Thanksgiving is the holiday for the season’s moderates: wholesome, indulgent meal and festive togetherness. No gifts. Less Pressure. Unless, of course, you plan on feeding others with dietary restrictions, or yourself for that matter, and the mainstays of this traditional, autumnal feast, wheat and dairy are off limits.
While I’m considering Thanksgiving specifically, these tips are applicable to simple dinners or visits, too. We hosted a small group on Sunday for brunch and I followed (read: made up) my host “rules” and our guests left very happy and very full.
5 Tips for Guests or Hosts with Dietary Restrictions
First, here are a few guidelines for the gluten-free and dairy-free guest or any guest for that matter:
1. Be up front, be gracious: Talk to the host. Be honest about your restrictions. This is so important as the alternative is you attending and declining every dish (likely hurting the feelings of your host) or picking at dishes to be polite and causing harm to your health. Just have the conversation.
2. Contribute suggestions and dishes: Remember how you felt when you discovered an allergy or intolerance or were given instructions not to consume foods that made up a bulk of your diet? Now imagine how your host feels. If she asks for ideas or alternatives, have them at the ready. Most importantly, politely insist on bringing something. This is especially important if your food restrictions are severe. You deserve a happy holiday too, you know. No host in her right mind will ever turn down help.
3. Be considerate for others and yourself: Introduce your family and friends to new dishes while keeping in mind that this is a holiday oozing with sentiment and tradition for many. This isn’t the time to create a theme dinner of your choosing and add a little spice (I mean that figuratively) to the dinner. Be considerate and be creative, while whipping up something you can eat and giving a friendly nod to the season.
Bonus: If it’s reasonable to do so, have a meal before you go. Now you know my secret!
Now, two big rules for the hosts and cooks entertaining traditionalists:
4. Let the ingredients of the season speak for themselves: I am endlessly inspired by fall produce. It is comforting, beautiful, and satisfying. There’s really no need to go through great lengths to make an overly-complicated concoction that only barely resembles the dish it is trying to imitate. Instead, focus on the rich abundance of the season and let the ingredients do the talking.
Think: platters overflowing with roasted root vegetables, a couple of green sides, a hardy grain, tart cranberry sauce, and, of course, a beautiful roast. With all of this, followed by baked apples and pies with a rich nut base, your gluten-free, dairy-free meal will leave nothing to be desired, trust me.
But there’s always an exception, so…
5. Allow non-compliant contributions: This is as much about your guests’ happiness as it is about your peace of mind. If a guest asks what they can bring, that’s your cue! Tell them to bring their favorite dish, one that makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for them. Perhaps it’s stuffing or biscuits or mashed potatoes…it doesn’t really matter. You might even go so far as telling them what you’re making so they realize what may appear to be missing for them. Now they have an opportunity to contribute something they love and you can breathe easier knowing their favorite will have a place on the Thanksgiving table.
What did I miss? What are your strategies for navigating the holiday season with dietary restrictions?
In the coming days I am going to pull together a sample gluten-free, dairy-free thanksgiving menu. In the meanwhile, here are some resources to get you started:
- Gluten-Free Dairy Free Thanksgiving Resources:
- Tom Colicchio’s approach as host
- 70 (!) Thanksgiving recipe ideas that are Paleo, AIP, and GAPS -friendly
- Oh She Glows’ gluten-free and vegan recipes