Serving up a feast this Christmas? Don’t forget about food allergies

WASHINGTON — For millions of Americans, Christmas dinner is a rare chance to get the family together at a single table. But, don’t forget those with food allergies, Lean Plate Club™ blogger Sally Squires urged.

Holiday festivities — and the culinary splurge that comes with them — can often get overwhelming for hosts with allergies, food aversions, special diets and picky food preferences, making it complicated to pick what’s on the plate for the holidays.

About 15 million Americans have food allergies, including nuts. Between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Millions more are adopting specialized diets for health reasons or as a lifestyle choice — according to the Vegetarian Times, roughly 7 million people are vegetarians, making up about 7 percent of the U.S. population.

Squires recommended getting proactive in asking guests what their allergies or food preferences are, well before it’s time to sit down at the table.

“There’s nothing worse than setting out a beautiful table and realizing some of the things just can’t be eaten,” Squires told WTOP. “You don’t want to make anybody sick or uncomfortable — it could be very dangerous.”

So, what’s the best way to approach food allergies and preferences when hosting a holiday party? Squires has a few pointers:

— Ask ahead of time if any guests have food allergies, aversions or sensitivities.

— If it’s a small party, it’s relatively easy to adjust the menu so that problematic foods are avoided.

— In a larger party, you can provide a variety of alternatives that are accommodating for those who can’t eat dairy, gluten or nuts, and for those who are vegetarian or vegan. Consider:

  • Guacamole;
  • Bean dip;
  • Salsa;
  • Corn chips (make sure they’re gluten-free);
  • Tomato sauce;
  • Fruit platters;
  • Crudite;
  • Meatless chili;
  • Vegetable soups, such as minestrone, butternut squash and tomato;
  • Falafel;
  • Potato latkes, served with apple sauce.

Another suggestion? Gluten-free vanilla wafers, bourbon balls, gluten-free challah and a vegetarian take on the fabled Turducken.

“A couple of years ago, we had a guest coming to Thanksgiving who had a gluten allergy, so I actually made the equivalent of a Turducken, where you stuff a chicken, a duck and a turkey altogether,” Squires said.

“I made the vegetarian equivalent … it involved butternut squash, eggplant zucchini, mushrooms, and it was delicious, and it also looks really pretty,” she said.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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