Hosting Guests with Dietary Restrictions
Inviting guests for a dinner is stressful enough, then you discover that one of your guests has a dietary restriction. When you host others, the chances are great that you will experience this challenge. They estimate that 15 million Americans have food allergies and millions more must avoid certain components in food. Sometimes these restrictions are medically necessary, such as avoiding gluten if a guest has celiac disease, or avoiding nuts if your company has a tree nut allergy. Other times the restrictions feel more like preferences, such as preferring organic or eating a Paleo Diet. No matter what the dietary restrictions, rather than questioning if their request is valid, take it in stride and plan a wonderful experience for everyone.
Thank you for Asking
Whether you are celebrating a birthday, sharing a holiday or getting acquainted with new friends, your role as the host is to help your guests feel comfortable. As you invite people to your gathering, make sure to ask if they have any dietary restrictions. Showing that you are attentive to the needs of your guests is a sign of caring that everyone will appreciate from a host.
Join us for a Meal
Connecting with others over a shared meal is one of the primary ways to build and maintain relationships. For those with food limitations and allergies, food-oriented events can be isolating. They may feel self-conscious or reluctant to accept invitations to eat away from home.
- Once you are aware of their food challenges, enlist their help in planning some of the food that will work for them.
- Invite them to bring a dish that they can eat.
- Organize a make-it-yourself taco bar, pizza bar or salad bar that lets everyone select their own ingredients.
Whatever your strategy, remember that connecting with your guests and making them feel comfortable is more important than showcasing your culinary skills.
You don’t need to become an expert in gluten-free or allergy-free cooking, just simplify. If you keep part of your menu simple, you avoid the complex dishes that contain a lot of potential problems. Try serving sauces and dressing on the side, so that guests can choose what they want to add. Offer a menu with variety, such as offering some dishes without nuts and some items without cheese.
- Label foods on a buffet if you are offering an item that is meatless, dairy-free or gluten-free.
- If you do use a processed food or product, save the packaging so that they can glance at the ingredient list to make sure that it is something that they can eat.
- Letting your guests know what is in your recipe can make them feel safe and lower some of the anxiety that comes with eating food prepared by others.
Feeding others is one of the most generous gifts you can give to your colleagues, friends and family members. When your guests have dietary restrictions and avoid your special dish or bring their own food, don’t take it personally. Remember to enjoy the company of your guest and give them the flexibility to participate in their own way. Relax, communicate and enjoy!
I’d love to hear from anyone with food restrictions. What has been your experience when eating with others? What are your strategies for eating at other people’s homes? Is there something that you which others knew about helping you enjoy food-oriented gatherings with others?
I’d love to hear from anyone with experience entertaining guests with food restrictions. What are your successful strategies and what have been your challenges?