Creating the perfect holiday menu can be a challenge if your dining companions have food allergies or dietary restrictions.
Studies indicate roughly 60 percent of Americans restrict at least one nutritional component from their diet. Some menu limitations stem from medical issues such as allergies, Celiac disease or diabetes. Others are based on religious and moral beliefs or personal choices.
Use these three tips to create an all-inclusive meal that will have everyone at the table counting their blessings while they return for second helpings.
Talk to your future guests well before you put together the final menu. Identify food allergies and other dietary restrictions ahead of time and plan your selections with everyone’s needs and preferences in mind. It’s ok if everyone can’t eat every item. But try to have plenty of alternative choices so they leave the table satisfied.
Ask for help if you’re having difficulty with planning or preparation. Most people are happy to bring a dish or help in the kitchen—especially when it’s to meet their own specific food needs.
Read the Label Carefully
Read the labels of everything that goes on your holiday dining table. If a food contains any ingredients on the “Big 8” list of major food allergens—milk, fish, eggs, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans—it must be listed on the label. Ask your guests for words you should look out for, such as gluten-free, pork-based or low sodium.
Save the packaging or take a picture of the ingredient list for later reference. You’ll be glad you have the information handy if any of your guests want to verify if a food is safe for them to eat.
Keep it Clean
Always wash your hands before handling food or eating. And don’t forget to wipe down your prep and eating areas with disinfectant or cleaner. Take steps to prevent cross-contamination by using designated serving spoons for each dish. Separate different items onto their own platters or serving dishes.
If you’re serving buffet style, let your guests with menu restrictions go first. This reduces the threat of cross-contact between safe and unsafe foods. Label each entrée and side dish if you want to erase all doubt about their contents.
Keep in mind it’s possible to put together a menu that takes diverse dietary needs and incorporates them into a memorable dining experience. It just takes a little forethought and planning.
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