Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Know Your Attendees: Special Dietary Accomodations

As food is a staple in many events, I thought this article by BizBash was a beneficial read for all planners alike. Specialty diets are becoming more and more prevalent since we now have offerings available to fit consumer needs. That being said, it’s not uncommon for planners to receive requests from attendees for special diets. Whether for medical or religious reasons, or simply by preference, many attendees follow specific guidelines as to what they will and will not eat.

While it may not be possible to fulfill every request, planners can familiarize themselves with some of the most common specialty diets. Here are five diets that are well-recognized today that BizBash suggests getting to know a little more.

1. Gluten-Free

Some people follow a gluten-free diet out of necessity- they have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that means gluten damages their small intestines. More commonly, people may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, meaning gluten causes physical discomfort similar to celiac disease but it does not destroy the intestines. People who avoid gluten cannot eat foods made with flour, wheat, rye, or barley. That means no pizza, cakes, pasta, cereals, or baked products made with regular wheat flour. Also keep in mind cross-contamination effects them as well. For example, oatmeal is naturally gluten-free but it is often processed on the same equipment as wheat which can essentially still make the consumer ill.

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2. Vegetarian and Vegan

According to a 2012 Gallup poll, about 5 percent of people in the United States identify themselves as vegetarian. That means they do not eat any meat, such as fish, chicken, beef, or shellfish. But vegetarians do consume the by-products of those animals, such as dairy products and eggs. Vegans have a much more limited diet. They avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy, and they also will not eat honey since it comes from a living thing. It is important to understand the difference and ask for clarification if you do not know what foods they are able to consume.

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3. Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance

While milk allergies are most common in children, they can persist in adults. People with a milk allergy cannot process the proteins in milk, known as casein and whey. When the protein is ingested it can trigger an allergic reaction such as hives and swelling to more serious symptoms such as trouble breathing and loss of consciousness. Milk is in everything from cookies and chocolate to salad dressings and cream sauces. Some guests may avoid milk products because they are lactose intolerant, which means their bodies are missing the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. While lactose intolerance is not life-threatening, it can cause discomfort such as nausea and bloating, all symptoms your attendees will want to avoid.

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4. Paleo

Those who follow this diet eat foods similar to what ancient humans may have eaten. That means a lot of protein and fresh vegetables and fruits and no grains, sugar, milk, or processed foods. People on a paleo diet also avoid all legumes, such as soy, peanuts, and all types of beans. They want grass-fed beef and chicken, wild-caught fish and seafood, and organic eggs. The fresher, the better. It would be interesting to plan all F&B around this diet type as an event itself; I think food distributors could get very creative with paleo dishes and attendees would find the meals very appealing.

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5. Kosher

I was recently on-site for a meeting at a hotel on Long Island where there was also a bar mitzvah going on. The food served was all kosher and had to be prepared by a specialty chef after the kitchen was cleaned/setup to their liking. It was interesting to see how the requirement was handled by the hotel. A certified kosher meal will generally cost more than a regular meal due to the steps needed to prepare it in accordance with Jewish law. It is important that planners understand that sealed, kosher-certified meals should not be touched by anyone except the person who is going to eat it. As this is a religious diet, it would be beneficial to consult with your client on the food preparation if something arises that you do not know the answer to.

With this helpful information from BizBash, you can now devour the details of these five food diets at your next event!

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