A large guest list for the holidays also comes with a mounting variety of dietary restrictions. Food Allergy Research and Education estimates that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. Diabetes, lactose intolerance, high blood pressure, and allergies are just a few things to consider when planning your holiday menu. But, hosting a successful meal doesn’t have to feel like a headache. Here are some holiday etiquette strategies to address everyone’s nutritional needs at the Thanksgiving table.
While the turkey may be the big affair, it can exclude vegans and vegetarians. Consider serving a hearty alternative such as stuffed acorn squash, vegetable pot pies, or wild mushroom risotto. If some guests are gluten intolerant, research a gluten-free stuffing recipe. Yours can still include seasonal fall produce like dried cranberries, mushrooms, celery, apples, or pears…all the delicious and healthy flavor of your favorite stuffing!
If cooking two separate entrees feels like too much work for your busy schedule, be mindful of how you prepare your sides. Making vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free sides may make it easier for guests to fill their plates, and they won’t even miss the meat! Remember that vegan doesn’t mean flavorless. Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock, bacon with flavorful seasonings, and butter with fresh herbs.
This is the trickiest dish to tackle as most desserts contain allergens such as milk, eggs, and nuts. It’s important to offer at least one dessert that is gluten, dairy, and nut free. Fresh sliced fruit is always a welcome close to a ginormous meal. And many dairy-free chocolates are available if you’d like to provide a dipping sauce on the side. While some guests may not be able to enjoy the requisite pumpkin or apple pies, they may be able to indulge in a dairy-free pumpkin sorbet or a baked apple in a caramel sauce. Rethinking dessert is an excellent way to try some new recipes!
Substituting ingredients in existing recipes is the easiest way to tailor your menu for guests with dietary restrictions. Lactose-free milk, yogurt, and sour cream are available in most stores and are fantastic substitutes for many common ingredients. Substitute wheat flour with gluten-free flour mixes, corn starch, or rice flour depending on the recipe. You can use rice flour in place of wheat flour when making gravy, for example. Stick to pre-prepared gluten-free baking flour when substituting for wheat flour in breads, cakes, or other desserts. They contain added ingredients such as baking soda and baking powder to help mimic how wheat flour reacts when cooked in a batter.
*Note that not all your guests may enjoy alcoholic beverages. A lovely non-alcoholic cocktail or punch is a thoughtful way to include non-drinking guests in the festivities.
Food Allergy Research and Education reports, “Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. And eight common foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.” If you’re hosting a meal, be sure to ask your guests for any dietary restrictions they may have. Check the packaging on ingredients for food allergens as many products are made in factories that also process nuts.
Before the meal begins, specify which dishes meet certain restrictions. If you are a guest, kindly mention your dietary restrictions well in advance to give your hostess enough time to accommodate. Remember that a dietary “preference” is different from a true “anaphylaxis” reaction. While it’s not appropriate to micromanage your host’s menu selection due to a preference, it’s a nice gesture to offer to bring a dish that meets your dietary needs for everyone to share if you are intolerant of particular foods.
Have fun and enjoy!