family and friends can be full of challenges whether you’re
the guest or host. Those challenges may increase if food
allergies, food intolerances and those who choose to follow
special diets, perhaps vegan or vegetarian, are in the
vegan brother won’t eat a dessert that uses honey. A
lactose-intolerant cousin will pass on the butter.
it comes to an allergy, your immune system is involved. It can
be as simple as having an itch or rash and potentially lead to
a life-threatening reaction where you stop breathing. So an
allergy is something that is much more severe," says
Vandana Sheth, a California-based registered dietitian,
certified diabetes educator and representative for the Academy
of Nutrition and Dietetics.
food intolerance, on the other hand, "it’s more that
your body’s not able to process specific things," says
Sheth. "With lactose intolerance, for example, the most
common intolerance that people have, you’re not involving
the entire immune system."
whether the immune system is involved is an important factor
with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
"gluten intolerance" often refers to the entire
category of gluten issues: celiac disease, non-celiac gluten
sensitivity and wheat allergy, according to Carol M. Shilson,
executive director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease
disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the
digestive process of the small intestine. ‘Non-celiac gluten
sensitivity’ — what many call ‘gluten intolerance’ —
causes the body to mount a stress response (often
gastrointestinal symptoms) different from the immunological
response that occurs in those who have celiac disease (which
most often causes intestinal tissue damage)."
wheat allergy, like most allergies, "causes the immune
system to respond to a food protein because it considers it
dangerous to the body when it actually isn’t," Shilson
notes. "This immune response is often time-limited and
does not cause lasting harm to body tissues."
are dozens of foods or food groups that can cause allergies,
according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the
eight major allergens are milk, eggs, fish (e.g. bass, cod),
crustacean shellfish (e.g. shrimp, lobster, crab), tree nuts,
peanuts, wheat and soybeans — the FDA requires food labels
to list them.
with allergies, food intolerances or who follow a special diet
know what foods cause problems. Friends or relatives may not.
They may not realize there can be eggs in mayonnaise or wheat
in soy sauce, or that there are often alternatives available
confusion begins with the person with dietary considerations.
Touch base with the host before a gathering that will include
a meal or snacks, says Sheth, and be as specific as you can
about what you can and can’t eat. "A guest might say,
‘I’ve become vegetarian and I should be able to eat most
of the things, but if you’ve used chicken broth or
something, I may not eat it. Please don’t be offended. Can I
way, you’ve let them know you don’t want to put pressure
on them to make a whole entree that’s vegetarian for you and
that you can bring that."
the host, find out if any guest has food allergies or
sensitivities, Sheth says. "When you’re shopping and
preparing the menu, look at items that are easy to put
together and can be the same dish for everyone rather than
making many different versions."
Sheth: "When you’re cooking and trying to keep food
safe, people don’t think about using that same wooden spoon
or cutting board for preparing foods that might cause
conversations have to be comfortable for both parties, Sheth
says. "The host might be freaking out with all these
different restrictions. So as a guest, try to be more
understanding. Realize ultimately it’s your responsibility
to ensure that what you’re eating is safe."
are many food allergies, intolerances and specialized diets.
Here are a few guidelines:
Does not eat animal products or animal by-products (e.g.
butter, cheese). Subgroups: lacto-ovo vegetarian (dairy and
eggs OK), pescatarian (fish OK).
alert: Check seasoning packets. No gelatin or animal-based
tip: Serve a vegetarian chili or lentils.
Plant-based diet. Does not eat eggs, milk, cheese.
alert: Check labels of baked goods, prepared sauces. Agar and
guar gum are OK.
tip: Consider soy- or coconut-based milks and fats. Instead of
mashed potatoes prepared with dairy, Sheth suggests baked
potatoes with toppings on the side.
allergy: Some recipes (Mexican moles, Thai sauces) may contain
alert: Look for "May contain traces of …" Don’t
cook with peanut oil.
tip: Sheth says consider using seed butters (sunflower,
pumpkin) or soy nut butter made from roasted soybeans.
nuts: Includes pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews.
alert: Be alert to cross contamination
tip: Try using roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds for
crunch on a salad. Or roasted garbanzo beans.
disease and gluten intolerance: Gluten, a protein in wheat,
shows up in most traditional breads, pastries. Check deli
meats, bottled sauces, sauced frozen vegetables.
alert: Can also be found in other grains; sometimes rye,
barley and oats. Be aware of "their derivatives in the
ingredients used," Shilson adds. If a person can tolerate
a small amount of oats, use those labeled "certified
tip: Use cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot for
thickening. Consider quinoa, brown rice, polenta.
further guidance and specifics: eatright.org, foodallergy.org