Tips for Feeding People with Special Diets

So you are hosting the big holiday or family gathering meal? Earth’s General Store thought we would put together some tips for feeding people with special diets for family and holiday gatherings.

There are enough things happening at gatherings that sometimes if adds just a little bit more stress to accommodate people with some kind of special diet.

Some diets are forced onto these people because of medical reasons, they are following a religion that has food restrictions, or it is a lifestyle choice. ALL are equally valid. If a person chooses to be a vegan and chooses not to eat meat then their choice should not be belittled or ignored. Sometimes a person may have a combination of food restrictions which can lead to some challenges.

Some of the food restrictions are:

Gluten

  • Can be a choice, an allergy, intolerance or Celiac Disease

Many grains have a protein component in them that some people react to or choose to avoid. This protein is gluten. It is the component of bread that provides structure – makes the bread rise and holds it up to make all the air holes in it.

Wheat is the main item that has gluten in it but it is also in several other grains such as rye, barley, spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, and kamut. There are several grains or pseudo-grains that don’t have gluten in them such as quinoa, corn, rice, wild rice, millet, amaranth, and teff.

You will find gluten not only in bread, buns, pastries, etc. but also in foods like pasta, cereals, soups, etc.

  • Celiac – this is a disease in which the small intestine is very sensitive to gluten. This sensitivity in turn makes it difficult for the person to properly digest their food. These people need to avoid all items that contain gluten.
    • Wheat Free – products that do not contain wheat. Caution since these products may contain gluten – such as oats – that some people may not be able to tolerate.
    • Gluten Free – if a product is indicated as gluten-free it is usually naturally gluten-free and processed in a manner that did not contaminate it with the gluten protein.

Allergies

If a person is allergic to seafood or bee products you might want to know this before they have an allergic reaction at the dining table.

Vegetarian

  • This diet may be a personal lifestyle choice or for religious reasons.

A vegetarian diet is one where a person does not eat animals, fish or birds. Basically it is a diet that does not consume a product from an animal, fish or fowl where the animal was killed to get the product. So an egg will be acceptable on a vegetarian diet but chicken breast not. The same for cheese and milk but not a hamburger.

Vegan

  • This diet may be a personal lifestyle choice or for religious reasons.

This is all of the vegetarian diet but these people do not eat any product that is derived from an animal, fish or fowl. They do not eat foods like milk, eggs, cheese and may not eat honey (some do and some don’t). There are different levels of veganism and you will need to figure out where this person(s) is on that spectrum. They may not consume white sugar or red wine due to the process being contaminated by

Dairy Free

Some people are not able to digest a sugar in milk and milk products. The sugar in this case is usually one that is called lactose. These people will try and avoid lactose because the consequences can be quite uncomfortable for them.

The person suffering from lactose intolerance is deficient in lactase, a critical enzyme, in their gut. There are certain cheeses that are lactose free and milks that have a dose of lactase enzyme added to the product to help the person process the lactose.

Paleo (short for Paleolithic)

The people that follow this diet seek to consume food that would have been eaten by humans during the caveman era. This would exclude dairy (milk and cheese), cultivated grains, processed oils, most processed foods that have not been made specifically for this dietary choice, and no refined sugar.

Tips for Feeding People with Special Diets

Here are some tips to help make your event successful and pleasant for everyone attending:

  1. When sending out invitations ask people to let you know if they have any dietary restrictions. Make it easy for them to get in contact with you (email address works well since things could be complicated and you can get the information written down).
  2. If it is a dietary restriction that you are unfamiliar with ask them for details. The person(s) are the experts on their diet – use them as a resource.
  3. Share your menu with them to see if there is something that may be a trigger for their diet.
  4. Ask them to bring their own. Quite often they are comfortable with this especially if their restriction is either complicated or strict.
  5. Come and ask the staff at Earth’s General Store for directions to our gluten-free items or ask them about vegan and vegetarian items. Most of the staff are vegans or vegetarians so have lots of experience with these diets.
  6. The Internet offers lots of information on diets, food restrictions, AND recipes. Use it and maybe you will find a great recipe that you will not only use for this occasion but add to your collection of go-to recipes.
  7. Steamed vegetables, fresh salads, and simple foods are quite often good options. A gluten-free pasta will
  8. Be conscious of hidden triggers – wheat in gravies, dairy in sauces and deserts, red wines, honey, etc.
  9. Have an open attitude and do not ridicule the person regarding their diet.

People that have dietary restrictions appreciate that a host wants to accommodate them and will work with the host to make it all work out.

The Internet has lots of information on different diets and LOTS of recipes. Use it as the great tool it can be.

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