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Inspiration

Cooking for Special Diets

Sophie E on 06th Jun, 2014

Do you know the joke about inviting a Vegan, a Paleo follower and a Diabetic to a dinner party? Probably not! It’s no laughing matter trying to please the growing number of dietary requirements my nearest and dearest have. My husband is allergic to shellfish, my best friend to peppers and chillies, my mum is diabetic, and I count a Coeliac, a vegan, a vegetarian among my closest friends. They tell me it’s no fun either ‘being the awkward one’ at a dinner party, making everyone else eat tofu with low salt soy or, heaven forbid, a dairy free sauce. By default I have become a laymen’s expert in “Special Diets”, which for me includes:

  • People with life threatening conditions like Diabetes & Coeliac
  • People who don’t have a choice about an area of their diet – so those with specific allergies and intolerances to nuts, shellfish, or other foods
  • And anyone who chooses to limit their diet for personal (e.g. vegetarian) or health reasons (e.g. low fat, Dukan, Atkins)
Cooking for Special Diets

Do you know the joke about inviting a Vegan, a Paleo follower and a Diabetic to a dinner party? Probably not! It’s no laughing matter trying to please the growing number of dietary requirements my nearest and dearest have. My husband is allergic to shellfish, my best friend to peppers and chillies, my mum is diabetic, and I count a Coeliac, a vegan, a vegetarian among my closest friends. They tell me it’s no fun either ‘being the awkward one’ at a dinner party, making everyone else eat tofu with low salt soy or, heaven forbid, a dairy free sauce. By default I have become a laymen’s expert in “Special Diets”, which for me includes:

  • People with life threatening conditions like Diabetes & Coeliac
  • People who don’t have a choice about an area of their diet – so those with specific allergies and intolerances to nuts, shellfish, or other foods
  • And anyone who chooses to limit their diet for personal (e.g. vegetarian) or health reasons (e.g. low fat, Dukan, Atkins)

Click on the links below for my laymen’s guide to special diets: what they roughly are, what to avoid and some nifty tips. My explanations are over simplified so please visit the NHS or a condition-specific web site for the science and detail.

Coeliac disease

Diabetes

Diet / Low Fat

Food allergies

Food intolerance

Paleo / Caveman

Vegetarian / Vegan 


Coeliac disease

  • Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten. 1 in 100 people have the condition.
  • Coeliac sufferers must totally avoid gluten. One breadcrumb is enough to contaminate their food. If cooking for a Coeliac you need to use freshly washed cooking instruments and avoid any ingredients that might be cross-contaminated, like pre-opened butter that’s been used for bread.

SYMPTOMS: Bloating, diarrhoea, nausea all the way to anaemia and osteoporosis.

TIPS

  • Avoid all wheat-related products. This can even include mustards, stock cubes and ketchup. If in doubt, don’t use it or go to a specialist shop for an alternative.
  • Avoid all processed foods unless they are very clear that they are TOTALLY gluten free (some have a “less than x%” statement which is not enough).
  • Avoid using a wooden spoon or wooden board when cooking. If you must use one, it must be brand new, or it could contaminate the food (one breadcrumb is all it takes).
  • See Food intolerance for great wheat flour alternatives.
  • Rice and potatoes are easy alternatives. Be creative, try Quick cauliflower rice and the delicious and gluten free nutty apple crumble.

Diabetes

  • Diabetics don’t have any /enough good insulin, which enables your body’s cells to absorb the glucose. So they have dangerously high or low glucose levels.
  • Diabetics are advised to eat a normal, healthy and moderate diet. Weight loss may be recommended by their doctor to help treat diabetes so lower fat dishes may be more suitable.
  • Diabetics need to limit intake of sugary and high Glycaemic Index (GI) foods which put too much sugar in their system that they can’t absorb.

SYMPTOMS: Short term effects may not be that visible. Very high glucose can lead to a glucose-induced coma. Long term effects can include Cardiovascular Disease, blindness and organ failure.

TIPS


Diet / Low Fat

  • Personal diet choice which may involve reducing portion sizes and reducing intake of high fat foods.
  • Find out how seriously they are taking their diet. Is it due to a life-threatening condition? A lot of people love the excuse for a ‘night off’ and may be disappointed by your rabbit’s salad. Some might spend the whole meal painstakingly cutting the fat off that juicy steak.

TIPS

 


Food allergies

  • A rapid and potentially serious response to a food by your immune system. Up to 1 in 50 people in the UK suffer from one.
  • Most common allergies in the UK are from fish, shellfish and nuts.

SYMPTOMS include a rash, wheezing. Your guest may even whip out an EPI pen or call an ambulance. This may distract from your candelight ambience and smoked salmon vol-au-vents.

TIPS


Food intolerance

  • A slower reaction to a food. Most common intolerances are to lactose and gluten.
  • For gluten intolerance avoid all wheat and wheat flour-based products including breads, pastas, pizzas, cakes and biscuits and flour-related dishes.

SYMPTOMS come on more slowly, often it can be hours after eating the problem food. Think bloating, stomach cramps.

TIPS

  • Swap out gluten & lactose from recipes.
  • For lactose-intolerance, swap dairy product (milk, butter, yoghurt, cheese) for a soy, almond or coconut-based one, e.g. soy milk, almond butter, coconut oil, coconut milk.
  • Different wheat flour substitutes have different properties. Some are starchy, some are more sticky. Cornflour and arrowroot powder are great thickeners. Almond flour (ground almonds) are great in cakes. I use rice flour and crumbs for coatings.
  • Try Courgette, feta and mint bites or Gluten-free salmon fishcakes

Paleo / Caveman

  • Diet choice mimicking our hunter-gatherer ancestors. If you couldn’t hunt, pick or source it then, you shouldn’t eat it now. Paleo followers typically avoid processed foods, grains and some or all dairy.
  • The severity depends on how serious your friend is (I dabble in and out depending which way the wind is blowing and what is on offer..). They may gobble it up and feel guilty later or they may go hungry and depress your other guests somewhat.

TIPS

  • Cook from fresh, naturally sourced ingredients. Look for gluten free recipes for a start. Find out how far your friend takes it as there may be some room for manoeuvre!
  • Avoid processed foods, including flour, refined sugars and refined vegetable oils. And the hardcore avoid all starchy food and dairy too.
  • Try Herby Almond crackers with your dips instead of pitta or bread. Quick cauliflower rice is a great alternative to starchy rice. Great soups include Broccoli & Spinach soup, Roasted tomato soup

Vegetarians & Vegans

  • Diet, moral or religious choice avoiding various combinations of meat, fish and eggs.

SYMPTOMS: Your guest may be ill or well feel very uncomfortable or angry if accidentally served a meat or dairy related product. You may risk your opportunity of a return invite too.

TIPS

vegetarian  / special diet  / paleo  / diet  / allergy
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