One-in-three Australians are removing dairy, meat, and gluten from their diets and are healthier as a result, according to Australia’s largest ever diet survey. In some other research, they noted that that the majority of people are removing gluten and other foods from their diets to alleviate adverse and distressing symptoms, which is why we see more and more people redefining their dietary preferences. However, it is not just about taking a few ingredients out of the platter to ensure they are not getting any gluten, dairy or meat. Catering experts have to consider different health and lifestyle aspects to properly respond to everyone’s specific needs.
33% of people are eliminating gluten, dairy or meat for a healthier lifestyle.
Food allergies affect around 2% of all Australian adults and almost 8% of children under the age of 5. As the majority experience terrible reactions to peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk, and fish, it’s quite challenging to prepare a meal that would exclude all of the listed items.
And there are those whose religion or other beliefs prevent them from eating certain foods, which is quite common in a multicultural country like Australia.
Finally, vegans and vegetarians make up about 5% of the country’s population, meaning that there should always be a meal which lacks meat, fish, and all animal-derived products.
So what do you do when you plan a menu for an upcoming party?
Communicate with your guests
While the first thing that comes to your mind may be to simply “exclude the most common allergens and prepare a few vegan and vegetarian-friendly dishes”, the variety of meals you’ll need to cook would be too diverse (and not to mention costly). Furthermore, when you are left in the dark on the number of people with special dietary needs, you might end up preparing way too many platters of one dish, and not enough of the other. At the end of the party, you may have several guests left hungry, with food no one wanted to eat still left on the table.
It is crucial to take note of all the guests who confirmed their attendance and specify their dietary needs. It’s become a common practice for the host or the catering company to include a questionnaire on the invitations and that way ensure they are prepared in advance for every single guest’s requirements.
Although it is the chef’s job to oversee all dishes and ensure there’s a meal suitable for every guest who is attending the event, once the food gets on the platter it is up to the waiter to inform the guests about the ingredients of every dish they are serving. This is especially important for guests who have strong allergic reactions to specific foods.
If there is a buffet table set up and serving staff are present in the event room only occasionally, it is best to categorise food based on dietary preferences and place cards next to all platters that specify all ingredients.
The most common special dietary requirements
After years of working in the catering industry, Fast & Fresh Catering got the chance to familiarise with the most common needs at small and large-scale events. Our dietary preference selection is perfectly suited for people who require gluten- or dairy-free meals, or have vegan, vegetarian or halal preferences.
In Australia, some of the most common requirements include:
- Nut-free meals. Due to the fact that it is a quite common allergy which can result in serious consequences, nuts are often kept off the entire menu, just in case.
- Gluten-free and wheat-free. While intolerance to gluten and wheat is not considered as serious as a nut allergy, many are advised by medical experts to avoid eating them. As such, people will appreciate a diverse setting which features gluten- and wheat-free meals.
- Vegan and vegetarian. The two most common preferences which restrict eating of meat or animal-derived food of any kind. The majority of events we had the chance to cater were attended by people who had vegan or vegetarian preferences, which is why meals prepared to meet their requirements are always a popular choice for an event of any size.
- Kosher. With more than 90 thousand Australians being registered as Jewish, it is not uncommon to have guests who abide by this diet’s strict specifications.
- Pescatarian diet. Luckily for Australian caterers, there is always an abundance of fresh seafood to accommodate people who only eat fish and no other meats.
Over to you
The larger the event, the greater the chance of having guests with diverse dietary preferences. With this in mind, the best practice is to consult with the guests. In a case when you are unable to contact them and ask directly, it’s good to include several dishes that meet the most common special dietary requirements.