The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over 25 percent of Americans are diagnosed with some form of chronic health condition and are required to observe a special diet. The odds are high that your dinner guests may have dietary restrictions. It’s acceptable and thoughtful to ask a guest if they follow a special diet, and chances are they will appreciate a host that considers their special dietary needs. Follow these simple suggestions to customize a meal designed for guests at your table with health considerations. The ultimate welcome is a gracious invitation that considers the health of family and friends.
Diabetes and Sugar
People with diabetes can’t process sugar properly and suffer from high levels of sugar in their blood. If your guest has diabetes, simply replace sugary dishes and white-flour foods with natural fruit and sugar substitutes. Serve whole wheat pastas with low fat sauces. Prepare a tasty sesame seed oil and herbal dip for whole grain breads. Place an alternative sugarless and/or fat free salad dressing on the dinner table, and make a few lemon wedges available. For dessert, have reduced-sugar ice cream and serve with fruit and nuts for toppings.
High Blood Pressure (HPB)
People with a diagnosis of HBP follow a low salt diet. Salt, listed in food labels as sodium, is overwhelmingly present in most foods. People with HBP avoid excessively salty foods and refrain from adding any extra salt to a meal. Serve foods lower in sodium and use salt sparingly in soups and gravies. HBP medication usually interferes with the ability to retain magnesium, potassium, and possibly calcium. Provide fresh fruits for dessert and crisp vegetables to replenish nutrients.
Foods High in Sodium:
People with a gallbladder condition avoid foods high in animal fat. The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile which aids in fat digestion. When fatty foods are ingested, the gallbladder fills and cannot empty properly. The pressure builds until the gallbladder causes severe pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, and possibly a visit to the emergency room. If you have a guest with gallbladder concerns, serve lean meats with trimmed fat, poultry, or fish with low fat sauces. Avoid fried foods due to high fat content, and consider baked fish or grilled chicken.
High Fat Foods:
Rib Eye Steaks
Pork or Beef Ribs
Deep fried Seafood
Gout and Purines
Usually affecting men, gout is an extremely painful condition of the joints. Usually the big toe is the target area, but can be found in the knee or elbow. Typically, people who experience gout are unable process purines properly. A diet high in organ meats, pork, bacon, beer, lamb, and some types of seafood may develop high amounts of uric acid in their blood. The body is unable to expel the uric acid and it crystallizes in a particular area of the body and causes intense pain and swelling.
Recent studies have suggested that low fat dairy products and fresh fruits are safe and beneficial for people suffering from gout. Serve non-whole grains and pasta, eggs, cheese, and butter. Offer meats and fish with low purines content.
Allergies or Food Intolerances
Although people can be allergic to many different types of food, common allergies include eggs, milk, rice, peanuts, shellfish, strawberries and tomatoes. These foods are simple enough to avoid and substitute in recipes and meals. Allergy reactions can include a minor rash to a major response resulting in death. Always ask your visitor what they prefer in place of the food allergen and what is safe for them to consume.
People who experience digestive distress from consuming certain foods are “food intolerant.” People who cannot digest milk properly are considered “lactose intolerant.” Common intolerances include wheat gluten, onions, spicy foods and certain citrus fruits. Substitutes for food allergies and intolerances are sold widely and may not detract taste from a meal. Ask your guest what foods are acceptable and safe for them to enjoy.
A Caring Host
If you’re a host that cares about the well-being of family and friends, devoting a little extra time preparing safe meals will be worth the reward of a successful dinner party. With a little research, you can apply these principals of choosing healthy ingredients for anyone with health and dietary concerns. A warm and caring host will always benefit from the appreciation of friends and family.