Planning a dinner party can be a challenge for anyone who has guests with varying dietary needs. When I invite guests over, I want to spend time visiting with them instead of slaving over the stove as a short order cook.
When we sit down at the table with a group, the guests may include a woman with multiple food allergies (gluten, eggs, dairy, and soy), an autistic man with many food aversions, a diabetic, a woman who doesn’t like fish, a man with hypertension, and a woman with poor fitting dentures which make it hard to chew. Factoring all of their needs into a meal can be a real challenge.
When I plan a meal for a group like this, I always start with the starch. If everyone listed in the post above is coming to dinner, pasta is out of the question, unless I can find a source for rice, potato, or corn pasta. In this case, I will stick with the basics, so NO pasta. That leaves me with rice or potatoes. Since my autistic guest doesn’t like rice very much, I will choose potatoes. Since a diabetic is dining with us, I will choose white skinned potatoes because they have a lower glycemic index than the regular russet potatoes. The glycemic index indicates how much a particular food item will raise blood sugar.
Now that we have the starch decided, I will move on to the protein. In this case, I choose chicken because the autistic guest likes it and hamburgers best. Since I have a guest with hypertension, I will try and stick with recommendations from the DASH diet, so grilled chicken it is. I can flavor this chicken prior to grilling it with pretty much any seasonings I choose as long as none of them contain sugar, soy, milk, or wheat. I would probably mix up a very low salt or salt free seasoning from my spices and rub on the chicken to allow the flavor to penetrate the meat prior to cooking.
The meal can be finished up with a salad, finely chopped for my guest with difficulty chewing, or accompanied by some green beans sauteed in olive oil with some freshly crushed garlic. or maybe even both.
I would serve all of the condiments for the potatoes on the side, including salsa, chopped green onions, dairy free margarine made from coconut oil, as well as low fat versions of the usual butter and sour cream, and allow my guests to dress up their potatoes to their liking.
The task of planning a dinner party for people with various dietary needs might seem daunting at first, but it’s really just a matter of sitting down and thinking it through. I hope sharing my process for menu planning helps next time you are faced with this challenge.
The inspiration for this post came from a post by “Angie” @ KitchenHospitality.com.