In years past, I would have been seriously rattled if someone coming to my holiday table announced that they were Vegan, Paleo or Gluten-free. I can just see myself scrambling around like a crazy person, trying to figure out what exactly to feed them.
This year at Thanksgiving, I’m going to be that odd person out. As I’m thinking through my holiday plans, I wanted to share with you some tips on how to accommodate your friends and family members with dietary restrictions.
- Get the details. If someone goes out of their way to tell you their needs, take advantage of it and get all the information that you can. Are they expecting you to make every dish to their specifications, or can you include other dishes that they can’t eat? Are they willing to bring along dishes to suit their own needs or do you need to provide some options for them? It’s okay to ask a lot of questions- what’s important is that you both understand what the expectations are for the meal.
- Do your research. If you offer to accommodate your guest’s dietary needs, find out what ingredients need to be avoided. There are tons of resources on the web. Here are a few for Thanksgiving in particular- vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, dairy-free, GAPS, SCD.
- Know your ingredients. If you are cooking the meal entirely from scratch, this one will be easier on you. You’ll be able to tell your guest which dishes include the off-limits ingredients. If you plan on using any pre-made items or processed ingredients (many American holiday favorites include these) make sure you read the labels carefully before you buy and keep them so your guest can look them over. Salad dressings, pre-made baked goods, gravy or seasoning mixes and canned soups are a few examples of items to look out for.
- Keep it separated. People with food allergies or diet restrictions are usually only worried about a few offending ingredients, so setting up buffet-style or family-style may be better than serving individual entrees where foods are touching. Try leaving salad dressings, gravies and toppings on the side.
- Relax! This is hard to do during the holidays regardless of your guest list, but try to do it anyways. The meal may not go perfectly, but just roll with the punches. Maybe it ends up that your gluten-free guest can’t eat a thing on the table- try making him an omelette. Maybe you forgot that your vegan guest doesn’t eat dairy- saute some vegetables and serve with warm bread. If you prepare ahead of time, chances are things will run smoothly and you won’t run into any major problems. Your guest will feel loved and cared for knowing that you put in the extra effort.
Are you guys hosting the holidays this year? Or maybe dealing with some new diet restrictions yourself? What are some of your favorite alternative holiday meals?