12/10/2015 03:57 EST | Updated 12/10/2016 05:12 EST

Holiday Entertaining For Guests With Allergies And Intolerances

You want to invite your friends and family over for a holiday meal but Jane is allergic to fish, Alex is intolerant to gluten and Lisa can't eat dairy, and oh yes, Lisa's daughter has a nut allergy. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

extended family toasting at...

You want to invite your friends and family over for a holiday meal but Jane is allergic to fish, Alex is intolerant to gluten and Lisa can't eat dairy, and oh yes, Lisa's daughter has a nut allergy. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Don't give up on them baby. Any entertaining you do is an invitation to be treated like family so invite Jane and Alex and Lisa and Lisa's daughter over to eat and prepare food for them. You can do it! Even though there are so many people with different food issues you can still enjoy entertaining them in such a way that everyone leaves the table safe from harm and happily satisfied by having been at your table to eat.

It used to be hostesses planned menus that were sure to please the palates of all her guests but that's nearly impossible to do these days. What's a caring hostess who wants to please everyone to do? How can we safely care for guests who can't eat certain foods while still entertaining in the way we like to?

All are hungry and looking forward to a special holiday meal. What can you feed them this Christmas when it seems like there is a veritable minefield of foods to avoid these days?

Really, nobody accepts an invitation excited about inconveniencing their hosts but all are grateful to be included. So when you go the extra mile being flexible, open minded and willing to adapt it is noticed and appreciated and you will feel awesome for having pushed yourself to work around their special needs. You can still enjoy preparing absolutely delightful dishes to serve. Even with the list of items your guests can't eat there is a multitude of other foods and ingredients that they can!.

In the end, the most important part of the evening is to see your family and friends right? So let's just work with what we have and make the best of this meal and face the music.

No need to curb your creativity. Make elaborate decorations if you wish, go all out. But keep the food simple so everyone is included.

Here are some steps to planning a menu for the holiday that includes everyone:

1. Ask you guests which foods they cannot eat. Be sure to inquire if they are allergic, if they are intolerant or if it's a preference. You can also ask them if cross contamination is an issue or not so that you understand the severity level. For example, if you are inviting a person who has celiac disease, cross contamination will be an issue. You may want to discuss the rules with your celiac friend or family member first. Remember that fruit, vegetables and protein are OK and that it's the spices, sauces, processed foods that are the culprit.

2. Give your guests some direction as to how they can help. If your guest with the allergy or intolerance asks you if they can bring something to help out, please ask what they would be comfortable bringing and let them know once you have decided on the menu what you feel will be most helpful. If a guest who doesn't have an allergy or intolerance asks you to bring something, choose a non-food item that will help you round out your meal.

3. Plan you menu by stages: Hors d'oeuvre, soup and/or salad, main course (vegetable, protein, starch) and dessert. Write allergens or intolerances on the side of the page. Take each stage at a time and decide the type of food that will fit. For example, for main course, if fish, nuts, gluten and dairy are out, you can choose meat or poultry for your protein, any number of vegetables of virtually any kind and perhaps potatoes for the starch.

Once you decide on the type of food then decide how you want to prepare them. If you are not familiar with the rules, keep it simple. So let's say roasted chicken, with roasted veggies and potatoes. Done! If desserts are too complicated, choose a sorbet, fresh fruit and chocolate or a simple dessert that is naturally gluten-free like a pavlova or chocolate mousse.

4. Choose your favourite recipes and modify. Many recipes can be easily adjusted with substitutions. Substituting dairy is so simple these days because there are many variations of milk (almond, coconut, soy...). Once again, if you are unsure of how to substitute an ingredient, ask the person with the allergy for help. I am sure they will know just what to do.

It takes a little extra effort, a little extra researching, and maybe a few extra dollars and though your guests might not even notice all your hard work the return on it all is priceless.

They might not see you washing the dishes "one more time," just to be safe. They won't see how you spent a few extra dollars to make the dish allergy-friendly. Not everyone will get it, but the ones with special requests who would otherwise suffer if not for all that extra care you put in for them does. And it means the world to them.