Hosting a dinner has become more complicated than in past years. You may have family members, friends, and neighbors who have special dietary needs. Some guests may eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. Some guests may be diabetic and need to watch their sugar and carbohydrate consumption. Some are sensitive to gluten. Accommodating these various needs can make meal planning difficult. Having a large number of guests increases the odds that some of them will not be able to eat many of the foods you would normally serve. If you'd like to stick to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner but need to modify the offerings for your guests' special diets, here are a few suggestions that don't have to take a lot of additional time and trouble.
Some families would not think of celebrating Thanksgiving without the traditional roast turkey as the centerpiece. If this item is important to you, by all means, cook the roast turkey. If you think the non-meat-eaters might find the sight of the big dead bird at the head of the table offensive, do the carving in the kitchen and just serve a variety of white meat and dark meat pieces on a platter at the table. Make sure you follow all safe cooking directions for storage and cooking of the turkey.
Entrée and the Sides
Depending on your family tradition, you can keep many of the side dishes you normally serve with the turkey. However, you may wish to adapt some of the recipes to be acceptable for the varying needs of your guests or add a few new items. A vegetarian/vegan entrée can be added to your basic menu, and side dish recipes can be tweaked to suit special needs. Everyone enjoys a fresh, healthy salad, so don't be afraid to add in plenty of colorful vegetables.
For Vegetarian and Vegan Guests
If you have vegetarian or vegan guests, you may want to serve something that feels like a main dish for them. Eggplant Parmesan is a hearty dish that can help fill up hungry guests who don't eat meat. For vegans, you will have to get vegan Parmesan and mozzarella instead of traditional cheeses. You can also opt for a vegan macaroni and cheese recipe that uses cashew-based cheese, soy or nut milk, and veggie broth for its cheesy-creamy flavor.
For Diabetics and Those on Low-Carb Diets
Diabetics must follow a fairly restrictive diet to avoid spikes in glucose levels. Lavish dinners can be a problem for these guests. Turkey is a lean meat that is definitely on their diet, but side dishes may present a problem. If you serve a choice of salad and vegetables, they will be able to fill their plates with delicious food without undermining their blood sugar levels. Fresh fruit or a sugar-free dessert will be appreciated. You can also keep on hand a variety of sugar-free sodas, calorie-free sparkling water, and diet mixers for drinks.
For Gluten-Sensitive Guests
A number of gluten-free dinner roll mixes are available on the market. In addition, you can easily make a safe stuffing for gluten-sensitive guests by using gluten-free bread flavored up with celery, garlic, sausage, chicken or vegetable broth, sage, and rosemary. Many supermarkets offer a number of gluten-free dessert items in their bakery section.
Although some of your guests may be willing to go off their diets for the holiday dinner, showing that you understand their unique needs is an extra portion of love and care that is always appreciated. If you prefer to make your dishes for special diets, a wealth of recipes is available online.