When it comes to planning an amazing party, whether it be a wedding or your grandmother’s birthday, what are the guests going to remember? The dress? The favors? No, let’s be real here, it’s the food. Your meal could be a talking point among your guests for years into the future and I would highly suggest putting an effort into what you serve. While it is important to take into consideration meal options that please the masses, what I’d like to focus on for this post, are those guests with dietary restrictions. A dietary restriction could be any number of things including, but not limited to, vegetarianism, gluten-free, allergies, etc. With society becoming more and more health-conscious, these needs are only going to continue to increase. For many though, it is completely uncharted territory. Even if you want to be accommodating, how do you go about it?

When planning your menu, something that I cannot stress enough is TRY TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR GUESTS. It’s as simple as asking for any dietary notes on RSVPs. Way too many people leave these guests to settle with bread and salad. They think there are too few people attending with these needs to justify putting effort into special options While this will leave most people satisfied, a handful may go into the rest of the night feeling a bit shafted. I have a vegetarian friend who is tired of there never being any vegetarian entrees at weddings, and for that reason has vowed that she is having only vegetarian options available at her own wedding. It’s a real issue people! These days it is very common to get special meals and it takes next to no effort to do so. You do not need to do a full option on your buffet or offer it as an option for all guests, you can get a single plate for them. Just ask your caterer and they are more than happy to help.

I recently attended a learning session led by Deana Preble, the nutritionist at the Madison East Hy-Vee. In addition to providing insight on how to work with dietary needs at large events, she also offered a few great alternatives to consider when crafting recipes, including multiple ways to include the superfood quinoa, safe methods to determining allergies in young children, and the abundance of special products available to meet the needs to everyone. I also learned that every Hy-Vee store has its own Registered Dietician on site as a resource to ALL its customers to translate food and nutrition science into practical information. The Madison area has three Hy-Vee stores – Madison East, Madison West, and Fitchburg, so there is no shortage of help available!

It’s perfectly fine to serve steak and lobster or even have a taco bar at your wedding. Just consider having avocado tacos as an option, or have some eggplants available to grill as well. While it’s understandable that you’ll have a million other things to plan for this event, getting creative with dietary requests is something that both you and your guests be thankful for in the long run. And maybe you’ll learn a great recipe along the way!