Kathleen Purvis Q&A

Cook's Q&A: How do I feed Thanksgiving guests with special diets?

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comNovember 26, 2013 

Q: I’m worried about cooking Thanksgiving dinner for guests who might have allergies or eating restrictions. Can you give me an idea of which traditional dishes would be a problem?

A: Good guests make their needs known well in advance, rather than showing up and expecting to be accommodated. But it is a good idea to understand the basics of special needs in advance.

A person with a gluten allergy or sensitivity needs to avoid wheat products. So that person would have a problem with stuffing or dressing made with bread (unless you use gluten-free bread), gravy thickened with flour (cornstarch is OK) and most pie crusts and rolls, unless they’ve been made with gluten-free products. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are fine, but make sure they don’t come in contact with other gluten foods in the kitchen.

For diabetics, everything doesn’t have to be sugar-free. They need to balance carbohydrates with proteins, so just taking out sugar doesn’t help.

For vegetarians, the turkey, gravy and dressing flavored with sausage obviously are off the menu. Hearty side dishes with winter squashes, root vegetables and grains are great, but watch out for anything moistened with chicken stock. It’s easy to use it without thinking.

For a vegan, anything flavored with butter or other dairy products, including cheese and yogurt, would also be off-limits, including dressing and pie fillings made with egg. Honey is off the list, and skip the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes – most marshmallows are made with gelatin, derived from animal products.

Email questions about food and cooking to Kathleen Purvis at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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