It’s very common to have several people with food restrictions whenever a large group has gathered to eat. Understanding some of the limitations and reasoning behind these diets can help when catering for or dining with friends and family that have dietary requirements.
Vegetarians do not eat meat but will eat foods made from animal products, such as dairy and eggs. The vegetarian is usually open to eating foods that don’t require the slaughter of animals. If vegetarian for ethical reasons, many vegetarians prefer to eat animal products that are organic and have been sourced responsibility, ensuring that the animal was not mistreated. Those who follow a vegetarian diet but still eat fish are labeled as a pescatarian.
Vegans take the concept one step further and do not consume any animal products, including dairy, eggs, and gelatin. Catering for and adhering to a vegan diet can be quite complex, as there are many, often hidden and unexpected, animal products involved in the manufacture of foods. Milk products are often used in binding and flavoring agents for foods like potato chips, and gelatine is often used in confectionary or sauces.
Some people with food allergies opt for vegetarian or vegan diets, so when catering to special diets it is important to ensure that people’s requests are strictly adhered to and assumptions of acceptability aren’t created based on personal opinions.
A more recent movement that’s gained quite a bit of momentum over the past decade and a half is the paleo diet, otherwise known as the caveman diet. Usually practiced for health purposes, the paleo diet excludes all ‘processed’ foods, dairy, cereal grain, and legumes, opting for a diet based around a high fat and protein intake, with the idea of only eating foods that our ancestors ate during the Pleistocene period. Again, although some people might follow a paleo diet mainly for aesthetic reasons, people with gluten or dairy intolerances might also opt for a paleo diet.
People come in all shapes and sizes with different needs and beliefs, so it’s important to do your best to accommodate for and respect people’s requirements. The infographic below, ‘Modern Eating: The Basics’ is a great visual guide for getting started!