Writing or developing recipes for special diets can be a tricky challenge, especially if it's not your normal diet. Today, Lisa Le shares some tips on how to accommodate special diets on your food blog.
A special diet is any diet that may be uncommon or is outside of the omnivorous norm. Nowadays, you hear about Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Whole Food, and a myriad of other special diets. Sometimes you will feel like a minority for eating the once-widely-consumed omnivore diet while others chow down on lettuce cups with tofu.
Some of you may have branched out and labeled certain recipes as one of these various diets but proceed with caution: while some of these diets may be dubbed as fad diets, there are many who follow these diets due to health complications. Mislabeling your recipes may be as dangerous as labeling peanut brittle as peanut-free.
Accommodating special diets on your blog can be tricky: beware of how you approach it. While some may appreciate the effort in including different diets to your recipe repertoire, there’s a fine line between accommodating and pandering.
Be authentic: avoid simply making a recipe in a certain diet specifically for page views. Weave the content naturally through your blog. Not only will your blog be more cohesive as a collection of recipes, but also you may grow an audience from that niche of special diets in the process.
In essence, readers expect a certain consistency: if you are primarily a Paleo blogger, but then throw in a sourdough bread recipe in there somewhere, it will throw off your regular Paleo readers, not to mention some heated comments. Once you’ve decided that you want to accommodate special diets among your recipes, take a look at some tips that will help you better cater their needs.
Use a blog or recipe disclaimer.
Unless you’re a registered dietician or physician that has the authority to claim that one food is gluten-free or touts any sort of heath benefits (or detriments), it’s better to be safe than sorry by putting up a disclaimer. Something along the lines of I’m not an expert, please consult a qualified physician before making any dietary or exercise changes, depending on how you are incorporating special diets into your content.
The disclaimer keeps you from being liable for any health complications or misconstrued information and provides transparency for your reader.
Do your ingredient research.
Who knew that a certain widely known, puffed rice cereal is NOT gluten-free? Rice is a seemingly innocent gluten-free food… little did I know that the childhood favourite cereal is actually not gluten-free! Thanks to a rather irritated reader who left a comment on a post from my early and naïve blog years, I found out that certain brands have barley malt, which would trigger a celiac’s allergic reaction before you could say snap, crackle, and pop.
When in doubt, do the research. A simple search of “Is X food gluten-free” goes a long way. This doesn’t only apply to gluten-free diets, but other special diets as well. Many people might not be aware that Worcestershire sauce or Caesar dressing are not traditionally vegetarian-friendly because of the anchovies, or that candies with “confectioner’s glaze” are made with lac beetle resin (not vegan).
Nowadays there are thousands of special diet blogs out there that have the special-diet-knowledge that you and your readers may find helpful. Share the link love and encourage your readers to visit other reputable blogs. Who knows, maybe the good karma will be reciprocated and readers from that blog may come visiting you knowing that you have recipes that cater to their special diets
Be respectful of other diets.
Some people choose a specific diet for the sake of losing weight. In some other cases, it may be for reasons concerning food allergies or sensitivities, accessibility, or even quite simply preference. But special diets are often a touchy subject, so don’t assume someone has chosen a certain diet for whatever reason. In the case of veganism, there are so many different paths that lead a person down the road of veganism. Some eat plant-based for environmental reasons, health reasons, and the obvious: animal rights.
In the end, if you choose to label a certain dish as special-diet-friendly or mention it in your blog post, be aware of the different reasons why some may choose a certain lifestyle and/or diet.
Make it easier for your reader.
Once you’ve accumulated a collection of recipes for a specific special diet, make it easier for your reader to access by having a specific section or tag in your recipe index for that category. Paleo, whole food, grain-free, dairy-free… in the age of the internet, everyone is looking for a shortcut, so by making a section full of things that are catered to them (say a whole-foods-specific category on your recipe index), your readers are more likely to stick around and check out your other special diet recipes.
Many of these tips may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many things contain ingredients that you didn’t know contained gluten, animal by-products, or didn’t exist until after the Paleolithic age. Everybody starts somewhere in their food-discovering journey, and your blog could be their first introduction. Link to different reputable sources (good for SEO) and be diligent in your research to make reading your blog more enjoyable and educational for everyone.
If you'd like to learn more about adapting recipes to make them friendly for different diets, be sure to check out the new Allergen-Friendly Recipe Remixes FBC publishes each month. Our certified nutritionist shows you how to adapt classic recipes to be gluten, egg, dairy and refined sugar free as well as vegetarian or vegan friendly!
Lisa Le is the Toronto based vegan food bloggers behind Je Suis Alimentageuse. She blogs about food with stories about Vietnamese culture, nerdism, feminism and her life sprinkled in on top.