Catering for Guests with Special Dietary Requirements

Posted on March 7, 2014

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Catering for Guests

You’d hate to plan a large party and not have enough food for everyone, right? Well there are more considerations than just the quantity and the quality of the food being offered.

Whenever catering for any event, large or small, it’s important to take into consideration any special requirements the guests may have. Are there any guests with allergies? How about special dietary needs?

Those two questions can be enough to make a caterer afraid to try anything exotic or unusual for fear of leaving some guests out from enjoying the meal. Not to worry though.

With just a little forethought and planning, any event can provide plenty of options so that guests can feel welcome and at home as they enjoy a delicious, catered meal.

First and foremost it is important to consider guests with allergies.

Common Allergens and CateringCommon Allergens and Catering

Before even planning what sort of hypo-allergenic dishes to prepare, consider what sort of foods or ingredients typically contain allergens. Fortunately for caterers, there are a few foods and ingredients which are among the most common allergens.

Eggs: Omelets and fried egg sandwiches aside, eggs can be used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes, including Caesar salad dressing, mayonnaise, or custard sauces.

Additionally eggs can also provide glazes for breads as well as stock for broth, puddings, and ice cream. If you’re trying to avoid eggs for allergic reasons, tofu or even ground flax seed can be substituted in some recipes.

Peanuts: Chances are you either know someone with a terrible peanut allergy or you’ve heard horror stories from the schoolyard about them. Surprisingly enough, these nuts can be found in marzipan, egg rolls, and ice cream.

But it’s not just the nuts themselves that you should consider; peanut oil is a popular manufacturing preparation for many snack foods. A possible alternative for peanuts in a dish could be sunflower seeds.

Lactose: Being lactose intolerant simply means that the body can’t digest the lactose found in milk and other dairy products. In order to make dairy edible for everyone, consider substituting coconut milk or coconut cream into recipes which require milk or cream.

Gluten: This protein is most commonly found in wheat and barley, so as a result it often makes an appearance in breads and pasta. Fortunately, gluten-free flour is becoming more readily-available, and gluten-free protein bars are an excellent snack food for people with this allergy.

However, you probably don’t want guests munching on gluten free protein bars during your event. So, it is important to know cornmeal or rice can sometimes be a substitute for gluten.

Of course, allergies aren’t the only consideration to make while creating a menu for a catered event. There are other dietary needs which must be considered.

Common Dietary Restrictions

It’s important when creating a menu to keep options open for a wide variety of guests with a wide variety of dietary considerations. The following are the three most common restrictions to diet.

No Pork: For some guests there may be a religious restriction on the consumption of pork. You want to make sure to adhere to this to be safe, so having your caterer substitute halal or Kosher meats can help you avoid going against this regulation.

Vegetarian: Before creating vegetarian options, be sure to clarify what sort of vegetarianism the guests follow. Some vegetarians can eat seafood, and some cannot. Therefore, it’s important to provide the appropriate option depending on the circumstance.

Vegan: Like vegetarians, vegans do not eat meat. However, unlike vegetarians, a vegan also does not eat any animal byproducts, which includes dairy. It’s important to provide options for this sort of diet restriction as well so that guests at your event don’t feel like they’re being held separate because of their diet.

Fortunately there are plenty of recipes which can be easily amended in order to make room for your guests with allergies or other dietary restrictions. The important thing is to know ahead of time and to let your caterer know upfront what to expect while planning a meal.

Author: Kelly Huinker is a professional caterer. She has come up against many culinary challenges while trying to meet special dietary needs at events. When she isn’t cooking or writing, Kelly is probably doing art projects with her kids.

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