Vegan? Gluten Free? Plant Based? What Does it All Mean?
So, you're hosting a dinner party for a group of friends Saturday night. A few hours before, you're feeling pretty proud of yourself. Your menu is planned, your shopping is done and the table is looking oh so Instagramable. And then the phone rings. You answer, and your head starts to spin. One of your guests says her date eats only a plant-based diet.
Plant based … what does that even mean? What are you supposed to cook? Why didn't she tell you this before? And how are you supposed to keep track of all the food sects (and sub-sects!) out there these days?
With numerous food allergies and new diets out there, it can be hard to cook for everyone's food choices and restrictions on the fly, especially when you aren't even sure what they mean. Below is a handy cheat sheet to help. A quick note: These are general guidelines. Your guest could be a combination of a few of them or even add their own spin — like a gluten-free vegan or the vegetarian that doesn't do sugar. It's always best to ask.
Deciphering Specialty Diets
Vegetarian: Doesn’t eat meat. This includes beef poultry, pork or fish.
Pescatarian: Eats fish, but not meat.
Vegan: Doesn't eat any animal products. This includes cheese and eggs, but some vegans do eat honey.
Plant Based: Basically vegan, but limits or omits processed foods. This includes most sugars and some oils.
Gluten Free: Doesn’t eat the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt. Basically, most flours that aren’t nut-based; gluten-free diets do allow for rice, corn, potatoes, amaranth, quinoa, fruits, vegetables, chia, yams and more.
All of these preferences can feel overwhelming, but they don’t have to be if you plan ahead. At your next dinner party, experiment in the kitchen. Make at least a few dishes that everyone can enjoy, no matter who you get a call from at the last minute. Stick to whole foods — fruits, vegetables and unprocessed grains. Swap out the milk for a nut-based alternative like almond milk or use maple syrup as a sweetener instead of white sugar. If the dishes are delicious, they won't feel like "special" dishes with modifications. Your guests will never know, you may discover a new favorite recipe and and you'll look like the best host ever to your gluten-free, dairy-free, no-honey-eating pescatarian friend.