Understanding the dietary needs of your guests.

Understanding the dietary needs of your guests.

You may never host a guest with food allergies, which affect one in 25 Americans. But it's likely that someday you will be in the position of serving someone who avoids certain foods for a medical condition, such as celiac disease, or for personal beliefs (e.g., veganism). Here's help in understanding your guests' reasons for not eating "everything" and advice on how to accommodate their needs, deliciously.

"I'm lactose-intolerant."

Translation: This person doesn't make enough of the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Consuming dairy causes gastrointestinal discomfort (e.g., bloating, diarrhea) within 30 minutes to two hours. Odds: 1 in 6 people. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up to 50 million Americans are lactose-intolerant. Also consider: Using lactose-free milk. People with lactose intolerance can safely digest the proteins in milk, just not the sugars. Some can tolerate aged cheeses and yogurts with live active cultures. Learn more: digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance/.

"I have celiac disease."

Translation: This person cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Untreated, the disease can damage the small intestine, interfering with the body's ability to absorb nutrients. This can lead to anemia and osteoporosis. There's a genetic component to the disorder. The only effective treatment is a gluten-free diet for life. Odds: 1 in 133 people, suggest NIH stats. Also consider: Your guest also must avoid rye and barley. Even trace amounts of gluten can cause health problems, so when using packaged products look not only for wheat-free foods but also a "gluten-free" label. Learn more: celiac.org.

"I'm a vegan."

Translation: This person chooses not to eat (or use) animal-derived products or products tested on animals. Odds: 1 in 72 people. A 2006 poll conducted by the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 1.4 percent of American adults consider themselves vegan. Also consider: Vegan diets exclude all foods of animal origin, including meats, poultry, dairy and gelatin (some avoid honey too). Learn more: vegan.org.

September/October 2007