How to Entertain Party Guests with Dietary Restrictions

Last week I did a media tour on behalf of sponsors TruWhip and Edible Arrangements, sharing a few easy holiday entertaining tips and recipe ideas designed to make life easier for the host. During the interviews with various TV and radio stations around the country, I talked about how one of the biggest challenges for hosts this time of year is managing a menu when you have guests with a variety of different dietary restrictions.

Whether you have friends who eat gluten-free, have nut or dairy allergies, are vegan, or are simply trying to stick to a keto or paleo diet plan, it can be tricky trying to find ways to balance a low-fuss menu with making sure all of your guests can eat and enjoy without worrying about food that meets their individual needs.

Here are some of the tips and recipe ideas I shared--hopefully some of them will inspire you and help you with your party planning, too! 

1. Ask Your Friends About Their Diets 
Knowledge is key when menu planning, so be sure to ask your friends what they can or can't eat. Knowing that you specifically have one vegan, one low-carb dieter, and two gluten-free eaters coming to the party, makes it much easier to plan than just generally trying to hit all possible options. Include a note in your invitation that says something like "Please let me know if you or your date have any allergies or special dietary restrictions so I can plan accordingly!" Mention it again when you send a reminder just before the party, in case anyone forgets to respond the first time!

Photo via truwhip.com
2. Stick to Small Bites & Individual Desserts
Appetizers, tapas, meze, and other small bites are the easiest way to satisfy a variety of preferences and needs, while keeping things as easy as possible for yourself. Think about options that work well in different ways (such as mini potatoes or tart shells stuffed with a variety of fillings).

For desserts, offer indulgent treats in smaller bites (think flourless brownie bites, small tart shells filled with whipped topping like Truwhip and fresh berries--try their new vegan variety if it's available in your area!). Or purchase a full-size dessert like a gluten-free pumpkin pie and use round cookie cutters to cut out individual bites.

I also love serving individual cups filled with creamy desserts like puddings or parfaits. Scroll down to the end of this post for a great Pumpkin Pie Parfait recipe featuring Truwhip!

Visit the Truwhip website for more sweet recipe ideas.

3. Read All Product Ingredient Labels
If you're serving store-bought products like dips, baked goods, or dressings, be sure to read and double-check ingredient labels so you know what's in the items you're serving. Sometimes store-bought items can have unexpected ingredients in them. I'll never forget the time I bought a chicken salad at a deli, assuming it was low-carb, only to find that they had added bread crumbs to the mix!

4. Use Signs to Identify Ingredients
Buy a set of cute mini chalkboards (I love these!) or find printable templates online (like these from Lia Griffiths!) so that you can easily identify any allergens or ingredients in a stylish way that will work with your party decor. Do what you can to make it easy for your guests to find the dishes they can eat.

5. Or Group Foods by Category!
If you prefer, you can divide food by dietary restriction to keep things really obvious. For example, place all the vegan items or gluten-free items on one side of a buffet table or in its own separate display.  (Keeping items separate also will prevent cross contamination.)

6. Serve Sauces & Garnishes on the Side
Whether it's a rich hollandaise for the steak bites, grated cheese for the salad, or a sweet caramel to drizzle over dessert, keep the sauces and toppings separate so that guests can skip them (or add more!) if they prefer. And whenever possible, try to offer two different options.

7. You Can't Go Wrong with Fruit & Veggies
Serving guacamole and chips? Amazing! But offer cucumber or jicamas slices for dipping, too. Serving crostini with toppings? Try swapping the bread or crackers for rounds of roasted sweet potatoes or mini peppers.

And be sure to fill out your party menu with bowls of simply roasted vegetables, beautiful fresh berries, piles of whole clementines, plain dried fruit, and plenty of fresh crunchy crudite. These fresh and healthy items are gorgeous to look at, but are also perfect for guests who want to choose lighter options.

7. Don't Forget the Drinks!
I love serving signature cocktails at parties, but if you do, think about creating and serving a signature nonalcoholic mocktail, too! Or create a beautiful nonalcoholic punch as a base, and offer spirits on the side so that guests can all enjoy the same beverage with or without alcohol. You can also offer an ice bucket filled with fun sodas, fancy artisan mixers, and fruit-flavored seltzers.


I hope you found these ideas helpful! Let me know about any tips you may have for entertaining guests with different dietary restrictions. I was compensated to represent Truwhip and Edible Arrangements on this media tour. Thanks for supporting brands that make it possible for me to create great content and recipes for you!

*****



Pumpkin Pie Parfaits
Makes 8 small desserts. Adapted from Truwhip.com

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup Greek yogurt (or coconut yogurt for a dairy-free option)
2 teaspoons granulated stevia
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Truwhip
1 cup crumbled gluten-free cookies or granola

Directions
Whisk together pumpkin, yogurt, stevia, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla until smooth.

Place a small spoonful of pumpkin filling in a small glass, dessert cup, or small mason jar. Add a layer of Truwhip, then sprinkle with crushed cookies. Repeat layers. Top with a final dollop of Truwhip and serve immediately or chill for up to 4 hours.




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