It’s approaching that time of the year again, where friends and family gather to eat, drink, and tell embarrassing stories about eachother ? These days it seems like more and more people have dietary restrictions, whether they’re in the form of food allergies, intolerances or just strong preferences. As a host or hostess, if you’re inviting a big group over, chances are you’ll have at least one person with some sort of dietary restriction. So here are some tips to manage such a varied group stress-free!
- Ask in advance. Ok, this one’s pretty obvious, but let’s just cover all our bases here. A few weeks in advance (i.e. before you plan your menu), contact your guests and ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions. If any of your guests have a severe allergy or medical condition that cannot be exposed to any cross contamination, they will probably let you know. But some people may be embarrassed to talk about the severity of their allergies or to ask for the full precautions they need, so if you’re prepared to accommodate them, some key words to watch out for are gluten and nut allergies – these are two of the more common restrictions that are sensitive to cross contamination. If someone says they can’t have gluten, ask if they have celiac. If they have nut allergies, ask if they have a serious allergy (like anaphylactic-shock-type-of-allergy). If they do below are more tips to prepare.
- If your guests with restrictions offer to bring a dish that they know they can eat, don’t be shy about accepting, especially if they are sensitive to cross contamination.
- Cook special dishes first. If your guests have severe allergies or medical conditions then you need to watch out for cross contamination. Cook dishes for people with those restrictions before your other dishes, and make sure your surfaces and utensils are clean (i.e. with hot water and soap) before cooking.
- *Usually* dishes like clean proteins and veggies, and fruit for dessert, are safe for everyone (that being said there are definitely people with unique allergies so this is not a blanket statement). The simpler the ingredients, the better – so avoid pre-seasoned meats and packaged sauces. You’d be surprised at how good roast veg with just some salt, pepper and olive oil can taste. Check out more recipes here; we especially like this one for roast chicken which can be applied to other birds.
- Deconstruct your dishes. Rather than serving a full apple pie, serve a deconstructed apple pie – have a dish with your baked apples, another for your crumble top, another for your cream, another for your sauce. Many upscale restaurants are doing this with their desserts now, not necessarily for people with dietary restrictions but for the coolness factor ?. Similarly, if you’re serving a salad, rather than tossing everything together, separate your nuts, cheese, meat, croutons and dressing into separate serving dishes so people can assemble their own ingredients, like a DIY taco bar!
- If you can, serve lots of appetizers/snacks. These are easier to create variety with so that people don’t have to rely completely on the main meal to fill up. You can also buy pre-packaged snacks that you know are allergy-friendly ahead of time.
- Hang on to the labels for ANYTHING you serve from a package, whether it’s a snack or an ingredient in a dish. Even if you tell people it’s safe for them, it’s often much easier and more comforting for them to just look at the ingredient label themselves, and it’s a huge kindness on your part to offer that to them rather than having the pressure of trying to assure them. In addition, we suggest making little labels for your dishes with the ‘free-from’ marked, so that your guests don’t have to ask you about each dish. You can even get creative with the look of these and have a little fun decorating!
Have anymore tips? Let us know in the comments below!