A Guide To Entertaining Guests With Dietary Restrictions

9:00:00 AM

Hello darlings!

As a mom with a baby and a very lucky person to have such a large circle of good friends and family, I often find myself entertaining at our home. I didn't have to cook for the baptism since we only offered a sweet treat along with the favors, but I am thinking of doing so for her birthday in a couple of weeks. I have a couple of family members and friends with food restrictions and I came up with this short guide to address them in case you need some tips too.

Firstly, let’s define what “dietary restriction” means, as it’s not the same thing as just trying to find food that your guests will like.

A dietary restriction is something that has to be catered to. You can’t make something and hope it’ll pass muster; you have to keep it at the forefront of your mind when you’re preparing your meal. This does, of course, mean more work; but there’s no doubt it will be gratefully appreciated by your guests.

Types Of Dietary Restrictions

There are many dietary restrictions to keep an eye out for. That’s why it’s always important to ask your guests prior to your event if they have any that you should know about. You can do this with a quick conversation or, if you’re sending formal invites, request to be informed of any such issues on the RSVP.

You may encounter a variety of different dietary needs, but the most common are likely to be:

Vegetarian


Most of us know what a vegetarian is. For the most part, they don’t eat meat. Whether or not they will eat items such as eggs is often a personal choice, so ask for clarification if necessary. Our baby's sweet god-mom is one and we always try to accommodate her.

Vegan

All the restrictions of a vegetarian, and then moreso. Vegans don’t eat anything that comes from animals, be it meat, milk, butter, or even honey (which is derived from bees). You will need to be very stringent on the items you choose for a vegan, studying packaging plenty - some basic items will often have animal components that you would never have imagined.

Gluten Free

While a health trend, gluten free does have a real purpose, too: it’s an essential for those who suffer from Celiac Disease. Gluten is found in bread, grains, and anything containing malt (such as vinegar). You also should not use cooking equipment that has been in contact with anything containing gluten, as contamination is a big issue for Celiacs.

Religious Diets

There are two main religious dietary restrictions. The first is halal, which is a dietary need for those of the Islamic faith. It primarily centers around meat. The second is kosher, which is the need for those of the Jewish faith. Particularly with the latter, as with gluten free, you will need to be careful with the cooking equipment you use in case of contamination.

Allergies


A brief mention for allergies, though dealing with allergies is far simpler than negotiating with all of the above. If a guest informs you that they have an allergy to a particular food, it’s very easy to handle: just don’t use it. This is essential, as allergies can result in an immediate, life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. There’s no workarounds or adaptations you can do with allergies; just utterly avoid the item in question.



So, when you know what the dietary restrictions are, you have to try and figure out how to put together a meal that works. Let’s move on to a few essential dos and don’ts for handling this situation.

DON’T: Just Expect Your Guest To Pick and Choose

One of the rudest things you can do is expect your guest with a dietary restriction to deal with it themselves. So, don’t just put together a meal as you normally would and expect them to pick and choose what they can eat. If you do that, you’re not being truly considerate of their needs - and you’re probably forcing them to eat very little. You don’t want a situation where a vegan is left with nothing to eat but a plate of potatoes, or someone of the Jewish faith just decides to eat nothing because they don’t know what they can trust.

It might be inconvenient, but part of entertaining is about getting these things right. So go the extra mile to accommodate their needs.

DO: Think Of Good Recipes That Work For Everyone

Food created with a dietary restriction in mind doesn’t have to be unpleasant. If you look around, you will quickly find that there are plenty of foods that take into account a dietary need but which can be enjoyed by everyone. For example, this vegan recipe for sugar cookies should go down well with all your guests, while this gluten-free lasagne should appeal to all guests. As for the meat restrictions on kosher and halal food, every guest will be able to eat applicable meat without being any the wiser.

DON’T: Ignore The Restriction

It’s important to mention this because, sometimes, it can be tempting. “How will they ever know?” you think, going ahead and doing what you would normally do. First off, this is just plain rude. Secondly, there’s every chance they will find out, and then you could have scorched a friendship for no good reason. People with dietary restrictions should be given the respect they deserve, and you will be a better friend for catering to them.

DO: See This As A Chance To Experiment

While catering to these issues might make life more difficult in some regards, it’s also a challenge to you as a cook and a host. If you can try and frame it in your mind as a positive thing, a chance for you to test yourself, then it should morph from a chore into something that you actively enjoy. You might even find that you discover recipes you never normally would have tried, but which you love and want to make again.

DON’T: Impress Upon Your Guest The Length You Have Gone To

Again, this can be tempting: “it took me three hours to find kosher salt!” you might be tempted to say. However, this is just going to make you look petty and your guest feel awkward. Instead, don’t make any mention of it besides acknowledging that you have prepared a meal that they will be able to eat without any concerns.

DO: Give Yourself More Time To Shop

Sourcing ingredients that you’re unfamiliar with is going to take longer than your normal shopping, so keep this in mind. If there’s something you’re having problems finding in grocery stores, then check online; there’s a plethora of sites which cater to dietary restrictions and have ingredients galore.


Good luck! And lot's of love


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23 comments

  1. I am the girl with all the restrictions. Typically when I go to parties... I bring my own thing. If it's a sit down dinner party (well I actually tend to avoid those) but if I can't... The person who is hosting typically knows that I cannot eat specific things, so at least they're courteous in that regard.

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  2. It's very difficult to cook for those with dietary needs. This is a great guide to making the cooking job a little easier.

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  3. My sister in law is a vegan and her daughter has a peanut allergy, so when we have them over it can definitely be tricky to find something everyone can eat.

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  4. I have few vegetarian friends and I don't eat much meat myself so it is not to hard for me. But I guess, it might be with others dietary requirements! great post! xx corinne

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  5. I actually have several friends who are gluten free, so it is super hard to remember what they can and can't eat!

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  6. Thank you so much for this! My MIL is gluten free and I never know what I can make her safely. I'll keep this in mind for sure.

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  7. Looking forward to more tips for my gluten free friends. Thanks for the guidance!

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  8. I love my friends but I hate cooking gluten food for them. They are really hard to find and also really expensive to buy too!

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  9. I like to pretend I'm doing a Top Chef challenge when I have to cook for my husband's family. His mom won't eat spicy (which is not a restriction, but she's 70, so I don't argue with her), his sister is allergic to half the world, and his sister's boyfriend is gluten-free. Definitely keeps the kitchen interesting!

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  10. Loved reading this as my boyfriend and I both have dietary restrictions (including severe food allergies) and people sometimes avoid having us over to avoid the stress and risk! However, it's often as easy as asking for clarification, and we can identify the easiest ways to adapt any meal that's being served so it's not overly inconvenient!

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  11. Having dietary restrictions and allergies can be complicated. These are great suggestions. I can't have cinnamon or my throat closes up. Wish restaurants would take more concern.

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  12. This has interesting information to keep on hand for the next time I'm having guests over. It's something everyone should be aware of.

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  13. You're awesome for sharing this! Always struggled with catering to friends with these needs so I've literally printed this out to keep in mind when hosting future events.

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  14. This does sound like such a polite way of handling the foods that you would cook for a dinner party when you have guests with dietary restrictions. I guess my only issue would be that it would be hard to accommodate everyone, so you might want to limit the number of guests to not have to deal with too many different meals of versions of meals being prepared.

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  15. I don't know of many friends that have dietary restrictions, but I love to experiment with food. I will try some of your suggestions. Maybe it will be a hit regardless if anyone has any dietary restrictions or not.

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  16. Thank you for posting this! With allergies on the rise this is so important to ask before entertaining. It really does mean the world when someone goes out of their way to accommodate food restrictions.

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  17. This is awesome. I've learned through the years to ask guests if they are following a strict diet. But during my first years of entertaining it was really crazy. This guide is perfect for people who need a little more support when it comes to entertaining guests.

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  18. This was very helpful. I'm always going to someone's house and there being meat. I'm a vegetarian and a lot of my family think I'm crazy and find it so hard to feed me. I guess I should pass this to them. Very good read and very informative. Thanks for sharing.

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  19. I have loads of friends who have specific dietary requirements, celiacs, nut allery, vegans... It's hard to cater for everyone for sure!
    Katja xxx
    www.katnapped.com

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  20. I have friends across the board with different needs and while I can accommodate them, some prefer to bring their own food. We do a lot of potluck parties which means everyone brings a favorite dish or two and that solves the dietary restriction issue for us.

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  21. It's really hard to think about what to serve during celebrations if you'll think about all the dietary restriction but it would be great to serve a dish or two that would cater to everyone.

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  22. These is awesome information for those entertaining guests with dietary restrictions. It is so important before you host any event to find out from the guests if there is any dietary restriction. My son is gluten free and dairy free along with my sister have dietary restrictions due to her religion so this is something I actually know about. Thanks for sharing this awesome guide.

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  23. I love that you wrote this article because most people don't think to even ask if their guests might have any restrictions. My daughter has a food allergy and we usually have to make sue people know about it ahead of time....just in case.

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