Our diets nowadays are far more varied than they ever were in the past. However, that has also been matched by our dietary restrictions. Rising levels of allergy and intolerance, awareness of health issues and moral considerations about animals have joined older religious guidelines, meaning that if you’re preparing a Christmas spread, or even booking a table for a meal for family and friends, you’ll need to take dietary restrictions into account.
The best way to do this is by simply talking. Find out in advance what guests can and can’t eat, and do your best to provide alternatives that suit everyone. Instead of seeing it as an inconvenience, cooks should regard this as a challenge – this is how the world is changing.
Here are some of the more common dietary restrictions:
Celiacs, who suffer from a serious allergy to gluten, have seen their options increase in recent years due to raised awareness of non-celiac gluten intolerance.
However, as Maria from the Tienda Verde in Tías explains “Celiacs need to avoid gluten altogether and their demands are stricter than those who are intolerant.” She tells us that, when it comes to prepared foods, celiacs require the assurance of the gluten-free logo, which assures buyers that products have not been in any contact with gluten.
Those who are lactose intolerant can often manage small amounts of lactose with no ill effects. This makes hard cheeses such as parmesan, which have no lactose, and butter or fermented dairy products such as yoghurt, which have very little, a possibility.
Still, be sure to check with your guests first, and tell them about dishes with any possible lactose content, such as potatoes mashed with milk. If you’ve got lactose-free milk, use it.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat, but may consume animal products, such as eggs and/or dairy. Then there are “pescatarians”, who eat fish but not meat or poultry; and there is an increasing number of “flexatarians” who will eat meat occasionally, but generally follow a vegetarian diet.
If you’re preparing food for a vegetarian, ask them precisely what they’re willing to eat.
Vegans consume no products that derive from animals, including honey. Unlike the various types of vegetarian, veganism is pretty easy to understand, and your main challenge will be sourcing ingredients that do not contain animal products.
Diabetics can usually enjoy almost every part of a Christmas spread, but many of them will prefer to eat moderate and varied amounts of food. Alternatives to dishes, sauces and drinks that are high in sugar should be offered.
OTHER DIETARY RESTRICTIONS
If you’re entertaining at Christmas, you should be prepared for all types of dietary restrictions. Religious restrictions ranging from pork to seafood and alcohol apply to Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.
Allergies to items like nuts and seafood are also common enough to be worth inquiring about.
Roasties for the win!
If there’s one traditional Christmas dish that can be enjoyed by almost anyone at Christmas, then it’s roast potatoes. Just make sure they’re basted in olive oil, and some thyme, rosemary and garlic will go down fantastically, too. Those on a low-carb diet can sit this one out.
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