All of us make informed choices and listen to our body when we plan our meals. Some of us “eat to live” while other “live to eat”. Many of us have to curb our likes and dislikes due to different health reasons. One person may be suffering from Type 1 diabetes while the other may have Celiac or become a vegan through choice. Others are just fussy and like to follow some current fad to lose those imaginary or extra pounds. When you invite friends over to your house, you plan a menu and then wonder how to ensure that all your friends are going to enjoy the meal.
We may have young children who are set in their ways and will eat only the foods that they want to consume. Taking them for a meal to a friend’s place may be difficult as they may heap their plates with a variety of food and avoid eating a morsel! You may try to teach them to be gracious but the chances are that they will let you down in a social situation. Try exposing them to eating out and eating right before you embarrass your host by taking them to their home.
Here are some tips on dealing with food restrictions in different situations.
- Are you planning to throw a party for some friends? You may have been invited to their homes and feel it is time to have them over at your place. Make a list of the guests you would like to invite and make a note if they are vegans or non-vegans. You will also know if they eat only kosher foods or Halaal meats. What you may not know is if they have some medical problems that do not allow them to eat certain foods. The best thing to do under such circumstances is to find out if they have any dietary restrictions.
- Try to serve one or two dishes that you think everyone will be able to eat regardless of their dietary restrictions. Vegetarian bakes with eggplants, mushrooms, corn and baked beans are good options. The safest foods that you can try dishing up are a variety of fresh salads. Make sure to serve the dressing in little bowls and let your guests select from the options available. Serve a few dips and a variety of crackers that are appetizing and appealing to those without dietary restrictions.
- Some people are restricted to eating gluten-free foods due to problems such as Celiac. If you know one of your friends cannot eat wheat, semolina and other stuff, you can take the trouble of dishing up a rice dish or a fresh soup with a lot of vegetables thrown in. The other option would be to ask your guest to bring their own dish as this would make it simpler. Your guest will probably be thankful to you for letting her enjoy the evening and feel safe about the foods she eats.
- If you know that one of your friends is fussy about eating non-organic foods, it is perfectly in your rights to ask her to bring her own food. This is a personal preference and therefore there is no need to go out of your way to cater to her tastes.
- It is important to pay special heed to people suffering from allergies. Some people cannot eat mushrooms, anchovies or is allergic to shellfish. These are dangerous foods to play around with as they can prove fatal. It is best to avoid such foods. Call your friend and find out which foods to avoid and you will have a clear consciences when she sits at the dining table and partakes of the foods with your other guests.
- If you are throwing a small dinner party for just a few of your guests, there is no harm in running the menu by them. While a few of your diabetic friends may be used to Aspartame in the desserts, there are many who have bad reactions from eating foods prepared with the same. Quite a few people cannot digest foods cooked with MSG (Monosodium glutamate). It is therefore advisable to check with your friends especially when you are interested in giving them a good time and preparing a few exotic dishes.
- You cannot go wrong with fresh meats and fresh produce. Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness when you ask them about their dietary restrictions. Pay heed to religious sentiments and ignore people who have certain preferences.
- If you are throwing a large party there is no way you can call all your guests to check if they have dietary restrictions! At such times, make sure to have a variety of foods and preferably set the foods for vegans separately with a label indicating “vegetarian foods.”
- Serve a variety of meats and you could include a few pasta dishes with seafood but make sure to have clear labels so that people can take the foods they prefer and stay away from foods that they cannot or do not want to eat.
- The way to deal with people who are fussy and insist on certain foods being “farmed” or “organic” is not to invite them! You will end up with fewer hassles and not have to discuss topics that skirt around fads and foods. Mingle with your guests and enjoy the evening.
- Prepare a crudités platter that generally works for all your guests. If you have some kosher guests, serve them the same foods on a different colored plate to avoid cross-contamination. Ideal foods to serve at such times are hummus which is a great accompaniment with nuts, crackers and fresh vegetable sticks. Serve a variety of cheese and barbecue some meats. Serve your vegan friends lentils and eggplants and you cannot go wrong.
- Never prevent anyone from bringing their own meal as they may have some genuine concerns about their food intake. Remember that it saves you a lot of trouble and at the same time they are happy having fun mingling with your guests and eating foods that agree with them.