? Yes. But especially if you ask the family about their needs and comfort level, it’s not necessarily unwelcome.