Gluten free, Kosher, Lactose intolerant, Vegan, Muslim, Diabetic and Macrobiotic... ...  When planning meals, designing menus and coordinating functions it is important to enquire if the guests have any special food restrictions or allergies to consider.

Imagine serving a beautifully prepared lobster mornay at a dinner party of invited guests, only to be told "I can not eat this, as I am keeping kosher". Or to prepare a salmon, cheese and dill soufflé for a lactose intolerant guest. It would not only be an embarrassment to the host, but also to the guest. In many situations the food allergies can be so serious to cause death.

Gone are the days when folks could assume that everyone would eat meat and potatoes. In today's multicultural world, food choices that were once considered obscure are now part of the mainstream. The reasons why people choose special diets range from religious practices, ideological beliefs to allergies, special diets and food sensitives.

Below is an basic outline to provide a little knowledge into some of the main areas. As most of the religions and food restrictions are so vast and complex, this information is only a brief guide.

Religious Dietary Practices
For most Christians, eating habits are not affected- though some will be vegetarians, usually for moral reason, and some will refrain from eating meat on Fridays. Some sects, for instance Mormons, have many rules and restrictions regarding eating and drinking, for sample complete abstinence from tea, coffee and alcohol and an emphasis on wholesome eating.

Judaism (kosher) 
Jewish dietary laws are known as Kashrut, and are among the most complex of all religious food practices. The term Kosher, or Kasher means fit and describes all foods that are permitted for consumption.

A Kosher kitchen is divided into separate sections one for dairy, meat and pareve. Different sets of utensils, pots, pans, plates, knives, chopping boards, one for meat and poultry and the other for dairy foods. If your kitchen is not normally used for kosher food, it would be well advised to source a local Kosher caterer to provide a certified kosher meal for the guest. They would provide Kosher utensils, cups, plates for the occasion. The meal can easily be re heated in an oven or microwave but must be keep covered so the guest can see the rabbinic certifications seal is intact. In most major cities there are supermarkets, shops and caterers that provide kosher prepared foods and products.

Many Jewish people practice some or all of these restrictions in various degrees. It would be best to inquire as to what if any restrictions they have. 

  • No pork, and shellfish.
  • Fish is acceptable as long as it has fins and scales.
  • All animals with split hooves and which chew the cud (including sheep and cows)
  • Refrain from eating meat and dairy products at the same meal
  • No wine, unless its kosher wine
  • All meat has to be prepared by a qualified kosher butcher (SHOCHET)
  • If meat was eaten in the same day, one must wait six hours before consuming any dairy products

This religion has various food restrictions according to their own dietary laws, which are Halaal. Muslim celebrate the birth of Mohammed at the end of February or early in March. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are not allowed to eat from dawn to sunset. However young children, pregnant women and the sick are often exempted. As similar to other religions, it would be advisable to enquire as to what restrictions the guest has.

  • Carnivorous animals are not permitted.
  • All pork and pork products are totally forbidden.
  • Sea animals which do not have fins or scales are considered undesirable by some Muslims.
  • Alcohol in any form is not permitted.
  • Permissible meat other than pork can be eaten only if it is prepared in the correct way (Halaal).
  • These products should be avoided by all Muslims, Lard, gelatine, Rennet, Whey, Vanilla extract.
  • (some vanilla extracts have over 50% alcohol)
  • Utensils should be separate for Muslims. There should be no contamination of Halaal and non Halaal 

Most Hindus do not eat meat ( strict Hindus are vegetarians) and none eat beef since the cow is sacred to them. Janam Ashtami celebrates the birth of Krishna, in August, Holi is the festival which celebrates the end of winter and arrival of spring.

The Sikhs do not have many strict rules regarding food but many are vegetarians. Baisakhi Day in April celebrates the new year and is the day Sikhs are baptised into their faith.

Strict Buddhists are vegetarians and their dishes vary since many live in India and China, where available foods will be different. Vesak in May is the festival to celebrate the life of the Buddha.

Lacto-ovo Vegetarians eat dairy foods and eggs as well as plant foods. They do not eat the following; 

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish

Ovo-Vegetarians eat only eggs and plant foods. They do not eat the following;

  • Dairy foods,
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish

Lacto-vegetarian eats dairy foods and plant foods. They do not eat;

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish 

Vegans or strict vegetarians eat only plant foods and products. The term vegan generally refers to individuals who share a philosophy and lifestyle as well as a restricted diet. They do not eat any;

  • Animal foods
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products


Medical and food allergies
True food allergies come in various forms. It can be a slight case such as a headaches or a rash to a certain product to some causing severe reactions, including death. The most common individual food allergies include those to peanuts, tree nuts ( walnuts, pecans etc), fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, corn and wheat. If you are given information a guest has a food allergies to a product make sure you consider all the ingredients used in the meal being served. Read the ingredients on the packet of any products used in the guests meal.

Do not ever think that "little bit should not matter". Allergies can kill !
Milk Allergies and Lactose intolerant (dairy free)
Lactose intolerance is the inability to properly digest milk sugar, also known as lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal bloating, gaseousness, flatulence, cramping, and diarrhoea following the consumption of food containing dairy products or by-products.

Milk protein allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins commonly found in cows milk. It is caused by your immune system reacting because it believes the protein in the milk is a threat to your body. Your immune system will do it's best to get rid of the invader, just as it would a foreign virus or poison. During the allergic reaction your body releases histamine, a chemical which causes blood vessels to dilate and leak, mucous membranes to start producing skin rashes, vomiting and other effects. 

Rice milk and Soy milk and tofu are excellent substitutes. Avoid any dairy products such as butter, cheese, some margarines, cream and milk powders.

There are several types of diabetes. The most common are type 1 and type 2. In type 1, the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Individuals with type 1 need insulin shots in order to stay alive. Type 1 can occur at any age, but is usually seen in children and young adults. 

With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces some insulin. type 2 diabetes need insulin to regulate their blood glucose, while others respond well to diet therapy and exercise alone, or a combination of diet, exercise and oral medication.

Starches (pastas, rice, bread, cake, potatoes, corn, etc.), fruit and milk are high in carbohydrates. Once in your body, they break down into your cells' preferred form of energy-glucose. Insulin is needed to help your cells take in the glucose. With diabetes, your insulin cannot do this task properly. A diabetic diet helps you schedule your carbohydrate intake so that your cells can get the glucose that they need.

Consuming too many carbohydrate-containing foods can raise your blood glucose way above normal; eating too few, can hurt your body by denying it the high quality energy that it needs. The timing of your meals is also important. The more that you eat at one meal, the more insulin you will need to utilize the energy from the breakdown of those foods. If you eat smaller portions throughout your day, you will not need as much insulin to bring down your blood sugar.

There are many types of diabetic diets. Some require a lot of measuring, some don't require any measuring at all. All are planned to provide you with the proper balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat, along with vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients needed to keep you healthy. It would pay to have the guest give you some guide lines to what would be a suitable meal.

Gluten free (Celiacs) 
Gluten is a protein found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, and spelt), rye, oats, barley. When people with celiac disease consume gluten, the absorptive villi in the small intestine are damaged, preventing the absorption of many important nutrients. The long-term effect of untreated celiac disease can be life threatening. However, with a completely gluten-free diet, the intestinal lining will heal completely allowing most patients to live a normal, healthy life as long as they remain free of gluten in their diet. Even a small amount of gluten can cause symptoms to reoccur. 

(Gluten is found in Oats is only true partially. Oat itself does not contain Gluten. Gluten is a by product added via harvesting or processing with other products that do have Gluten. The number of products and facilities that provide Gluten Free Oat is increasing. Specialty Markets provide many Gluten Free Oat products. We Celiacs can eat Oats, Oat just needs to be kept Gluten Free via the production method.)

Gluten is hidden in many unsuspecting foods such as licorice, soy sauce, vinegar, some flavorings, most processed foods, self-basting turkeys, some cold cuts, and many prepared stocks and soups. It's also used as a binder in some pharmaceutical products and can be the starch in unidentified food starch, modified food starch, caramel coloring, and vegetable protein. Avoid products where the ingredients are of questionable origin or are listed as simply "natural flavorings, flavor extracts, or spice extracts."

Products to be avoided in any form are; 

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Spelt, semolina, millet, buckwheat
  • Couscous, kamut
  • Commercial salad dressing
  • Instant coffee, malted milk,
  • Canned stock, soup
  • Avoid white vinegar, beer, ale and anything made from grain alcohol
  • Curry powders, dry seasoning, some gravy mixes
  • Oil that was previously used for frying breaded foods
  • Canned tuna (except tuna containing only water and salt)

It would pay to have the guest give you some guide lines to what would be a suitable meal.

Various Diets

There are many various diets, life style eating philosophies around these days. If you have to prepare meals for someone that has a particular diet, then it would pay to take time to research and understand the basic principles behind the diet. Understanding what the nutritional make up of various foods are i.e. Carbohydrates, Minerals, Fats and Proteins. Gaining a knowledge in the basic fundamentals behind food allergies, restrictions and diets is not only beneficial for you personally, but adds another ffeather to your hat as a butler.