Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan Catering and Everything in Between:
A Comprehensive Guide to Catering for Dietary Requirements
You’ve been asked to cater for the upcoming board meeting or staff party, you send out the invites and as the RSVP’s come through so do the dietary requirements.
You need vegan catering, FODMAP catering and then there are the dairy free and gluten free guests! With more Australians living with food intolerances or allergies, and voluntary diets becoming increasingly popular, the likelihood of catering for special dietary requirements is more common than ever.
You may not know what to cater for these guests, you may not even know what the dietary requirement actually is! So we’ve created this guide to assist you with understanding the various special dietary requirements you may encounter as you plan your next event.
Firstly it’s important to understand the categories that the special dietary requirements may fall under, usually it’s one of the following three:
1. Special dietary requirements: such as vegetarian, vegan and pregnancy
2. Food allergies and intolerances: such as lactose / dairy free, coeliac / gluten free, FODMAP, nut allergies and other food allergies like shellfish allergies
3. Religious dietary requirements: such as halal or kosher
1) Special dietary requirements
Okay, so this is the easy one, right? Not necessarily! While we all know that a vegetarian doesn’t eat meat there actually are several types of vegetarians usually categorised as follows:
• Lacto-ovo: avoids all meats but eats dairy food and eggs, this is generally the most common type of vegetarian
• Lacto-vegetarian: avoids all meat and eggs but eats dairy foods
• Pescatarian: eats seafood as the only source of meat in an otherwise vegetarian diet
Unlike a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet avoids all animal products including meat, eggs and dairy and eats only plant-based foods. Avoiding meat products is relatively simply, however ensuring that an entire meal is vegan friendly can be more complex as there are many animal products used in the manufacture of foods that you perhaps wouldn’t expect. However as veganism becomes increasingly popular the availability and variety of vegan catering options is increasing exponentially.
There are some foods your pregnant guest will need to avoid because it may make them ill or harm their baby. These foods usually include cheeses like mould-ripened or soft cheeses, pate, raw or undercooked meats, cold deli meats, raw or partially cooked eggs, fish high in mercury and beverages such as alcohol, caffeine and energy drinks.
2) Food Allergies and Intolerances
Gluten Free / Coeliac Disease
People with coeliac disease or gluten intolerances react to gluten, which is a protein found in common grains such as wheat, barley and rye. They cannot consume food such as bread, pasta, cous cous, cereals, biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, gravy and sauces. Common replacements for these items include gluten free breads, gluten free pastas, rice noodles, rice, potato, buckwheat, millet, corn, polenta, soybeans and other legumes.
It is important to note that there is a different between gluten free intolerance and coeliac disease; most people with a gluten intolerance experience bloating, stomach cramps etc. whereas someone who has been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease is suffering from the autoimmune condition where the proteins in gluten actually attack the lining of their stomach and other intestinal tissue.
In recent years the popularity of the gluten free diet has soared amongst those who do not suffer from coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance; the increase in popularity has seen a boom in gluten free catering options and it is now an intolerance that is easy to cater for with many delicious gluten free options now available on menus everywhere, including ours!
Dairy Free / Lactose Free
People with lactose intolerance have difficulty digesting lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk and many dairy foods such as cheese, yoghurt, butter, creams and ice-cream. Common replacements for dairy products include soy milk, rice milk, nut-based milks (almond, coconut, cashew), vegetable-oil based butters, nut butters, sorbets etc.
Again, there is a difference between dairy intolerance which is a reaction to dairy products that usually produces bloating, stomach cramps etc. compared to a medically diagnosed lactose intolerance which is an autoimmune reaction to one or more of the following proteins found in dairy products: whey, casein, and albumin
FODMAP has become increasing common in recent years however it can be a tricky dietary requirement to cater for. It stands for:
Sugars ferment in the large bowel and can cause irritation to people suffering from bowel problems. These sugars include:
• Fructose: exists naturally in fruits and vegetables
• Lactose: the sugar found in dairy / anything made with milk
• Fructans: found in bread, pasta and other wheat-based products
• Galactans: found in certain legumes
• Polyols: found in stone fruits and apples
A low FODMAP diet can be tricky to cater for as each sufferer can tolerate different levels of sugars. The best approach we find when it comes to catering for FODMAP guests is to discuss with them their food preference and then tailor the catering specifically for them.
Nut Allergies and Anaphylaxis
Again, there is a difference between an allergy and anaphylaxis which applies to all forms of allergies from nut allergies to shellfish allergies and other forms of food allergies. A reaction to nuts may lead to an immune system response such as skin rash or an itchy throat or eyes whereas anaphylaxis is a serious, life threatening allergic reaction where your body releases an excess of chemicals that affects the respiratory and/or cardiovascular system.
It’s also important to note with nut allergies that some people react to all or most nuts whereas others may only react to specific types of nuts such as peanuts or tree nuts.
Other Food Allergies
Aside from the allergies we’ve already discussed so far in this article, it’s also important to be aware of other food allergies; other common allergies include allergies to crustaceans or shellfish.
3) Religious Dietary Requirements
Halal meats have been prepared in a way which adheres to Islamic laws. We use several halal certified suppliers and can provide halal meats and poultry upon request.
Kosher foods have been prepared in a way which adheres to Jewish dietary regulations. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Andrews cannot prepare Kosher food on our premises, but we are able to provide Kosher meals from a reputable Kosher supplier for your guests.
When catering for any meeting or event we recommend you obtain dietary requirements from your guests in advance so we can cater for your guests as required and avoid any allergic reactions or illnesses. Although we will endeavour to assist to the best of our ability, unfortunately due to the severity of some allergies or intolerances we may not be able to satisfy all requirements. Please note that some of these products may require 48 hours’ notice.
Please also be aware that while we make every effort to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination our kitchen does use ingredients that contain common food allergens so there may be traces in your meal.
If you require catering for a guest who has a special dietary requirement, please speak with our Customer Service team on 03 9670 4361 regarding the options we can provide them otherwise look for these symbols throughout this menu to assist you when ordering for a special dietary requirement:
AV = Available as Vegetarian on request
G = Gluten Free
AG = Available as Gluten Free on request
D = Dairy Free
AD = Available as Dairy Free on request
We take catering for dietary requirements very seriously, the increase in special dietary requirements and allergens in recent years has seen a boom in catering options for guests with special diet needs. The range and quality of these options is exceptional, and we have no doubt that your guests will be pleasantly surprised!