When you throw a dinner party, you want all your guests to feel relaxed and at ease. However, some of your friends have dietary issues. How do plan and prepare for this, so that all your guests can eat in comfort? Do you serve gluten-free beer? Or should you prepare a totally vegetarian meal? What if there’s an allergy you’re unaware of, or a food ingredient you didn’t think was harmful to some?
Our guidelines will help you manage these challenges and more. There is a lot of information that you’ll need for planning a dinner party, so this article aims to be as comprehensive as possible.
Determine the Dietary Restrictions of Your Guests if Possible
The first objective is to ascertain what your guests do and don’t eat. Preferences aside, they are most likely to know the rules for their own diet. A quick message to ask about their diets will seem thoughtful and practical.
However, you may be catering to people you don’t know, or with whom you haven’t had the previous contact. In this case, it’s best to offer a wide array of foods that cover each and every restriction. Here’s what you need to know then.
A Few Diets Explained
What Does a Gluten-free Diet Look Like?
The most common dietary sensitivity is to gluten. This is found in all wheat and some grain products. What they should avoid is listed below:
- All bread and pasta made with wheat
- Any baking powder that includes wheat flour
- Sauces and spices generally contain wheat through the addition of flour and this includes soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and salad dressing
- Crisps are normally coated with wheat
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Certain eggs—chickens are sometimes fed with gluten products
The reality is that you’re going to have to read the labels of everything you buy. It’s far easier to use fresh, whole foods, and create your own additives, or purchase, for instance, pure spices. For a quick reference, ask your gluten-free friends which products to buy, because, for instance, eggs won’t be labeled as gluten-free.
Thankfully, there are many delicious substitutes for these products on the shelves, from beverages to alternative flours, such as rice flours.
Requirements for a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
Note that a vegetarian diet is different from that of a vegan.
Both don’t eat meat. However, this is where the similarities end.
Vegetarians omit the following from their diets:
- Meat, such as beef, pork, lamb, and game
- Poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck
- Anything derived from animal protein, such as rennet (an animal protein used in making cheese), or gelatine
- Stock or fats derived from animals
Vegans omit all the above, but also exclude:
Once again, there are plenty of alternatives in the stores that are tasty and filling. You don’t have to give them just vegetables and fruit.
What Foods Include Nuts?
A nut allergy is a dangerous allergy. If consumed, nuts can lead to anaphylactic shock and death. It’s actually best to avoid nuts altogether because some people only present with a nut allergy later on in life.
Nuts are often found in desserts, so make your own desserts for safety’s sake.
Restriction for Those with Diverticulosis
People with diverticulosis are generally older. They can’t consume seeds or nuts that can get trapped in the diverticula of the colon, although this is controversial. They should, however, eat a high-fiber diet.
What Can You Serve to Accommodate All Dietary Restrictions?
Now that you know what to avoid, you can try and work around it. You can make several items, and cook from scratch and you’ll accommodate most people at any dinner party.
Some practical solutions to consider:
- You can give everyone a gluten-free macaroni cheese, with gluten-free pasta and thickener, and vegan cheese. (Just make sure the cheese contains no soy sauce.) Add gluten-free beer, wine, and fruit juices for a pleasant, simple meal.
- One can easily create a meat dish for people with gluten and nut allergies, and then add a good vegan meal on the side. This works as long as your vegan friends agree to eat in the same room as meat-eaters.
- You can also do a vegan lasagne or both vegan/gluten-free and meat lasagne for different groups. Just make sure you keep the cooking utensils separate. Not a particle of gluten or meat should enter the free group’s dish.
- Serve salads, and vegetables cooked without additives. People can always add their own sauces, spices, and dressings.
- For afters, offer a range of options:
- Fruits and fruit-based puddings for the vegans
- Ice cream and melted chocolate or pavlova for gluten intolerant and nut-allergy sufferers.
It’s a lot more difficult to offer cakes because of gluten, nuts, and eggs present, but it is possible.
Any normal after-dinner drink is likely to be acceptable. Tea, coffee, wine, fruit juice, gluten-free beer, or after-dinner cocktails should be welcomed by most guests.
A dinner party is an occasion where you can offer hospitality and share a part of your life with others. However, getting the food and drink right for people with allergies can be tricky. Still, it’s not impossible to accommodate a number of diets with just a little ingenuity and knowledge.