Diet Riot

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I am planning a small holiday soiree and want to include a variety of foods that suit a variety of dietary choices.

There are the vegetarians, the gluten free, the lactose intolerant, and the just plain fussy.

Some won’t eat fish, some won’t eat red meat, and some won’t eat chicken. One guest has a shellfish allergy.  A few won’t eat vegetables. There are the carb restrictors, and the sugar- free. There are the adventurous gourmets, and the no sauce types.

Sound like an impossible to please group? Not really.

These days, everyone has a dietary issue, due to allergies, or just personal taste. A good host can plan around that, and make sure that everyone has something to eat that they (hopefully) will enjoy. It’s not necessary to adapt recipes to cater to dietary preferences, but it is important to offer a selection of foods to suit everyone.

I have stated my distaste for serving too many hors d’oeuvres, which in my opinion just fill everyone up before the main meal. I tend to opt for a few simple “nibbles” that won’t wreck anyone’s appetite before the big event, but will tide my guests over while they are gathering with cocktails before dinner.

Tangy dips or spreads, made without mayonnaise, sour cream or cheese, are good options. Put out crackers or chips, as well as baby carrots to cater to the gluten free crowd. I love Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips, which are gluten free, lactose free and whole grain. Spiced nuts, or a selection of olives are easy ideas.

As long as everyone has something they can snack on, feel free to offer a cheese plate or meat based hors d’oeuvre for the others.

Variety is the spice of life, and when possible, it’s nice to have choices. Few people will love everything, but as long as everyone has a few things they can enjoy, the menu is a success.

An interesting salad, made with vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing is a nice way to start the meal. Skip the cheese, so that the lactose free guests can partake.

For a buffet, it is easy to make a few different types of protein, such as fish, chicken, pork or beef. Make sure that at least one of them can have the sauce served on the side, to accommodate someone with a simpler palette. If it is a sit down dinner, with only one main course, be sure that the sides are ample enough to please anyone who doesn’t care for it.  Be sure that the dishes don’t all contain sugar, cream, or tons of butter, as many holiday sides do.

Dessert can get a bit trickier, as flour, butter and sugar are the mainstays of most pies, cakes and cookies. If you can’t include at least one gluten free option, and at least one lactose free option, have some fresh fruit so that all of your guests can enjoy a final course.

At the end of it all, the act of getting together and sharing a meal is the most important part of holiday entertaining. Enjoying time spent with family and friends trumps sticking to a rigid diet any day!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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