In the past four years that my husband and I have been married, I’ve had the opportunity to host three Thanksgiving dinners with my in-laws now – and it is usually one particularly crazy event, because among all of us attending there are several allergies and food restrictions. In fact this year, we had nearly a dozen people consisting of a total of 20 different food restrictions! It sounds like a daunting task to make a meal friendly for everyone to enjoy, but really all it takes is a bit of organization.
Here are some tips for coordinating a large holiday meal when there are several food allergies and restrictions to consider:
- Create a master list of food restrictions and dishes – and give it out to everyone preparing food. This is to make sure everyone knows exactly what they are preparing and which food restrictions they need to take into account.
- With point #1 comes the need for education. Those preparing each dish need to know how to take into account food restrictions so that there is not cross contamination, etc. especially for allergens.
- Make food from scratch. It’s the best way to control exactly what goes into each dish. The fewer processed foods that go into making a dish, the easier it is to make sure things weren’t processed on facilities made with allergens, or contain foods that people cannot have.
- Have multiple dishes for each “course” – this way you don’t have to satisfy every food restriction with every dish, but can coordinate to make sure that among the dishes for each course, everyone can have one of them.
- Rather than creating complicated dishes with many substitutions, opt for dishes that are naturally free of the restricted foods – steamed or oven roasted vegetables work great in lieu of cheesy gluteny casseroles,
- Label everything accurately – that way if there is something that is only applicable to certain people (such as dairy free rolls, or low-sugar sweet potatoes) they can easily know which dishes they can enjoy.
- Smile! Know that while large dinners are often a main event of holiday get togethers, the real reason for gathering on the holidays is to see friends/family and enjoy each other’s company. If a dish doesn’t work out right, the turkey gets burnt, a pie turns out to be a flop, it’s ok, don’t stress over it. Everyone will be understanding, and be glad to just share these precious moments together.