Catering for dietary restrictions at Christmas

Dietary intolerances.

There’s always one. You’re hosting Christmas this year, but you just found out your cousin has recently turned vegan? Or maybe your mum has decided to cut out gluten, or your sister has just found out that she can’t eat onion and garlic anymore otherwise she will be terribly sick? What are you going to cook? It’s likely that there will be at least one of these scenarios at your event this year, and it can be more than daunting if you have no idea what it all means. Dietary intolerances and restrictions are varied and very individual (in regards to both reason and cause) – so there is no one approach that will fit an entire group. But, you can use these tips below to give you a starting point. Remember to always check with the individual beforehand so that they can make the best decision for themselves. Only they will know their body well enough to decide, it’s not up to you to choose for them.  

Vegetarian

There is quite a bit of variation within vegetarianism, but as a general rule: no meat, be it red or white, and no seafood (including things such as oysters, prawns and crab). Vegetarians are usually fairly happy with a couple of good quality salad options and some roast vegetables. Try not to be too boring with the old lettuce and tomato, get some colour and creativity in there! It’s also a good idea to include some vegetarian sources of protein in the mix too. If you’re having a BBQ, include some vegetarian sausages or lentil burgers as an easy option.  You could also add chickpeas to your salad, or some cheese such as feta or haloumi will work well too.

a mix of some vegetarian sources of protein

Vegan

Vegan options are a little more limited but not impossible! Vegans avoid all animal products, so that means no meat, no seafood, no eggs, no dairy and no honey. It is possible to find vegan-friendly sausages and burger products, but some contain egg so please make sure to read the label carefully. Make a couple of varieties of salad including legumes and also nuts for added protein. A fruit platter is a great vegan option for dessert. Many desserts can be made vegan-friendly by using soy or coconut milk, and egg-free binding agents. A quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas and recipes.

Gluten Free

Gluten intolerances can vary from mild to quite severe (Coeliac disease) so it’s best to err on the side of caution and be extra careful. Don’t assume that something that contains ‘traces’ of gluten will be ok for a person suffering from Coeliac disease, as it could make them severely unwell. The main culprits to avoid are wheat products, so this includes cereals, breads, biscuits, pastries and pastas. Be wary of many condiments, alcoholic beverages and processed foods. Always check the label to be sure. Simple gluten-free options can use rice or rice noodles as a substitute for regular noodles, also there are many gluten-free bread options widely available too. You can use nut flours such as almond meal in desserts and rice crackers or corn chips with dip for snack options.

Fructose Friendly

Fructose intolerance is probably one of the most difficult intolerances to cater for, and it’s becoming increasingly common. As a general rule, those avoiding fructose will likely not consume onion, garlic, any high fructose containing fruits and vegetables and most sweeteners, so many salad options and desserts will be unsuitable. Lean meats and seafood are a great option for the BBQ, just remember to keep condiments and sauces away until you know they are OK for the person to consume.   The key to catering for dietary intolerances is preparation and communication! Your guests will hopefully let you know beforehand to avoid any awkward scenarios, but it’s a good idea to have some of these tips ready to go as a backup just in case.

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