As someone who has to follow a special diet, I can tell you that attending get-togethers this time of a year is a challenge.  Yes, I’m absolutely happy to see each and every friend and family, and it’s about the company, not the food. That said, most gatherings focus heavily on food, and usually fall during meal time.  We’re a culture that gathers around food.  It’s what we do, it’s what we’ve always done.  So, now what?

If you’re hosting a holiday get together, the kindest thing to do is offer some neutral and safe foods.  It’s not your responsibility to cater to each and every food allergy and need, but it’s easy to include everyone with a little planning.  How?

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Fruits and vegetables

These are typically a safe go-to for everyone, whether your crowd is trying to eat healthy or needing to avoid gluten, dairy, nuts, dairy, or soy.  If you include any kind of dip, keep it far enough from the crudité that it doesn’t travel around, and know what it contains in case your guests inquire.  A green salad is another good choice, and many salad dressings are clearly marked for allergens.

Cheese and crackers

Cheese!  Yum.  Sadly, though, it’s often served on a platter with crackers.  If your guests can’t eat the crackers, they may not be able to eat cheese off the same plate.   A separate plate is always appreciated.  And if you want to go the extra mile, allergen friendly crackers are sold everywhere these days.

Chip and Dip

A few options here- hummus, guacamole, vegetable dips (if making from a mix, check ingredients so that you can advise your guests), bean dips.  Some people love the layered cheese, bean, and vegetable dips; these are often safe unless you have a guest avoiding dairy.  Many mainstream chips and tortilla chips are marked gluten free, just keep track of which bowl is which.

Main and Side Dishes

These are usually tricky to navigate, second only to dessert.  Pasta and anything breaded is off-limits to gluten free guests.  If you’re looking to provide something safe, a grilled meat or vegetable is great, as well as rice or potatoes.  Be careful for marinades such as soy sauce and teriyaki, which often contain wheat or soy.  If you want to include a neutral dish, there an unending number of recipes online.  If you want to go so far as a gluten free pasta dish, for example, make sure you clean your strainer well before using.

Dessert

Quite honestly, this is when your friend with allergies is most likely to be sitting out. Most every dessert involves some kind of dairy or wheat.  A fruit platter is again a great option.  If you’re wanting to accommodate your friends with allergies, you have many ways to go.  The simplest is to pick up a package of safe cookies or muffins.  Brands such as Udi’s and Enjoy Life are free of most allergens.  If you feel like venturing further, there are mixes and even fairly easy recipes out there.  If you are going to bake, a few things to keep in mind… pans and utensils must be well-cleaned before using so that flour residue doesn’t remain.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Don’t cool allergen-free cookies on the same cooling racks as your regular cookies.  Don’t flour pans (this sounds obvious, but people forget!).  While missing dessert isn’t going to make or break your guest, being included in the festivities means more than you can imagine.

With a little forethought, each of your guests will go home feeling special and included.  You don’t have to add stress to your to-do list in order to do so.

Share your allergen friendly entertaining ideas with our readers.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Enjoy the holiday season!

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