How to Host for Dietary Restrictions

Nothing represents the holiday season quite like filling your home with family, friends and food. But the holiday feasts can become more challenging to plan when your guests have dietary restrictions. 

By offering a variety of appetizers and entrees that cater to specific dietary needs, you can ensure an inclusive and enjoyable dining experience for everyone. We’ve put together a few tips and things to avoid when you’re hosting for common dietary restrictions.


If you have a gluten-free or celiac guest, they can’t eat a particular protein found in wheat, barley, rye and some oats. Luckily, there are many gluten-free breads and products available in grocery stores these days. You can swap out crackers for a gluten-free variety, use corn starch in your gravy instead of flour, or prepare your famous stuffing in a separate dish instead of actually stuffing it in the turkey this year. 

Cross-contamination can be terrible for a gluten-free guest—even a few crumbs of gluten can make a celiac ill. When preparing your food, it’s best to have dedicated dishes and utensils and a particular section of your kitchen that’s only used for gluten-free food. Also remember that seasoning could include gluten so check the ingredient list before adding it to a dish.


This restriction eliminates all sources of dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. If butter and cream are the secret ingredients in your holiday recipes, there are easy swaps that can be made—you can replace butter with margarine or olive oil, milk with a plant-based milk alternative like almond or oat milk, and whipped cream with a coconut alternative. 

While this may seem like an easy allergy to avoid, dairy can be hiding in unexpected places. Avoid serving store-bought breads and buns, deli meats or sausages, and some seasonings as many of them contain milk ingredients. Be sure to check your labels. Non-dairy on a product label means it doesn’t contain butter, cream or milk, but may still have milk-containing ingredients like caseinates, hydrolysates, lactose or milk solids.

Vegetarian and vegan

These guests won’t eat meat, poultry or fish from your menu. Vegans also won’t eat animal products including eggs, dairy and honey. These guests are often offered a variety of vegetarian side dishes and salads as a meal, but if you’re serving a meat entree, you should also offer a plant-based option as well such as a hearty lasagna with layers of pasta, roasted vegetable and creamy tofu ricotta. 

When you’re cooking for a vegetarian guest make sure to pay attention to the details. Avoid using meat-based broths and check your product labels for hidden milk products for your vegan friends. 


This restriction is often followed by individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It involves eliminating certain carbohydrates including certain fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products. This diet will require some research to make changes to your recipes, or you can make a special dish—such as a grilled salmon fillet paired with a quinoa and roasted vegetable medley—that fit this diet.

Important things to avoid are onions, garlic, wheat, dairy and certain fruits. Feel free to ask your guest what foods they exclude from their diet or for advice to make substitutions in your recipes. They’ll have plenty of ideas for you! 


This one is as simple as its description—this guest avoids all types of nuts including peanuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts. This allergy can be easy to avoid. When preparing dishes for guests with nut allergies, read labels carefully and avoid any dishes containing nuts or cross-contamination.

There are some surprising food items you may not think of when you’re preparing dishes for these guests. Skor bars contain almonds. Pesto contains pine nuts. Mortadella ham includes pistachios. So be sure to check labels for any ingredients you might not have thought of. 

With a little creativity and understanding, you can create a memorable holiday party that delights all your guests. And if you’re ever in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a simple veggie tray.

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