Accommodating diverse diets during the holidays
By Nate Smelle
Published Nov. 28, 2017
With most Christmas celebrations taking place around the dinner table, the shifts in diet can pose a challenge for hosts who care to accommodate the dietary needs of all their guests.
While working at Marty’s Health Food Store in Haliburton, Brenda Coty said she often sees people at this time of year who want to know how to prepare a healthy and delicious meal for their friends and family who choose a vegan or vegetarian diet, or those who are lactose intolerant, sensitive to gluten, or possess a food allergy.
Though not too long ago it may have been difficult to satisfy the palates and stomachs of these individuals, Coty said that is no longer the case because there is now an abundance of options.
“There are so many options out there; it’s unbelievable,” she said.
“Working at the health food store here it just gives you the tip of the iceberg with regards to what’s available. When it comes to vegan options, people always want to make sure they have the right balance and that they are getting their protein. It’s not that difficult though really, but many people don’t realize the nutrient value of greens. There is a lot of protein in greens alone.”
Acknowledging that many people like to bake during the Christmas season, Coty said she has had several people come in seeking alternatives to white sugar to sweeten their baked goods and desserts. When it comes to natural sweeteners, she said there are several options, however she usually recommends maple syrup or honey because they are produced locally. Because everyone’s dietary needs and preferences differ, Coty said the best advice she can give to people who are wondering how to satisfy their guests is to do their own research. She said a quick search online can produce thousands of recipes to accommodate virtually any diet. Coty believes it is important to take time to respect guests’ diet, because it reflects who they are and what they value.
“Choosing the right diet for yourself is so much more than just the foods you eat,” she said.
Store manager at Abbey Gardens Susan Roscoe said she often has individuals coming into the store looking for healthy, eco-friendly foods to add to their Christmas dinner spread. Considering almost everything available at their store is sourced from within a 200-kilometre radius of Abbey Gardens, she said customers have plenty of foods and ingredients to choose from.
“We have local produce as well as local products,” said Roscoe.
“We have a number of wheat-free and gluten-free crackers. We have regular cow cheese as well as goat cheese and vegan tree nut cheese which is made from cashews. There has been a tremendous response to the vegan cheese. We’ve even had a lot of full-fledged meat eaters come in and tell us how awesome it is. It’s a lot easier now to be vegan and eat healthy than it use to be.”
Roscoe said all the products they carry in the store are made from natural ingredients. They also have a wide variety of homemade soups, jams, jellies and pickled vegetables which they prepare on site. She said they even mill Canadian grain into flour and sell pancake, muffin and cookie mix that can be used to make Christmas baked goods healthier and more eco-friendly.
Local grocery stores also include a variety of alternatives for the holidays and include vegan and vegetarian sections in their stores. Organic produce and health food aisles are good places to start if you’re looking to satisfy “alternative” diets this Christmas.