Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Holiday Meals for All — Special Diets Too

By Paige Brady, October 29, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
Nothing can disappoint a host(ess) like finding out one of their guests can't eat the fabulous food they've prepared. Entertaining during the holidays seems especially fraught with challenges. No one relishes the thought of Aunt Sally munching on celery sticks while everyone else digs into the classics that she can't enjoy. From vegetarian or lactose intolerant to gluten sensitivities or nut allergies, people have a variety of needs when it comes to food — some that are personal choices and others that are medically necessary. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to make sure all of your guests are well-fed and satisfied. I’ve got some special tips to help make this easy and delicious! First, you’ll need to inquire about special dietary requirements your guests might have. If you are sending out invitations, just include a note requesting an “RSVP with dietary restrictions, please.” If speaking directly to your guests, let them know ahead of time that you haven’t set your menu yet and would like to know if they have any special requests or restrictions. Believe me: You can save yourself and your guests much embarrassment! Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to set your menu. Some changes can be simple — like using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for vegetarian options. Others can be more involved. Here are a few words of caution:
  • Some allergic reactions can be life-threatening. It is critical that you think through all aspects of your cooking for a guest with a serious allergy – or ask them to help you.
  • Cross contamination can be a problem, especially with allergic foods such as gluten, peanuts, shellfish and tree nuts. That means if you chop nuts on your cutting board for one dish and then chop celery for a “nut-free” dish without washing the board, you are not really nut-free. Same goes for stirring spoons, serving utensils, blenders, food processors, etc.
  • Be aware of hidden ingredients. Adding flour to gravy may be so automatic that you don’t stop to think that the flour contains gluten. Don't worry, there are substitutes!
  • If you are making dishes that include packaged foods, check labels for “hidden” ingredients such as gluten, nuts or dairy.
You may want to consider serving your holiday meal buffet style. This is a great way to please all guests and keep the food separate. Remember that not all of your dishes need to meet everyone’s requirements. Serving a protein choice with a couple of side dishes is fine. Here are some examples of what I mean:
  • If you are serving a turkey or a ham, present a tofu or lentil dish for vegetarian guests.
  • If you are serving bread stuffing, offer a rice stuffing for gluten-free guests.
  • If serving whipped cream, pick up a non-dairy whipped topping as well.
Buffet-style meals are perfect for setting out small cards, like place-setting cards, that include the name of the dish and the ingredient listing. If your meal is not buffet-style, your guests will appreciate a quick private rundown on the dishes that meet their needs and those that don’t. Now, on to the good stuff! Here are some delicious “alternative” holiday dishes you may want to try. Gluten Free: Dairy Free: Vegetarian Options: You can also use our advanced recipe search to look for recipes that meet other special dietary needs. Planning a holiday feast for folks with special dietary needs? What will you serve? Got a favorite idea or recipe you plan to include? I would love to know!
Category: Holidays 2011




Deborah Peters says ...
Beautiful post! Thank you so much for the gluten free recipes. It's true, my mother inlaw made some chocolate gf cupcakes on my husband's b-day because the regular delicious cake was just not an option. I'm a health coach and feature all this on my blog, lately gluten free dining options at restaurants as well. Bread is my favorite thing to eat in the world, can't wait to try your stuffing recipe. Warm Regards, Deborah Peters
10/31/2011 1:17:10 PM CDT
David Armstrong says ...
How can I find a organic turkey cooked in peanut oil?
10/31/2011 1:33:42 PM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@David You know, your community's Whole Foods Market may be able to provide you with an Organic Turkey cooked in Peanut Oil! I encourage you to reach out to your store directly to learn what your turkey options are at that location. The link below will help you identify your store's contact information. Happy turkey hunting! www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores
10/31/2011 3:17:33 PM CDT
Nicole @thegivingtable says ...
Thanks for sharing these recipes. Several people in my family have allergies and are intolerant of certain ingredients. This will help make Thanksgiving easier this year!
10/31/2011 4:33:28 PM CDT
Philomena says ...
Why not include sugar free, gluten free and dairy free recipes. Thanks OH AND COME TO AUSTRALIA PLEASSSSSSE
11/02/2011 7:35:04 PM CDT
Denise Kandel says ...
Thank you so much for helping me with my food sensitivities Thanksgiving. I am very grateful to have this resource!
11/02/2011 9:09:56 PM CDT
Linda Macak says ...
I also shop at the Hinsdale store when I have to go that way.and have attended GIG support groups there for the family.
11/03/2011 8:07:54 AM CDT
Jo Radtke says ...
Where are the Paleo options? The gluten free options still contain other grains and I know more Paleo eaters than vegetarians.
11/03/2011 10:07:19 AM CDT
Karina says ...
Thank you so much for this post! It is nice to see a positively written piece about alternatives for people with allergies (my children are allergic to eggs, and one to dairy as well). Thanks!
11/03/2011 11:28:57 AM CDT
Mary says ...
Wish you would include Sugar Free for diabetics who should not eat sugar.
11/03/2011 11:32:50 AM CDT
Leigha says ...
What is included for the $99. Thanksgiving Dinner?]
11/04/2011 3:19:59 PM CDT
betty cruse says ...
Do you have store-prepared items that are both gluten free and dairy free? Thank you
11/04/2011 3:33:56 PM CDT
reva lasaine says ...
forgot a major food problem diabetics and low sodium diets
11/05/2011 11:09:54 AM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@Leigha The options for pre-order dinners through our online stores differ from store to store. The best way to see what all your options are at your community's Whole Foods Market is to search the link I've included below. Click on the link and make sure you select your community's Whole Foods store location. After you select your store, you will have options for shopping. All the turkey and fixings options will be available under the "Thanksgiving" selection. You'll want to double check your order location and make sure it's the store you wish before you confirm your payment. Happy hunting! http://wholefoodsmarket.com/shop/
11/07/2011 1:08:38 PM CST
Michele says ...
Thanks for the recipes, but please include diabetic recipes too!
11/07/2011 7:29:01 PM CST
Carole Ziegler says ...
Recipes for sugar free, gluten free, soy and pasturized milk free would be appreciated.
11/07/2011 7:55:59 PM CST
terri donovan says ...
I am interested in ordering a vegan thanksgiving for 2-4 people to pick up on tuesday before thanksgiving at the middletown store can you please email me the information what you would suggest and what I need to do to pick it up with heating instructions.
11/07/2011 8:12:50 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Terri Luckily we have a lot of options to offer for a vegan Thanksgiving and your order is up to your preference. Our online store is the best place to get menu ideas as well as directions on how to prepare the dishes once you've picked them up. All Thanksgiving order options are available for pick up from Nov. 18th through Thanksgiving. Just click on the link below and select your preferred store for pick-up. From there select the "Thanksgiving" option and then the "vegan" options from there. You should see a bevvy of main and side dishes as well as a few desserts. Happy hunting! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/shop/
11/08/2011 1:53:27 PM CST