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A Welcoming Table: Making a Meal for Special Diets

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of turkey, stuffing, pie, rolls, and more pie. If you don’t have to worry about what you eat, planning the Thanksgiving meal is a breeze. But if you have food allergies, sensitivities or follow a special diet, or have guests who do, it can be a challenge finding foods that are suitable, yet still deliciously festive.

I don’t have any particular food preferences, but I have friends who are gluten free, others who are vegetarian, and some who are vegan. It’s important to me to make those friends feel as comfortable eating in my home as anyone else. Here are some tips I’ve learned for taking care of your friends and family:

Communication is Key

Talk with your guests before the big day and find out more about their needs. Some who eat gluten free can do just fine with foods made in any kitchen, yet others need to follow strict rules to avoid cross-contamination.  

If you’re feeding vegetarians or vegans, see what their expectations are. Even if you have plenty of meat-free options on the table, some might not appreciate a giant turkey being carved in front of them for the carnivores.

Make some new traditions with Thanksgiving “Risotto” or Mixed Mushroom Soup:

Read Carefully

Recipes and boxed ingredients can sometimes hide ingredients that won’t sit well with your guests’ tummies. Or can unwittingly add an animal product to an otherwise meatless dish. Usually a switch is as easy as grabbing the vegetable stock for your stuffing rather than chicken!

Try new sides with Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing with Walnuts or Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Pears:

Double Duty

Rather than making gluten-free and regular versions of a dish, just go with the gluten free! You’ll save time as well as make your guests feel more at home without making them search for the “special” plate. Foods appropriate for someone following a special diet can be just as tasty to folks who are not.

Pour gravy everyone can love with Roasted Garlic and Parsnip Vegan Gravy, and Bake up delicious with gluten- and dairy-free Butternut Custard Pecan Pie.

Ask For Help

There’s no shame in asking your friends what they can eat, or even if they could bring a side dish with them. They know their diet better than you, and chances are they’ll be happy to prepare something that everyone can enjoy. Who knows, they might even change a few minds about special diets!

For more recipe inspiration and holiday tips, check out our Holiday Cheat Sheet!

What special diet recipes do you love to prepare for the holidays? Share in the comments!

From carving with confidence to pouring with pride, our online Holiday Cheat Sheet means more of your best for less stress. Order holiday meals online too; we'll do the work, you'll take the credit.