The number of special diets has increased in the last decades. Preparing diet meals is often considered as a challenging and time consuming job. With good planning you can, however, manage the amount of work. A kitchen system will help a commercial kitchen in managing special diets and allergens.
By Matleena Autio
The number of special diets followed by different reasons has increased in the last decades. Reasons for following special diets can be numerous. Health related reasons are, for example, bowel diseases and diabetes, as well as different types of allergies and hypersensitivities. Food restrictions are related to many religions, as well, for example fasting or cutting out certain foods. In addition, different types of vegetarian diets have grown in popularity. This can be seen in the supermarkets, as well, where the assortment for plant based food items has increased. Many consumers have added the consumption of plant based foods in their diet even if they continue consuming meat, as well.
Eating is one of the basic needs of humans, and there are numerous psychological and physical functions related to it. Eating for comfort or strong disliking towards certain foods are familiar phenomenon to most of us. So you should always respect the diet your customer has announced, even if your own opinion was different, and you should always take special diets seriously. For example, diets based on religion or ethical reasons are very personal things and they can have a big significance on how a person sees herself, as well as on her feeling of control in life.
Allergies can be life threatening and in celiac disease the tiniest amount of cereal will cause serious damage in the intestines. The amount of people seeking care because of allergies has increased significantly during the past years. One reason for the allergies to become more common might be better recognition of the symptoms. Unnecessary diets where you avoid foods based on health issues are not recommendable.
Managing allergens safely and appropriately
Diets where you avoid foods put a big strain on food service operations in schools, for example. Announced allergy is always taken seriously in the kitchen and even small amounts of ingredients including the allergenic are usually taken out of the person’s diet altogether. For this reason it is very important that allergies and mild hypersensitivities are separated from each other already when announcing the diet. For example, a person who is allergic to tomato needs a diet where even the tiniest amounts of tomato – which could be one ingredient in a sauce, for example – have been removed. A person who is hypersensitive to tomato might get symptoms from tomato only when it is uncooked or if she eats bigger amounts of tomato. You don’t have to take tomato completely out of the diet of this kind of person, it is sufficient that she has the possibility to choose some other item instead of fresh tomato.
The line between allergy and hypersensitivity is not always that clear, and for example cross allergic symptoms related to pollen allergies might vary depending on the season. So, in unclear cases it is important to check the customer’s situation instead of guessing if some ingredient is suitable for her diet or not.
The law requires that food labels identify the food source names of all major food allergens used to make the food (FDA). In JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System you can add information on ingredients, as well as on allergens included in them, into the nutritive value. The user can choose which allergens are included in the nutritive data and the information runs accurately through the system.
You can also add information on diets into recipes, which indicates their suitability for customers with those diets. The information runs through the system from ingredients and recipes to menus that can be published for the customers easily from the system. Keeping the allergen information up-to-date in the system and checking the information on a regular basis is, however, extremely important.
Customer comes first – also when it comes to special diets
You need to take special diets carefully into account also in the possible transportation or presentation and serving of food. Information related to health and conviction is private and when presenting food you should make sure that this information is visible only to those, who need it.
Preparing diet meals is often considered as a challenging and time consuming job. With good planning you can, however, manage the amount of work and often the nutritive quality of the items will be improved at the same time.
When planning and preparing diet meals you do not only take out the ingredients to be avoided from the diet, but you need to replace them with some other item suitable for the customer. A beef soup will not be turned into a vegetable soup if you take out the beef consomme powder and the beef, but you should replace the beef with a plant based protein and change the flavor ingredient into a vegetable based one. Sometimes it is more appropriate to change the entire course than try to prepare a matching main course option for the customers with special diets.
When talking about special diets, it is good to keep in mind that the customer always has the right to decide what she eats. When the recipes for different diets are ready in the system, even the more exceptional wishes can be fulfilled with small effort and in a safe way.