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Host a Flawless Holiday for Guests with Food Sensitivities


If you're expecting family and friends for the holidays (and you want them to come back next year) be a gracious host and plan in advance for any food sensitivities or allergies. It can feel awkward and difficult to outright request a holiday menu be altered to meet certain dietary restrictions, which is why it's nice to be proactive and make your guests feel even more special by checking in ahead with them. All it takes is a little creativity, and you can put out an effortless holiday spread that is also food allergy friendly.

Side note: food allergies are different than intolerances, and should be approached very differently particularly if an anaphylactic reaction is suspected. All food labels should be scrutinized, a great resource for this can be found here.

Two of the most common intolerances that are often ubiquitous across the Thanksgiving table include gluten and dairy; fortunately, substitutions for these ingredients are super easy to come by as you will find here.

1) Appetizers:

Put out a spread of fresh fruit and crudite with hummus, guacamole, and olive tapenade spread instead of cheese and crackers. Try gluten free substitutes that include Mary's Gone Crackers, Flackers, or some rice crackers. Branch out of your comfort zone and try naturally gluten free grains such as quinoa or wold rice in place of bread for stuffed mushrooms, or try a cashew based dairy free alternative for cheese. A big hit at our house is homemade pickled vegetables that bring tons of flavor to any charcuterie board.

2) Main Event:

Poultry and meat are typically low risk foods in terms of allergies and intolerances, the issue is the sauce or marinade that goes with it. Keep it simple by dressing your bird up with plenty of fresh herbs, olive oil, and mustard. Jazz the rest of the table up with colorful and interesting vegetable dishes: roasted root vegetables, garlic and balsamic glazed Brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole (coconut milk makes a great sub here), and celery root salad to name a few favorites. These can be incredibly hearty and often add even more depth to the table than crescents with butter or a bread based stuffing.

If you want to keep some traditional favorites in, there are tons of recipes that offer gluten free and dairy free alternatives. An easy search of "paleo" before the recipe you're interested in is a great place to start. You can also find pre-made allergy friendly breads from Udi's or Siete Foods as a base.

3) Desserts:

Baking gets a little tricker with swapping ingredients in a 1:1 fashion. It's best to find a recipe that has been tested and gives the proper substitutions. For pies, gluten free cereals cam be pulsed to replace the graham crust, or nuts combined with a dried fruit work well too. Typical wheat flour can easily be swapped for a tuber replacement such as cassava or tigernut flour in a 1:1 ratio. Coconut milk, cashews, and avocados all provide a creamy texture in place of dairy filled recipes - but the flavor will need to be adjusted. And of course don't underestimate the power of fresh fruit with some dark chocolate or homemade whipped cream. The options are endless. A few holiday themed "treats" can be downloaded here for your viewing pleasure.

Have the happiest of holidays this year! Cheers to good health.

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