Healthy Q & A: Cooking for Guests with Food Allergies

Q:  My daughter is bringing her fiancé to Christmas for the first time this year.  I’m excited, but also worried since he has food allergies: he’s allergic to wheat and dairy.  I asked, and my daughter said it wasn’t a breathing reaction he has (thankfully!), but he gets rashes and digestive problems if he eats them.  I’m happy that he’s coming for Christmas, but I also don’t want to get him sick!  Do you have any recommendations?

A:  It is absolutely possible to have a nice, normal holiday feast while hosting a person with food allergies, it just takes a little extra awareness and planning.  The new USDA mandated food labeling lists if a product contains dairy or wheat and is printed at the bottom of the ingredient list in bold, so be sure to check all prepared foods you buy- even if it doesn’t seem if it would contain wheat or dairy since there are often surprise ingredients.


If you are cooking a roast, meats in general are safe, just take care using prepared marinades, since some contain flavorings or yeast extracts which may contain wheat.  When it comes to side dishes, there are lots of delicious choices which are dairy and wheat free.   With potatoes you can make mashed potatoes with dairy free margarine like Earth Balance’s Buttery Sticks and soy or rice milk.  Potatoes (regular white potatoes or sweet potatoes) are delicious roasted in olive oil.  Don’t think you need to have an entirely dairy free or wheat free meal, but just use care in preparing the dairy free and wheat free dishes, washing the counter and cutting board thoroughly and using new utensils.  Also, make sure to have a specific serving utensil for each allergen free dish so there isn’t cross contamination between the different foods. 


Gravy is another dish to be aware of, since prepared gravy (or many gravy recipes) contain wheat.  We do have easy gluten free (and vegetarian varieties if that’s a concern for anyone reading) gravy mixes at the store.  Desserts can be more of a challenge for dairy free and gluten free diets, though there are many delicious recipes which are absolutely doable.  Here’s a list of some fantastic gluten free desserts, many of which are dairy free (and really, it’s easy to convert almost any recipe to be dairy free by just substituting dairy free margarine, and soy, rice or coconut milk).

A nice prepared dessert that we have at the store which would fit the bill for gluten and dairy free are Katz Gluten Free Pies.  They’re delicious, and are nice since they’re one less thing to cook.  If you have any questions, be sure to stop by the store, we’re all very knowledgeable on food allergies and cooking for people with food allergies.


See our recipe review for some more great ideas for gluten free and dairy free holiday dishes!