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Holiday Meal Planning

It's that wonderful/stressful/fun/overwhelming time of year!

I love the holidays, but I do get stressed trying to make sure I have everything ready/travel plans in sync/work covered/etc. Even so, the gatherings, traditions, decorations, FOOD, and spirit of the holiday season makes the memories more wonderful than stressful. That is only my own opinion (obviously). Each person has their own feelings - from wonderful to horrible and all the notches in between.

Below are some ideas to help us all make it through the holidays (or any meal, really) with happy guests. These are thoughts from friends, experts and myself.

Bon appetite for all!


  • The BEST idea is to ASK if there are any allergies or dietary considerations. This will put you and your guests at ease.

  • No one expects that EVERY dish will suit them - less stress already ;)

  • Ask your guest to bring something they love - and TRY it yourself. You could learn something new and they will feel comfortable knowing they can definitely consume the dish they bring.

  • We live in the age of the internet. You can find almost any kind of recipe in a few seconds that has been tested and has 4.8 stars OR alternative ideas online.

  • Many recipes can be altered just a little to fit the situation. Substitution ideas below.

  • Pick up something pre-made that suits the case. Holidays are stressful and you may be able to crank out your usual meal - but adding extra dishes can push you over the edge!!

  • People appreciate being seen/heard. Even if it is not the best xyz they ever had - they will appreciate your efforts.

  • Be a gracious guest! Your appreciation will mean the world to your host.


  • Omit bacon, ham or butter from vegetables/sides to make them vegan, vegetarian friendly. Think of adding things like herbs, spices, chilies, garlic, capers, sauces (chimmichurri, chili crunch, viniagrette, soy-based sauces) or infused oils to veggies for more flavor. Try this recioe for Green Beans Viniagrette.

  • Use hot broth in place of milk for mashed potatoes to make them vegan, vegetarian or dairy friendly. I LOVE the Imagine brand broth-full of flavor!

  • Olive, coconut or avocado oil are great substitutes for butter when cooking.

  • Think "Italian restaurant" when it comes to alternatives for butter. Use olive oil and vinegar with flakes of salt and seasonings as a bread dip. Vegan butter is a thing - check your local grocery store!

  • Purchase gluten free bread or rolls if you aren't into baking them. Schar is a great brand with lots of options.

  • Fresh fruit makes an easy and flexible dessert choice.

  • Many options for non-dairy ice cream and frozen vegan/vegetarian treats are widely available. Bryer's lactose free vanilla ice cream is actually better than the original and So Delicious frozen non-dairy products are...delicious. Thaw the So Delicious a little longer than normal ice cream before serving.

  • Gluten free and vegan/vegetarian crackers are easy to find for appetizers (my favorites, Milton's). Veggies and hummus are an option for almost all diets. This Tinkyada spaghetti is my favorite - and happens to be gluten free!!

  • This Fritatta makes an awesome meal choice for any vegetarian or gluten free guests.

  • I even saw dairy and egg-free egg nog at Kroger recently. You don't need a specialty store any longer to find alternatives.

  • Try my gluten free/vegan Spiced Nuts Recipe for an easy sweet and salty snack. This one is a great gift as well!


Excludes meat, possibly additional animal products - ask your guest!


Excludes all animal products - meat, seafood, fish, dairy (butter, cheese, milk, cream), eggs

Someone once described it to me this way: We don't eat anything that comes from anything that has eyes.

Dairy Allergy / Intolerance

Excludes milk / cream and products made from milk / cream - ice cream, cheese, sour cream, etc.

This intolerance can range from severe to mild for lots of people and fermentation lowers the lactose content of dairy products. So, if your guest avoids cream in their coffee but loves cheese - they aren't trying to confuse you - they just can't tolerate much lactose.

Nut Allergy

Excludes tree and/or ground nuts - almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts and more.

One of the scariest allergies - commonly associated with anaphylaxis - which happens rapidly and can be fatal. This is not the ingredient you want to hide!

Shellfish, Fish Allergy

Excludes shrimp, lobster, crab, and/or fish.

Another of the scary allergies - again, commonly associated with anaphylaxis. So, share this ingredient with guests if it is not obvious. Even using dishes/utensils that have touched shellfish and not been completely cleaned (ie. rinsing a dish and using it for another product instead of washing with soap and water) can cause reactions. I've heard this story from a friend myself - resulting in a hospital visit :/

Wheat Allergy / Gluten Intolerance

Excludes wheat products - bread, crackers, breadcrumbs, pastries, doughs, cookies, etc.

This one also ranges from an actual allergic reaction/hospitalization to mild bloating symptoms.

I hope you ENJOY all the holiday meals you host or attend!!

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