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Accommodating dietary restrictions during the holidays

Stuffed squash makes a hearty, vegetable-forward meal that will please adherents to any diet.


When I went vegetarian in the late 1990s, some people seemed quite upset by it. “But what do you eat if you don’t eat meat?” they worried, picturing a plate of undressed lettuce and carrots. My answer: “You know, everything else.” Now, as more people try to eat healthier and more ethically, a diet that includes bread, cheese, refined sugars, and all manner of nuts and grains seems positively decadent. Maybe the years as the odd one out made me more sympathetic to others’ needs, or maybe it’s a love of problem solving, but I’ve gotten to enjoy the challenge of making a meal that everyone—vegetarian, vegan, paleo, keto, gluten-free, seed or nut allergies—can enjoy. On a recent family weekend, I made a roasted cauliflower salad with protein options of lentils and fish that provided a nourishing and satisfying meal for everyone, regardless of their regimens. I’m told some of the panic about friends and relatives having dietary restrictions is due to the belief that people can’t enjoy a meal as a group anymore but, I promise, that is not the case.


Some general tips

• Most vegans and vegetarians will not want to pick out meat or dairy; it’s much better to serve it on the side or make one portion without than to expect people to eat around it.


• Read labels to see what is vegan or gluten-free. Most people would know that bread has gluten, but may not think of soy sauce (substitute tamari instead).


• Many websites are specific to diets like vegetarian, vegan, or grain-free. Try Cookie & Kate (vegetarian), Minimalist Baker (vegan, with gluten-free recipes marked), or Oh She Glows (vegan, with allergens such as gluten, soy, and nuts marked).


• Think of foods that can be served as a “bar” or buffet, rather than a protein centerpiece with vegetable sides. Try a Mediterranean bar   with pita, hummus, salads, sauces, olives, meat and/or vegetable skewers; a taco bar with choice of proteins, corn tortillas or rice for gluten-free folks, lots of fresh vegetables for low carb eaters, avocados for all; or Asian-inspired rice bowls with tofu and meat, pickled and fresh veggies, and  tamari if other sauces have soy.


• Offer pickled vegetables, olives, nuts, or seeds, with spicy sauces on the side so guests can season dishes without meat or dairy.


• If the centerpiece is a vegetable, be sure to serve hearty sides, such as bean or quinoa salads.


• For those who want to make a more traditional veggie main: stuffed squash is a great choice for fall and winter holidays. This recipe is also gluten-free.


Get a great  Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart Living here.



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