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5 Common Dietary Restrictions You Should Know About When Hosting an Event

Planning a dinner party now that pandemic restrictions are easing? Enjoying a meal with your friends and family is one of life’s simple joys! As you prepare for your event, you may have some worries about what to make especially if some of your guests have dietary restrictions, which can make things feel more complicated.

What are dietary restrictions?

A dietary restriction means the person has limitations to certain foods which they cannot or will not eat. There are many reasons for dietary constraints and they differ from person to person. Some of the more common ones include dietary restrictions based on a medical condition such as a food allergy, sensitivity or disease management. Other restrictions are based on religious practice while some are based on personal lifestyle choices.

Here are 5 of the most common dietary restrictions you should know about and tips for hosting an event that is safe and enjoyable for everyone at the table.

1.         Food allergies
2.         Intolerances
3.         Medical nutrition therapy
4.         Vegetarian / vegan
5.         Religious dietary practices

1. Food Allergies

Food allergies are more common than you may think! Over 3 million Canadians are affected by food allergy, that’s 7.5% of the population. Allergic reactions involve the body’s immune system and can happen very quickly and in the worst cases cause anaphylactic shock or death. Watch for symptoms such as changes to skin, shortness of breath, nausea, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and anxiety. Right now, there is no cure for food allergies so the only way to prevent allergic reactions is to completely avoid the specific foods responsible. In Canada, the most common allergens in food are known as the priority allergens and listed as:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Sesame seeds
  • Mustard

Sources:
Food Allergy Canada – Food Allergy Canada’s mission – Food Allergy Canada
Health Canada–  Food allergies – Canada.ca  and Allergens and gluten sources labelling – Canada.ca

2. Food intolerances and sensitivities

Food intolerance is an unpleasant reaction to food but it is not a food allergy. It does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening. Symptoms of food intolerance can be inconvenient and painful and often involve the gastrointestinal system.  For example, nausea, pain or cramps, vomiting and diarrhea are just a few of the typical symptoms. Some chemicals may cause reactions such as headaches.  Food intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty digesting or absorbing certain foods or components of those foods. For example, intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the one of the most common food intolerances. Food sensitivities can also be related to ingredients such as sulphites, gluten and some simple carbohydrate containing foods (FODMAPS).

Sources:
Health Canada Food Allergies and Intolerances – Canada.ca
Dietitians of Canada – Food Allergies and Intolerances – Unlock Food

3. Medical nutrition therapy

Medical nutrition therapy is a nutrition-based treatment provided by a registered dietitian or doctor.  It includes a nutrition diagnosis as well as therapeutic and counseling services to help manage medical conditions such as celiac disease and diabetes.

Celiac disease: Gluten-free versus Gluten sensitivity

Celiac disease is a common disorder that affects about one percent of the population. It is a condition where the small intestines are damaged by gluten containing foods. Gluten is a group of proteins found in many grains including wheat (couscous, bulgur, spelt, kamut), triticale, barley and rye and foods that are made with them. Foods that contain gluten include breads, pastas, crackers, baked goods, many grains, and some beverages too. A person with celiac disease needs to stay on a gluten-free diet.

Some people do not have celiac disease but find that they are sensitive to gluten and develop symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea.  They find that avoiding gluten-containing foods is helpful in relieving their symptoms.

Source: Canadian Celiac Association – Gluten Related Disorders https://bit.ly/3C7Esb4

Diabetes: Carbohydrate balance

Rates of diabetes continue to rise and it’s estimated that one in three Canadians has diabetes or prediabetes. People with diabetes have an impaired ability to metabolize carbohydrates either because they produce little to no insulin (type 1 diabetes) or can’t absorb insulin (type 2 diabetes). Food is the key to managing diabetes and healthy meal planning plays an important role. Focusing on foods with a low glycemic index can help keep blood sugar levels balanced.

Source: Diabetes Canada About diabetes – Diabetes Canada

4. Vegetarian / Vegan

Vegetarian diet varies widely depending on the person’s choice.  These choices may be based on ethical restrictions or sustainability. A combination of plant and animal foods may be included, such as dairy and eggs, or only plant foods. Here is a list of restrictions for your reference:

  • Lacto-ovo Vegetarian – eats dairy, eggs and plant foods
  • Ovo Vegetarian – eats only eggs and plant foods
  • Lacto Vegetarian – eats dairy and plant foods
  • Vegan – eats only plant foods and avoids all animal products
  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian – eats mostly vegetarian but occasionally consumes meat, meat products, poultry, and fish

5. Religious Dietary Practices

Many religions have special dietary laws or practices. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few religions and their dietary practices to keep in mind when hosting an event.

  • Christian – Some may not eat meat on Fridays during lent.
  • Judaism (Kosher) – Kosher meat products need to be butchered in a certain manner and cannot include shellfish and pork. Guests keeping kosher will also refrain from eating dairy and meat at the same time.
  • Muslim (Halal) – Halal meat is prepared in a specific manner.
  • Hindu – Eating beef is prohibited
  • Buddhist – follows a primarily a vegetarian approach

Source: The Business of Dietetics, Dietary Restrictions of Other Religions – Journal of the American Dietetic Association (jandonline.org)

TIPS to deal with dietary restrictions

  • Ask your guests about their dietary needs
    To accommodate our guest’s needs, you first need to uncover what their dietary preferences are. Ask them! When you invite people for a meal, be sure to check with your guests about their special dietary needs and be especially mindful of food allergies.  Once you know, you can discuss the menu with them ahead of time and ask how they can best be accommodated.
  • Make simple swaps to your menu to accommodate dietary preferences
    Build your menu with food allergies and dietary restrictions in mind. Steering clear of them will minimize the chance of an emergency, and increase the peace of mind of guests.  There are easy ways to swap ingredients to accommodate dietary preferences. For example, using olive oil instead of butter means that the vegans and those with dairy allergies can enjoy the dish too. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken or beef stock so more people can enjoy them.
  • Have Fun
    Remember that you don’t have to accommodate your guests for every single dish. Be sure you have a well-planned meal with a variety of foods that all of your guests can enjoy and feel well fed.

Dietitians can help

Want to discover more ways to accommodate your guests’ dietary needs? Connect with a dietitian to make healthy choices. Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.

Speak to a registered dietitian to manage your menu for dietary restrictions, religious dietary laws, nutritional choices and requirements, and food allergies you need to know to provide an exceptional, respectful, and safe experience for all your guests.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask a dietitian? If so, please send it along to us at Lucia@WeilerNutrition.com

Please note: The information in this series answers questions on general topics, please talk to your health care provide if you have questions about your own health.

Inflammation & Nutrition

Image: Shutterstock. Description: Selection of healthy food reducing chronic inflammation salmon fish avocado seeds nuts leafy green vegetables berries on a white rustic wooden table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is inflammation & why does it matter?

Inflammation is a natural and protective response by the body’s immune system to an injury, infection or harmful substances.  Symptoms of inflammation include redness, heat, swelling and pain.

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Imagine cutting your finger or scraping your knee. What happens? The area turns red, is painful and perhaps starts swelling. This is acute inflammation – your immune system is sending white blood cells to your injured finger or knee to protect it. In this way, inflammation is helpful and essential and speeds up the healing process.

In contrast, chronic inflammation happens when the body continues to respond for a long time as if it was under attack by a foreign or unwanted substance. Chronic inflammation does not help the body because it fights against its own cells by mistake. Some diseases or medical conditions associated with inflammation are rheumatoid arthritis, where many joints throughout the body are permanently inflamed, psoriasis – a chronic skin disease, and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.  These chronic inflammatory diseases can last for years or even a lifetime. Chronic inflammation also contributes to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and some allergic conditions.

What you can do about managing inflammation?

With all the conditions that involve inflammation, no wonder people are interested in food choices to help reduce ongoing harmful chronic inflammation. Overall good nutrition is key to enhancing immunity and providing antioxidants that lower the stress of inflammation. You may be wondering about specific foods that have been called out as part of the ‘anti-inflammatory diet’.   Here are FIVE types of foods to keep on top of your list that may help reduce chronic inflammation:

  1. Foods rich in omega- 3 fats
    • Eat oily fish 2 – 3 times / week (salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, trout)
    • Replace regular eggs with omega-3 eggs
    • Choose plant-based sources of omega-3 fats including flax oil, ground flax seeds and walnuts
  2. Antioxidant rich vegetables and fruit
    • Look for colour – dark green, red, orange, yellow, purple and blue – they are chock full of antioxidants
    • Enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruit everyday – make them half your plate at each meal
  3. Fibre
    • Choose fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils) and whole grains. High fibre foods help support your gut health and nourish the beneficial bacteria that help fight inflammation and disease.
  4. Herbs and spices
    • Add flavour with cinnamon, ginger and turmeric which seem to supress inflammation, but evidence is unclear about how often and how much to eat. Have fun exploring some dietitian approved recipes that enhance flavour with these herbs and spices.
  5. Protein
    • Eat protein foods to build antibodies which play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Include fatty fish (see tip #1 above) and lean white meat in your diet. Use cooking methods that do not char meat such as poaching, stewing, and steaming. Try acidic marinades such as lemon, lime vinegar or yogurt for a health and flavour boost. Acid ingredients tenderize meat and studies show that marinating meats may reduce harmful compounds that can form on meat exposed to high cooking temperatures.
    • Choose plant proteins including tofu, tempeh, edamame, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds.

 Bottom line

There is no single anti-inflammatory or miracle food!  However, eating an overall healthy diet is an important way to help manage inflammation.  In addition,  getting enough sleep , engaging in regular physical activity as well as other lifestyle factors (such as NOT smoking)  have a direct impact on lowering inflammation.

A registered dietitian can break down the anti-inflammatory diet for you into easy-to-follow steps and provide you with a variety of enjoyable ways to eat well.  Contact us to find out more about our personalized nutrition counselling sessions.

 

International Year of Fruits & Vegetables 2021

 

colourful fruits and veggies arranged in a circle to create an image of a person's face. This is the logo for the IYFV 2021.

 

IYFV 2021. It stands for the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021, declared by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).

IYFV 2021 is dedicated to raising global awareness about the important role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health as well as in achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Here’s a summary of the key messages:

Harness the goodness

Fruits and vegetables have multiple health benefits, including the strengthening of the immune system, that are essential for combating malnutrition in all its forms and overall prevention of non-communicable diseases. This is becoming increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Live by it, a diverse diet

Fruits and vegetables should be consumed in adequate amounts daily as part of a diversified and healthy diet. The FAO recommends eating 400 grams (about 5 servings) of fruits and vegetables every day.

Respect food from farm to table

The high perishability of fruits and vegetables needs special attention to maintain their quality and safety through appropriate treatment and handling across the supply chain from production to consumption in order to minimize loss and waste.

Innovate, cultivate, reduce food loss and waste

Innovation, improved technologies and infrastructure are critical to increase the efficiency and productivity within fruits and vegetables supply chains to reduce loss and waste.

Foster sustainability

Sustainable and inclusive value chains can help increase production, help to enhance the availability, safety, affordability and equitable access to fruits and vegetables to foster economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Growing prosperity

Cultivating fruits and vegetables can contribute to a better quality of life for family farmers and their communities. It generates income, creates livelihoods, improves food security and nutrition, and enhances resilience through sustainably managed local resources and increased agrobiodiversity.

 

As business dietitians, we are skilled in translating the science of nutrition into practical advice for consumers and businesses. Contact us to discuss how you can leverage IYFV 2021 for your product marketing and communications.