Planning an event for even a small number of people, the odds are pretty high at least one of your guests has dietary needs. For some, it might be a special diet based on convictions. For others, they may deal with an intolerance to a certain food. And for some, it means a severe allergy to a food. Regardless, it’s a logistical challenge to honor the range of needs your guests may have. However, we’ve found that choosing to cater to food allergies doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think. To start, we suggest familiarizing yourself with some basic definitions:
Vegetarian: A diet leaving out animal proteins, but still eats some animal products (like cheese or honey).
Vegan: A diet excluding any kind of animal product, down to ingredients like butter.
Kosher: A Jewish diet with detailed rules, but most simplistically excluding pork products, blood, and animal products that come from non kosher animals (such as gelatin or rennet).
Intolerance or Sensitivity: When the body has a hard time digesting a certain food. People with a sensitivity or intolerance may be able to eat small amounts of the food they’re sensitive to, though it may still cause discomfort.
Allergy: When the body has an unusual immune response to a food. People with an allergy in general must avoid the food they are allergic to as the reaction can be severe. Some are so severe that even cross-contamination can cause a reaction.
Gluten: A common allergy and sensitivity, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. This means common foods like bread and pasta are off-limits.
Dairy: Another common restriction, dairy allergies/sensitivities have to do with lactose, a sugar in dairy. Depending on the severity of the reaction, people who can’t have dairy must avoid milk, cheese, and other products derived from animal milk.
Nuts: Nut allergies are a big deal, often accompanied by serious reactions. Peanuts have a reputation for allergies, but other tree nuts can also be offenders.
Allergies are a serious matter not to be underestimated, and as a host of course you want to take into account other dietary restrictions of your guests. So what are the best ways to navigate a menu so you can cater to food allergies? Here are a few tips:
- Label everything! This is simple, but guests will appreciate knowing what they can or cannot eat. Use common labels like GF, DF, K to indicate which dishes fit those categories. Alternately, you could list any allergens in the ingredients under the dish’s title (such as letting them know flour was used in the gravy or the dish contains nuts).
- Strategize the dishes you choose. For instance, instead of a pasta dish choose a vegetarian rice dish.
- Simplify your dishes. If possible, offer sauces and garnishes on the side to make it easier for guests to avoid foods they can’t have.
If you’re planning an event, we can help make sure your menu takes guests with dietary restrictions into account. We’ve learned how to cater to food allergies, and are happy to help make your event a success!