Dos and Don’ts: Accommodating Dietary Needs at Dinner Parties

by in Entertaining, March 7th, 2012

dinner party
So, you’re hosting a dinner party and one (or more) of your guests has a food allergy. What do you do? How do you manage this? Some people do not accommodate special dietary needs at their dinner parties. And while I understand the frustration with the myriad of food needs out there, the question I would ask before I make that decision is: Do I want all my guests to feel welcome? If the answer to that question is yes, then here are a few dos and don’ts to help you navigate this social minefield:

Do:

• Share your menu plan (including a full ingredient list) with your food-allergic guests. If you are using prepared food, like sauces or spice mixtures, save all the ingredient lists for those as well. Ask them to bring up any concerns they might have.

• Ask them if they have any suggestions on making the food safe for them. How concerned are they about cross-contamination. (i.e., How allergic are they? Do you need to buy new sponges? What if a spoon from the pasta dish touches the soup — is that okay?)

• Be flexible (within reason). If you can make small tweaks to a recipe to make it safe for your allergic guest, please do (many recipes call for butter when olive oil can be easily substituted).

• Ask them if they want to bring something to the party, either just for themselves or for the whole party. My personal preference is to bring something, like a dessert, for everyone to share.

Don’t:

• Be insulted if they bring food from home or choose to eat before they come. Having food allergies can be very difficult socially, and for many people, preparing their own food is the best way for them to relax and be able to enjoy your company.

• Be afraid to ask them for help or guidance. Planning a party is stressful enough; they will not be insulted if you ask them to help in making the food safe for them. They will be grateful that you care enough about their health and happiness to ask.

Lillian Medville makes grain-free, dairy-free, cane sugar-free, and soy-free recipes for the very first time on camera at Lillian’s Test Kitchen, an online comedy cooking show.

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Comments (24)

  1. eden says:

    Nicely written. I have celia disease, so I truly appreciate it when the host/hostess takes into account my allergies. I also know that it can be overwhelming for a cook with no gluten free cooking experience, so I'm always willing to show up with my own bag of brown rice pasta, or a dessert made with almond flour.

    • Thanks Eden! You're right, being prepared and being willing to help out and bring your own food is often the easiest way to have a pleasant time, be well fed, and not give the host or hostess aneurysm. :)

    • Whitney says:

      I have celiac disease too and I usually do the same. I've only had trouble with it twice but it's always good bringing my own stuff.

  2. Gluten Free Diva says:

    Nice job Lillian! As a Celiac who also doesn't eat dairy, I always feel so welcome when people invite me to their home for a meal and really take the time to make food that will be appropriate for my needs. And conversely, when I invite others to my home, I'm very careful to accommodate food needs/allergies/lifestyle choices. Thanks for the post!

  3. Well done! I think these are easy tips on how to handle these situations. I especially like the Do's. There does not have to be difficult feelings on either side; folks just should try to work together a bit. Most guests with food issues are not asking the hostess to totally revamp their whole menu. We tend to be an agreeable, "work with us" group of folks. :-)

    Shirley

  4. Johnna says:

    This article is a terrific resource for those hosting AND attending events. Hanging on to this for future reference!

  5. Great reviews! you show here something really important in every Dinner parties, you give me something really informative info in here..
    Fab Defence

  6. Diane Eblin says:

    Spot on! Keeping this too.

  7. Dlupton says:

    I agree! It is really not that hard to make foods people like me can eat, it just takes some thought!

  8. Megan says:

    The same tips can be used with vegan and vegetarian guests, by the way!

  9. jav9206 says:

    I would only add that I appreciate a host/hostess asking their guests if anyone has food allergies and not just assume that no one does. I do make a point of mentioning my allergies to mushrooms, blue cheese, and coffee before I accept the invitation. I do not want any undue pressure put on the host/hostess because of my allergies. I too enjoy the company and would remember the good times.

  10. Sara says:

    Even easier – just don't host parties and you won't have to put up with lots of whining and "allergies" and people barging into your kitchen to " make sure it's the way I want it."

    Always be a guest — always appreciate whatever you're served – eat what you can and just shut up about your imagined "sensitivities." No one will ever notice you never invite them to your house – they'll just be thankful they have one friend who realize the entire menu doesn't revolve around them!!

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