If you’re like me, you love throwing summertime parties. The sun, the heat, the flip-flops, the fruity iced drinks, and everybody excited about food coming off the barbecue. Also, if you’re like me, you want everybody to feel happy, comfortable and enjoy all that delicious food – without worry.
You’re throwing a 4th of July barbecue, so what do you do if you’re inviting your vegan neighbor whose kids are allergic to dairy, your cousin Annie who has just revealed she has celiac disease, and your husband that has declared that “It just isn’t a barbecue without red meat!” Dietary preferences, allergies and intolerances can’t be ignored… so how do you manage to keep everyone raving about the food as well as feeling well-cared for in your home?
If your guests aren’t worried about what’s in the food, they’ll have lots of energy to focus on socializing and enjoying the holiday. With a little bit of communication and some creativity, everyone can leave feeling safe and satisfied.
1. BYOP: Bring Your Own Protein
Before the event, send out a note letting everyone know that you will provide the sides, but welcome them to bring their own protein to grill. Your veggie friends might choose vegetarian hot dogs (most contain gluten) and your celiac cousin might go with a chicken breast or a cutlet of firm tofu. Make it even more fun for everyone by putting out different containers of barbecue sauces and spice rubs (clearly labeled with ingredients, or just set the bottle beside) for them to try.
2. Take care with the grill
Take your clean grill grate and put foil over the half the grill area. The foil on this side can be changed between grilling the animal proteins and the veggie dogs, and after grilling a gluten-containing item to protect someone with celiac disease. Have a few different tongs you can change or wash throughout the grilling process to avoid cross-contamination.
3. Be side-savvy
Load up on the veggies! Most everyone can eat vegetables without worry. Prepare a simple selection of vegetable dishes such as a spinach and strawberry salad or a marinated broccoli cauliflower salad. This quinoa veggie salad is also great for the gluten-free crowd. Put any nuts, cheeses and croutons on the side and let everyone help themselves. While you’re putting out the food, have a friend help you write out the ingredients on small cards to label each item.
4. Relax. Now grab a watermelon.
You’ve gone to all this trouble to create this safe, healthy and delicious meal, so don’t sweat the dessert! In the heat, most people don’t crave rich sweets. Grab a few watermelons instead and let everybody reminisce about childhood summers as the sweet juice runs down their cheeks.
How do you make get-togethers safe and healthy for everyone? Have a Happy 4th of July!
Christine Weiss MS, RD, CDE is a dietitian and Bastyr University graduate who counsels people dealing with food allergies, diabetes and digestive issues. She enjoys working with Zing Bars to raise awareness about healthy living through online media.
photo credits: Zatrokz (watermelon), MeiTeng (salad)