Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

It’s that time of year again: time to deck the halls, trim the tree and attempt to make a holiday dinner that everyone can eat. This gets tricky if you have guests with special dietary restrictions. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, food allergies are a serious medical condition that affect around 15 million people in the U.S. Of course, millions of additional Americans choose not to eat certain foods for moral, health or religious reasons. With the myriad dietary restrictions folks have today, it’s a wonder we can enjoy a holiday meal together at all.

So what is a good host to do when Uncle Richard wants a traditional Christmas feast while Cousin Alex needs a nut-free meal and Aunt Rachel’s gone vegetarian? To help you prepare, be aware of a few of the most common culprits. Common food allergies include eggs, peanuts and other nuts, seafood/shellfish, milk and lactose, and wheat/gluten. If you’re going to take care to choose recipes that cater to dietary restrictions, here’s a few you may not be as familiar with:

  • Pescatarian – Eats fish only
  • Pollotarian – Eats poultry only
  • Ovo-Vegetarian – Eats eggs but does not eat dairy or meat
  • Lacto-Vegetarian – Eats dairy but does not eat eggs or meat
  • Paleo – Consists mainly of fish, eggs, vegetables, grass-fed pasture raised meats, fruit, and nuts
  • Kosher – Eats foods that follows a set of Jewish dietary laws

Here are a few more tips to make the holiday meal and good experience for all:

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than spending all day in the kitchen only to find that many of your guests either can’t or won’t eat it. Reach out to guests in advance and ask about any diet restrictions they may have and plan accordingly.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish)

Ask those with special restrictions or preferences to bring their own dish to share. This way, you can be sure they have something they will enjoy and others can learn more about their lifestyle’s food choices.

Do Your Research

Many foods are naturally gluten-free, vegan, kosher, etc., and usually everyone can share and enjoy vegetable platters and fresh fruit salads. Do your research and be sure to focus on those dishes.

Offer a Little of Everything

A simple solution: Hold a buffet and let your guests choose what they want to eat. This works especially well if you want to try out some recipes for Christmas appetizers for those with no restrictions and ask everybody to bring their favorite dish to share as well.

Label Your Dishes

Be sure to label your offerings so everyone will know exactly what they are eating. Include the name of the dish and what it’s free of. It may take a little extra effort, but you will find that it is so much better than explaining every dish over and over again to guests.