Welcome at the Table: Festive Meals for All Diets

Fresh VegetablesPreparing and sharing a festive meal is a timeless way to connect with loved ones. With a little kitchen wisdom you can create a potluck dish or a whole meal that’s delicious for those with a food intolerance or particular diet plan.

“We’re increasingly aware the food we eat affects our health and wellness,” says Stacy M. DeRosa, R.D., clinical dietitian-outpatient services, at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. “A healthful nutrition plan includes more plant-based foods, fewer processed items, and less added fat and sugar.”

So how do we cook a gluten free, vegan, healthful and nutritious meal that tastes good and doesn’t require tons of prep work? Does this even exist?

Don’t stress. It’s easier than you think to create festive meals for all diets, DeRosa says.

Serving a variety of vegetable dishes with your more traditional items, such as fresh turkey and ham, will satisfy your plant-based pals as well as individuals with gluten intolerance. Keep in mind, turkey and ham will be gluten free unless a seasoning or marinade contains gluten.

Using herbs and spices to season foods will jazz up your baked and roasted vegetables while providing additional nutrition benefits.

You can also add beans, which contain protein, to a vegetable dish to make it a more complete dish for vegans and vegetarians.

Gluten free and flavorful

Beans and legumes are gluten free and fit into a plant based diet, too. The options are endless and it does not have to be complicated.

A few tips to get you started:

  • Check in with your guests (or host, if it’s a potluck) before the event to learn of dietary restrictions. This can be as simple as an email to the group or you can add it to your invitation.
  • Rice, millet and quinoa are gluten free and simple to prepare.
  • All vegetables are gluten free and provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This is where roasted spaghetti squash comes in handy as a pasta substitute. And roasted butternut squash can shine as a side dish. Or, try this recipe for delicious mashed cauliflower.
  • Scan the ingredients in prepared seasoning packets. Gluten may be present in some form. Keep your eyes peeled for wheat, flour or barley.
  • Use dried or fresh herbs instead of packets. Herbs and spices provide antioxidants and phytonutrients. Try cinnamon and nutmeg on your butternut squash or tomatoes and basil with your spaghetti squash.

Bread is one of the hardest items to substitute, as gluten is the protein found in wheat. Gluten free breads can be dry and flaky as the gluten is what provides bread with the texture we like so much.

Try this recipe for moist cornbread instead. Corn is naturally gluten free.


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