Tips on hosting a holiday party in the vegan and gluten-free era

Everyone needs water, no doubt about that, but you can’t only serve your guests H2O at a vegan and gluten-free holiday party.

However, Sally Squires, from the Lean Plate Club™ blog, notes that in an era where many people have allergies and other dietary restrictions, a still and sparkling water bar may strike just the right tone so all of your guests can feel included.

“Put out sparkling and still, ice, berries, herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle and people can make their own drinks,” Squires said. “There can be some festive and fun options for people who don’t want to drink alcohol.”

Beyond water, it gets a little tricky to plan a holiday party menu when so many people either have allergies or another kind of dietary restriction. However, the basics, like fruits and vegetables, are seldom wrong.

“They’re things most of us don’t eat enough of anyway,” Squires said.

In addition, once you have your guest list in mind, make it a point to ask your invitees whether they have food restrictions, otherwise, you might wind up with a lot of leftovers.

“I learned this the hard way,” Squires said. “I had a dinner party once and served a lovely salmon, only to find out one of the guests didn’t eat seafood, so it was a little bit embarrassing. The first thing you need to do is ask people ‘do you have any food allergies or preferences we should be aware of?'”

The other thing that’s important these days, with 32 million Americans dealing with food allergies, is to keep track of all the ingredients used in a dish. If you’re serving your guests buffet style, consider making note cards and placing them in front of each dish so guests can be aware of what they’re eating.

In addition, with many people choosing to eat as vegetarians or vegans, consider making some of your staples meat- and dairy-free. In most cases, people will be happy to try something plant-based.

“There’s all kinds of plant-based meat, milk, yogurt,” Squires said. “There are products for people who are lactose intolerant.”

She also notes that a number of festive dishes and desserts can be made with alternative flours such as chickpea flour. “I made vanilla wafers and I put them into bourbon balls. There are so many different types of options, like flourless chocolate cake.”

And finally, Squires suggests embracing the seasonal vegetables that fill your supermarket at this time of year. Not only are almost all of your guests able to eat something like a butternut squash soup that’s made with vegetable broth, it’s just another way to celebrate the season by offering something that’s only available once per year.

“There are so many wonderful vegetables out these days that can be roasted,” Squires said. “So many types of squash and whole grains that can appeal to everybody.”

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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