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Your Aunt Edna lost 20 pounds on keto, and she’s not about to blow her weight loss on your sweet potato pie. Uncle Rob preaches the virtues of veganism every chance he gets, and your sister Sarah is deathly allergic to peanuts. Maybe you should forgo serving food altogether at your next get-together and stick to drinks? 

Before you invite alcohol to sing a solo aria at your next dinner party, take a deep breath. While it’s challenging to honor different dietary restrictions, you’re a creative chef who’s ready to rise to the occasion. Follow these tips when planning your menu, and you will please every palate on your invitation list. 

Remember, it’s not about you. 

It’s understandable—but not excusable—to fall into the, “oh, a little bit can’t hurt you,” trap. If you don’t have any food sensitivities, then you might associate adverse symptoms with things like tough-to-button jeans or a slight headache. However, for people who do have allergies or autoimmune disorders, eating the wrong foods can cause permanent damage or even be deathly. If your guest has celiac disease, for example, then ingesting even a small amount of gluten can cause intestinal damage. 

Don’t negate the severity of food sensitivities if symptoms don’t manifest immediately after eating. While someone with a severe peanut allergy may go into anaphylactic shock after a bite or two, some people with autoimmune disease don’t show adverse effects until later. For example, the bodies of those with rheumatoid arthritis produce additional cytokines after eating fried or pasteurized foods. These substances serve as inflammatory messengers, resulting in pain and swollen joints long after ingesting them. 

Don’t negate the severity of food sensitivities.

The bottom line is: Ignoring the food sensitivities of others can significantly damage their health. If you love them enough to invite them, then show them you care by honoring their needs. 

Double-dip on some recipes. 

Who says you have to cook multiple meals to manage all restrictions? You can find ample recipes online that meet the needs of more than one individual. Try out some of these twists on classic party favorites. 

  • Roasted cauliflower bites with a vegan nacho cheese sauce
    These babies are both gluten-free and vegan, letting you please both crowds at once. You can also toss them with hot sauce to make them buffalo bites. Read the label carefully and shun those with unrecognizable ingredients. That way, you can protect your loved ones who avoid gluten for health reasons. 
  • Zucchini noodles with avocado sauce
    Who doesn’t love avocado everything these days? With good reason! The veggie is high in the beneficial fats that keep your heart and nervous system healthy. This recipe is both vegan and keto-friendly, too. 
  • Cinnamon-coconut New York-style cheesecake
    You won’t find any nuts, tofu, animal products or oils in this delicious treat. You will, however, find heaps of flavor. 

Experiment with new flavors. 

Guess what? If your guests have never tried romanesco or manioc, then they’ll spend more time exploring a unique flavor profile than focusing on what your dish doesn’t contain. That means you’ll minimize complaints from the “I don’t like anything without (insert unhealthy ingredient)” crowd. 

Get creative in your kitchen and go wild. If you think a particular dish sounds intriguing but you’ve never tried it, then whip up a batch a week in advance of your event. That way, you can adjust the spice level to your taste before serving it to others. Sometimes, you can even find low-cost cooking demos at local public libraries. Check the listings near you. 

Consider a potluck. 

Potlucks offer the perfect way to explore new flavor profiles while simultaneously allowing guests to bring a dish they enjoy. Your guests can hardly complain that they couldn’t find anything to eat if they bring a meal with them. 

If you decide to host a potluck-style gathering, then provide instructions in your invitations regarding labels. If you know the dietary restrictions of all attendees, then let others know, too. If you’re uncertain, then ask guests to include recipe cards. This way, those who haven’t disclosed dietary rules can prevent unintentional contamination. 

You can indicate that they bring extra copies of recipes to swap to minimize embarrassment. Some people speak openly about health conditions that impact their food choices, but not everyone does. Respect privacy, but keep it fun.

You can respect dietary restrictions while entertaining—and stay sane! Respecting the dietary practices of others is something all conscientious hosts do. Instead of ripping your hair out, follow a few simple tips to throw a feast that all of your guests can enjoy equally!

How do you cater to different dietary needs when hosting? What tips do you have for being a conscientious hostess?

Images via Joe Schmelzer, Darling Issue No. 19

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