To think that we can please every attendee at every meeting might be a stretch, but when it comes to meal planning, there are some easy steps you can take to ensure everyone’s food needs are met. Allergies, sensitivities, and food preferences can be tough to manage, but if you share these guidelines with your chef, it will be a little easier.
“Food for All” Guidelines:
1. Plan around the top food allergens.
The allergies and sensitivities you’ll need to honor most often are wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, and shellfish. This list can seem quite daunting, but chefs know there are plenty of cost-effective ways to work around these allergens to create a healthy menu for all. The more you can create menus that avoid these allergens, the few special meal requests the chef will receive.
For plated meals, ask the chef to focus on whole foods when creating the menu, while avoiding gluten and dairy. Accompany the main meat or fish entrée with beautiful salads and a lot of vegetables. The chef can still get creative and provide a signature touch with spices, rubs, and savory sauces.
2. Be creative.
It’s time to get away from the traditional buffet options. For example, the traditional breakfast buffet offers pastries and yogurt, neither of which is suitable for a person with wheat, gluten, and dairy allergies. Why not try a buffet of gluten-free oatmeal with all the healthy fixings, bacon and/or sausage, and a fresh fruit salad instead? Not only are these foods easy to prepare, they also will eliminate many food allergens.
When you give people options to build their own meals buffet style, you honor individual food allergies while still providing an amazing meal for your attendees. Make sure you have a few “safe” options for the folks with allergies; they can skip the rest if needed.
Most people with gluten and dairy allergies end up having to skip traditional desserts. A few dessert options that are free of these two allergens are a gluten-free oatmeal cookie, gluten-free cobbler, and sorbet. Other options include avocado chocolate mousse and lovely chia pudding desserts that are made with coconut milk.
The biggest hurdle in creating a “food for all” environment may be the chef’s openness to changing his or her tried-and-true approach. We all do what we know, until we know better. Have patience, be consistent with your communication, and share your ideas. Together, you have an amazing opportunity to create healthier meetings.
Bonus Video: Angela's tips on how you can cook healthier at home without a lot of fuss.