Breaking bread with friends and family is the perfect recipe for a fun day or evening. However, even the most experienced party hosts may struggle with ways to cater to their guests’ various dietary restrictions.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education organization, as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies. In addition to food allergies, hosts also must consider diets, food sensitivities, religious preferences, and lifestyle choices (i.e., vegetarianism or veganism) when planning dinner party menus.
So what is the accommodating host or hostess to do? Etiquette experts say that while it is important to keep guests’ preferences in mind, it is impossible to accommodate everyone. But hosts can take certain steps when planning a menu that might make it easier to cater to an array of eaters.
Host a buffet or family-style meal. Buffets and family-style services provide plenty of options for guests to enjoy. Think about offering at least one item from all of the food groups, including vegetables that will fit the bill for vegetarians, vegans and those who may be avoiding grains.
Keep some trendy foods on hand. Consider current dietary trends and how likely your guests are to follow them. For example, investigate a few gluten-free options and some foods that are low in carbohydrates. Opt for quinoa or couscous as an alternative to white rice. A hummus dip is a nice change from a dairy-based dressing for those who may need to avoid dairy products. Replace iceberg or romaine lettuce with baby spinach and arugula.
Stick to simple recipes. The more ingredients in each dish, the more explaining you will have to do to guests who might be watching what they eat. Herb-crusted grilled chicken, roasted colorful vegetables in a ratatouille, a bean salad, and a three-cheese gourmet mac-and-cheese are some simple crowd-pleasers.
Offer a signature dish. In addition to ‘safe’ menu items, showcase something you enjoy and like to prepare. After all, you should be able to enjoy the foods you love as well.
Some guests may come with food in hand. Graciously accept their additions and give credit where credit is due. You can even encourage those with especially strict diets to bring their own foods to ensure they don’t go hungry.