Gino Spano

 Tags: Event Planning

When planning an event, requests by guests for meals that observe their specialty diets are not an uncommon occurrence. Your guest might have a variety of reasons for reaching out to request a special plate. Whether it be for medical or religious reasons, or just a preference, it’s a good idea to have some alternatives in mind to make sure all your guests feel at home. With creative planning, you may be able to accommodate several specialty diets in one meal. 

Here is a list of the most common specialty diets, and how you can incorporate them into your food menu when planning an event.

1. Gluten-Free

A gluten free diet is by far the most common specialty diet request of the moment. Gluten is found in foods made with flour, wheat, rye, or barley, and can cause some people a lot of discomfort. Certain people who eat a gluten-free diet do so out of necessity due to an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. Other people choose to go gluten-free due to a gluten sensitivity, where gluten causes them physical discomfort. 

When you’re planning an event, expect to have at least a couple of guests who will opt to skip the gluten. Gluten hides in a lot of different foods, such as soy sauce, salad dressings, and drinks. Contamination is also a big concern for people that have celiac disease, so the best option is to use gluten-free certified food, or stick to fresh meat, seafood, and vegetables.

2. Vegetarian and Vegan

The runner-ups for most often requested specialty dietsare vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarians don’t eat any meat, such as fish, chicken, beef, or shellfish. Whereas vegans don’t eat meat or any animal by-products, such as dairy, eggs, and honey. 

To simplify your event planning, serve vegetarian and vegans the same meal by making the vegetarian option vegan. Animal by-products are found hiding in a variety of foods. Even sugar isn’t vegan unless it’s certified as such, since it’s refined with bone char. Lots of salad dressings contain eggs and honey, so when planning an event, make sure you work closely with the chef to ensure the meal really is meat and animal by-product free.

3. Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance

Milk allergies exist when people cannot process the proteins in milk: casein and whey. If a guest with a milk allergy ingests these proteins, the reaction could range from hives to loss of consciousness. Lactose intolerance, while not as serious, can still cause major discomfort if dairy is consumed. 

Milk is commonly found in everything from desserts, to salad dressing and cream sauces. 

Make sure you know ahead what products use milk so you can alert your guests, and provide milk-free options such as chicken sans mushroom cream sauce.

4. Paleo

The Paleo diet, or “caveman diet,” is a diet that consists of foods similar to what our ancestors might have eaten. The Paleo diet is mostly made up of protein and fresh vegetables, and excludes grains, sugar, milk, or processed food. 

Essentially, if you’re planning an event and have a guest who requests a Paleo meal be served, you’ll want to provide them a hybrid of the last three specialty diets mentioned.

5. Kosher

There’s a big difference in cost between a “kosher-style” meal and a certified kosher meal, so it’s worth askingyour guests who keep kosher if they require the latter. By clarifying to what degree your guest observes the Jewish food regulation (which is referred to as kashruth), you are ensuring that your guest’s needs are taken care of. 

Some people who request kosher might also be okay with the vegetarian or vegan option, which will help ease the kitchen’s amount of prep work. If your guests do request a certified kosher meal,it’s important that that no one but the guest handles it.

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Gino Spano

Starting with roots in a kitchen at 14 years old, he worked his way up the ranks and by the young age of 17 was responsible for daily events of 50 to 600 people. Gino continued to use his talents to work in catering, banquet and restaurant kitchens across the GTA. His love for Italian, French and Asian cuisine paired with his wide variety of knowledge brought him success in his new venture at Seventh Heaven in 2001. Over the past 12 years, he has cooked many meals for social events, corporate events and government officials. His love for new challenges brought him into corporate sales where he and the Seventh Heaven team won Best Catered Event for Canadian Linen’s “The Great White North” – Facility Grand Opening in 2009.
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