8 Tips for Hosting Folks with Food Restrictions at Your Next Dinner Party
8 Tips for Hosting Folks with Food Restrictions at Your Next Dinner Party
Dinner parties are supposed to be about bringing people together and celebrating, or even creating, connections among them through food, but how do you do that in an age when food restrictions are so common?
Here are 7 battle-tested tips from the perspective of a family wrangling more than a few food restrictions ourselves, to help you make all your guests feel welcome (and safe!) at your next dinner party:
1. Start the conversation right from the start.
When you’re planning your next dinner party invitation, ask your guests to let you know if they have any food restrictions right in your invitation. That makes it clear right from the start that it’s important to you that all your guests feel included! In addition, use a term like “dietary restrictions” rather than “food allergy,” since there are lots of health conditions that can require you to avoid certain ingredients, and you want all your guests to feel included.
2. It’s the little things that count.
For folks with highly-sensitive restrictions like food allergies and celiac disease, even just one molecule can cause a major health reaction – while other health conditions can still cause real reactions, but only with larger exposures. So as you hear back from your guests, follow up with any who have dietary constraints to find whether any are sensitive to “cross-contact.” If so, it’s important to read up on how to avoid cross-contact as you’re cooking; you can get the run-down from the experts over at FARE (Food Allergy Research Education) here, and reassure your guests that if they’d feel more comfortable bringing their own food, that’s really okay, too.
“Finger foods” offered as appetizers are an often-overlooked area that can create a dangerous situation for guests with food allergies and celiac disease, so make sure to avoid appetizers that use ingredients that these guests can’t eat, even if they are bringing their own food. For example, skip the bowl of mixed nuts if one of your guests has a nut allergy, and if you’re entertaining guests with dairy allergies, swap out the cheese plate for something like veggies with hummus and you’ll both feel less stress!
3. Be the hero – you don’t have to do it alone!
If there’s one thing that folks with food restrictions appreciate, it’s a meal that everyone can eat together! Once you hear back from your guests, use a site like www.freedible.com that lets you plug in all your guests’ dietary restrictions and gives you a filtered list of suggested recipes. Pick the recipes you plan to make and then you can email them to each of the “custom eaters” attending your event to make sure that they’re comfortable with the ingredients. It’s an easy way to put everyone’s minds at ease – including your own!
4. Make it easy for your guests to interview their food.
For custom eaters, eating starts with reading the labels, and that’s as true for the margarine as it is for the cookies! As you prepare your dish, set the packaging aside to make it easier for your guests to figure out whether it’s going to work for them. For stand-alone products like crackers or cookies, just keep them in the box until your guests arrive. What it may lack in elegance, you’ll more than make up for in hospitality by removing the risk of any cross-contact!
5. Call in a sous chef to show the way!
Feeling a little intimidated by one of your guest’s food restrictions? Invite them to come cook with you! It’s a great way to hang out, and you might learn something along the way that will help you feel confident cooking for other custom eaters down the road!
6. Help them help you.
Can’t figure out how to accommodate a particular guest for the dessert course, bread or a comforting casserole? Ask them if they’d like to be the one to contribute that dish, or send them the recipe and ask if they know of any easy substitutions. Everyone’s different, but in our family we’d rather take on bringing something everyone can eat than sit on the sidelines making everyone uncomfortable!
7. Potluck? Help get everyone on the same page!
Love a good potluck? Before you send that email divvying up the dishes, start with your save-the-date and a request for any food restrictions. Then reach out to those guests and work together to figure out how they can best be included given their particular needs and sensitivity levels.
8. Keep the focus on the company, and don’t let the food make the company stay home.
Asking your guests about their food needs is the modern day version of Emily Post: it’s just good manners, and it tells your guests that everyone really is included. But if one of your guests tells you that it’s just too complicated, or they’re just too concerned about cross-contact for themselves or a child, reassure them that it’s really okay for them to solve it in a way that makes them feel comfortable, like bringing their own. When you do, you make it clear that it really is the company, and not just the food, that matters.
Whether it’s a big dinner party or a weeknight get together, making your dessert ahead of time means you get to enjoy your guests – not just feed them! This vegan, top-8 allergen free dessert is actually a compliment of 3 easy recipes of less than 5 ingredients each that make quick and easy snacks on their own but make an impressive ensemble together. Enjoy!
Frozen Ginger Yogurt
16 oz So Delicious Dairy Free Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt
½ cup Ginger People Ginger Syrup
Crystallized ginger, finely diced (optional)
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour into silicon cupcake or candy forms and freeze until hard. To serve, carefully peel back silicon form and place formed, frozen yogurt on a small plate or bowl 5-10 minutes before you plan to serve, to allow it to soften a bit. Can be made up to several weeks in advance – and makes a great, just-right-portioned vegan snack for a summer afternoon! Serves 4.
French Vanilla Poached Pear Pudding
4 bosc pears, peeled, halved and de-seeded
1 1/3 cup So Delicious Dairy Free French Vanilla Creamer – Barista Style
1 extra long cinnamon stick
Preheat oven to 350. Arrange pears (cut-side up) and spices in a glass dish. Pour creamer into dish around the pears. Bake 35 minutes, or until pears are soft (creamer may separate or froth). Remove spices and discard. Transfer remainder to a food processor and blend. Top each serving with 5-7 fresh blueberries. Can be served warm, or prepared up to a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Serves 4.
French Vanilla Baked Pears
4 bosc pears
1/2 cup So Delicious Dairy Free French Vanilla Creamer – Barista style
4 extra-long cinnamon sticks
4 maple sugar candies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut pears in half cross-wise, just above the wide base of the pear. Carefully slice off any raise parts on the bottom of the pear so that it rests stably when stood upright.
Using a small melon baller or rounded teaspoon measuring spoon, carefully scoop out the interior of each pear, far enough down to scoop out the seeds, leaving approximately a ¼ inch ‘wall’ on all sides. Place each pear, upright, into a separate, small ramekin (or place all together in a glass dish). Carefully pour creamer into the open cavity of each pear to fill to just below the surface and insert cinnamon stick so that it sticks up out of the top of the pear.
Float 1 clove on top of the creamer, within each pear. Carefully transfer to oven (you may find it easier if you put all of the ramekins together on a cookie sheet). Bake for 40 minutes or until pears soften, checking periodically to make sure pear does not begin to burn. Turn oven to low broil and broil for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown the tops. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then carefully place 1 maple sugar candy on the opening of each pear to serve. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
For an impressive ensemble that’s deceptively easy to create, divide the Pudding equally among 4 dessert plates and place 1 Baked Pear, 1 Ginger Frozen Yogurt and a handful of blueberries on each plate, resting within the pudding and enjoy everyone’s surprise!
Cheryl Viirand is the Founder and CEO of Freedible.com, the community platform where custom eaters who follow custom diets dictated by food allergies, celiac disease, veganism and more can connect with others who eat like they do and crowd-source the recipes, tips and stories they need to thrive on a custom diet. Cheryl’s journey to create freedible began when she was nursing the newborn baby boy she’d just adopted, who turned out to have wide-ranging food restrictions caused by a sensitive mast cell activation disorder. Changing her diet to get him healthy, she lost 25 pounds, asthma and other health ailments no one could ever explain – and suddenly discovered just how challenging it can be to maintain a custom diet in a world that treats food as one-size-fits-all. Freedible is her family’s way of giving back for the miracle of her little boy’s adoption, by making it easier for us all to take charge of our own health outcomes and for the food industry to better understand and meet our needs. Create your free profile to join us today!