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How Do You Manage Dietary Restrictions at Holiday Meals?

Sallie Yakowicz, Program Assistant – NDSU Extension Service

The holidays can be an especially tricky time to please everyone with food options. With all of the different dietary restrictions and preferences of guests, you might think that no menu is going to be safe and satisfying for any large gathering. Try a few simple tips and tricks to help alleviate this anxiety revolving around creating the perfect holiday meal.

  • After a draft of a menu has been prepared, ask those with dietary restrictions to review it and make recommendations based on their personal diet. Sometimes it may be as easy as swapping an ingredient out (such as using olive oil instead of butter for vegans and those with dairy allergies) or leaving toppings like bacon crumble or cheese on the side. This can be helpful for those health conscious people, too, as they can opt out of extra fat or sugar without skipping their favorite holiday foods altogether.
  • Be sure to provide safe food choices for everyone present. If guests have a specific food allergy, remember to read labels of packaged food and ingredients. Tell guests which food choices contain allergens.
  • Be mindful of cross-contamination to lower the risk of serving unsafe foods to guests; mere trace amounts of allergens from baking nut-free cookies on a tray just used to roast almonds can become very dangerous to a guest with an allergy.
  • Most importantly, make sure to let everyone know the ingredients in the foods. Write the menu on a chalkboard or include an ingredient card next to each item in a buffet line. This can encourage fussy eaters to try new foods, as well as make sure those with dietary restrictions feel comfortable and safe in what they are eating.

While it is not necessary to make sure everyone at holiday gatherings can enjoy every dish, providing more options and using safety precautions for those who need it can help guarantee a smoother celebration. Ensuring that everyone around the dinner table is happy and well fed can make all the difference in creating an enjoyable holiday celebration.

 

Reference:  National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; www.eatright.org/resource/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/9-ways-to-deal-with-dietary-restrictions-at-holiday-mealsho

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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