With more people than ever following special diets, whether by choice or for medical reasons, pleasing everyone at the holiday dinner table may seem daunting. Use these holiday hosting tips to accommodate your guests’ preferences—it’s easier than you might think. (Now if only you could figure out a way to dodge Aunt Anna’s affectionate cheek-pinching.)
Take the initiative
When inviting guests, directly ask them to respond right away regarding any dietary restrictions. Some people may be hesitant to voice their needs or preferences for fear of being a bother; others get caught up in holiday busyness and forget to mention it. Making a point to ask specifically and cheerfully from the get-go allows you to plan accordingly and not get caught off guard at the last minute, while also setting your friends’ minds at ease.
These days, it’s rare for a host or hostess to prepare every single dish (thank goodness). When people ask what they can bring, don’t demur; suggest that special-diet guests contribute a favorite appetizer, salad, casserole, or dessert. Most will be delighted to bring something they know they can eat; it’s also a festive opportunity to show others how delicious gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan eating can be.
Keep it simple
Even if you don’t go the potluck route, there’s no need for the holiday dinner to become a made-to-order event. It’s natural to want to satisfy everyone, but don’t get sucked into making duplicate dishes (for example, one lasagna with wheat noodles and a second with gluten-free noodles). Thanks to increasing awareness and demand, natural foods stores now carry myriad excellent special-diet ingredients that allow you to make one version of a dish that works for all eaters.
Simple substitutions to keep in mind
Vegan and vegetarian:
Stuffing, soups, and side dishes: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Entrées: Prepare protein-rich side dishes that stand in for roast beef or turkey—vegetarian stews, stuffed peppers or squash, and luxurious bean and grain pilafs.
Mashed potatoes: Olive oil and unsweetened dairy-free milks are excellent alternatives to butter and regular milk; roasted garlic makes a flavorful and creamy addition, too.
Desserts and cream-based soups: Use silken tofu or coconut milk in lieu of dairy milk and cream.
Gravy and sauces: Substitute rice flour or cornstarch for wheat flour.
Pie: Make extra pie fillings; instead of regular crust, crumble GF gingersnaps into buttered ramekins, add pumpkin
or apple pie filling, and bake until set.