By Anna Dantoni –
My sister is a vegetarian while her husband is a pescatarian. My brother is lactose intolerant. My husband (bless him) is an omnivore while I’ve been trying hard lately to be a locavore. Everybody, it seems, is something. Gluten-free eaters are defined by their celiac disease and vegans have a very limited diet that is mostly plant-based with grains and nuts too. And then there’s the whole world of peanut allergy. Makes for a challenging holiday meal if you’ve got more than eight guests coming because for sure one or two of them will avoid some of your menu.
The smart hostess checks with guests to see what kind of diet they are on and plans accordingly. Usually this means making an extra side dish or two or leaving out or substituting an ingredient in a recipe. Even easier, is taking advantage of local specialty food stores and bakeries that cater to dietary needs. It’s a lot easier to pick up a dozen gluten-free rolls than to make them at home when you’re already stressed with holiday cooking.
So that you’ll be able to keep all these dietary definitions straight, here are some common ones. How many “dietary definitions” will be at your table this holiday season?
Omnivore: One who eats both plants and animals. This person pretty much eats any and everything and is the dream guest at any table. My grandmother would call is this optimal dinner guest “a good eater.”
Locavore: This person chooses to eat food from their local or regional area, usually defined as about 100 or 250 miles from home. You see these people religiously browsing local farmers markets and scouring restaurant menus for where the chef sources ingredients. Be grateful if the subject doesn’t come up at your house during mealtime.
Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Diet consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains. If you’ve got three standout recipes for salads and vegetable casseroles, now is the time to bring them to the table.
Vegan: A subset of vegetarianism, a vegan does not eat meat, fowl or fish and also rejects dairy products, eggs, honey and other animal-derived substances. Ethical or lifestyle vegans go further and won’t wear fur or leather. Vegans are hard to feed, but they are generally pretty healthy people.
Pescatarian: These eaters are similar to vegetarians but they do eat fish and shellfish in addition to an otherwise vegetarian diet. According to Pescatarian Life, pescatarians may or may not eat dairy. Don’t assume your pescatarian dinner guest eats dairy. Be smart and ask.
Gluten-Free: People with celiac sprue suffer from a autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with food absorption. They follow a life-long gluten-free diet. Gluten, which gives elasticity to dough, is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat, barley and rye. Gluten can virtually be poison to people with celiac disease. But, people who eat gluten-free just to lose weight or be trendy are a nuisance.
Lactose Intolerant: People with this condition have a lactose deficiency and cannot process dairy foods. Within about 30 minutes of eating dairy products, these eaters suffer real discomfort starting with cramps. Scientists estimate that 75% of the adult population worldwide does not produce enough lactose and is at risk for symptoms of lactose intolerance. Chances are there will be one at your holiday table. Tell this person if your soup is milk-based or if there is cream in the gravy. This guest will avoid the whipped cream on the pie and doesn’t want ice cream or pudding or cheese.
Calorie Counters: These people can take care of themselves at a dinner party. They bring their hand-held electronic calorie counting devices and determine how much of this or that works for them. They know precisely what to pass up. They seldom take second helpings. You don’t need to worry about this crowd although some may spurn your dessert.