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November 14, 2019 15 min read

Good nutrition plays a vital role in leading a healthy lifestyle. Apart from knowing what kind of foods are essential to serving your customers, it is also crucial to understand some dietary restrictions that your customers may require from you. With more people now adapting special diets as a lifestyle whether it may be from religious beliefs, medical conditions, food allergies, and intolerances or just an acquired lifestyle habits, it is important to know how to cater on these special diets to help your business stand out from the rest and possibly increase your bottom line.

must-read-guide-to-special-diets

You need to stay on top of your game in knowing what your customers are looking for when they dine out or plans to have food catering. These can be a little tough in a way that people now are more diverse as a society and as food allergies and intolerance are increasing by the numbers every year, it is important to be made aware that your customers may have a wider scope of different dietary requirements.

As a Brisbane corporate catering expert, we pride ourselves to have served numerous breakfasts, morning teas, corporate lunches and events across a wide array of cuisine and special dietary concerns. To help you out on your office catering journey, we have put together an easy to follow extensive guide to special diets to let you understand what are the common food allergies and intolerance and what ingredients can trigger them. You will also learn some terminologies that you need to familiarize yourself with as you may encounter it along the way.

food-guide-to-special-siets

But before we begin, please bear in mind that the information on this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice to diagnose or treat any disease in any manner. If you feel that you can relate with the description given on the effects of some foods to your body or think you might suffer from these food intolerances, please seek the advice of a doctor or a professional healthcare provider before starting or changing any diets.

So now that we cleared that out, we shall begin with the basics. What are food allergies and intolerances? What is the difference between them? What might trigger them? What are the foods to be avoided? And what are the common symptoms that you should be watching?

FOOD ALLERGY AND INTOLERANCE

food-allergies

As the world grows in advancement in science and technology so is food sensitivities all over the world are increasing rapidly without the tendency to slow down. Theories are surrounding these occurrences and scientists and health specialists can only speculate to some reason that may probably cause it. They think that overconsumption of processed foods, the use of food pasteurization, the widespread of chemical fertilizers on food, the use of disinfectants, and the western heavy yeast diets are all accountable for this problem. While there is no scientific evidence to back this up, there is still a high chance that your establishment will encounter these allergies and intolerances. Understanding the difference between an allergy and intolerance on food is the key to knowing how to approach each situation distinctively.

Food Allergies are when the immune system reacts to certain foods after eating. The body creates antibodies when they come in contact with the allergen fighting it like a virus or a toxin inside the body. Soon after consuming the food, the body develops symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, itchy skin, breaking out on a rash or hives, heartburns or strong chest pain, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, swelling of esophagus and anaphylaxis.

Although allergic reactions are often mild, it can be very dangerous for some with severe cases. The most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, bee products, milk protein, soy, corn or wheat. For people with a food allergy, even a small amount of exposure to the problem of food can cause an allergic reaction. Simply by asking your customers if they have these food allergies or informing them that there are ingredients in the food that may cause them allergies will be a lifesaver for them.

food-intolerances

Food intolerances, on the other hand, pertain to a chemical response from the digestive system. They are more common than food allergies and are not life-threatening. People with food intolerance have difficulty in processing the food inside the stomach because they lack certain enzymes or chemicals needed to break down the food they ate. Note that in Australia, the most common food intolerances are gluten and lactose. The symptoms usually come slowly often a few hours after eating this includes stomach pain, nausea, gas, cramps or bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, headaches, and change in moods like irritability to anxiousness. Food intolerances can have some nasty symptoms and if not treated early on it can result in long term damage on the body.

FOODS THAT TRIGGERS ALLERGIES AND INTOLERANCES

There are two types of ingredients that have the potential to trigger allergies and intolerances that comprise many food products in the market. These are gluten and dairy. Gluten is a mixture of two proteins that are commonly found in wheat, barley, rye, and their genetic grains while dairy is any product that comes from animal milk like cheese, yogurt, whey, and butter. Dairy can also show up to pre-packed and processed foods.

People with lactose intolerance lack an enzyme that processes lactose which is natural sugar in milk. Be aware also of ingredients like whey protein, milk protein and milk solids which are a no-no for people with high sensitivities on dairy.

Knowing what food causes allergies and intolerances will give you an edge to make your menu friendlier and safe for those people who suffer from allergies and intolerances.

See more: Vegetarian and Vegan Guides

1. Baked foods that use regular lour or wheat flour – bread, cakes, pastries, and cookies all contain gluten. Gluten is responsible for the elasticity, chewiness, softness, perfect shape and rising process of bread and pastries. Flours contain gluten so all food products that use flours have gluten in it. There is an easy substitute for food that contains gluten and that is the gluten-free foods that substitute white flour to nut flours like almond flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour, and oat flour. Seeds and grains also are used in gluten-free bread.

What is the texture of gluten-free food? Cakes come out to be denser than its counterpart with gluten while bread doesn’t rise as much that results into a small and compact size but both are delicious to eat even without gluten.

pastries-from-wheat-flour

2. Pasta – This one food is well-loved by people worldwide. Who can even resist the oozing rich taste of different sauces topped with meat and cheeses over pasta? Pasta is made traditionally from durum wheat, water, and eggs. Refined pasta is what most people consume which has been stripped of many nutrients. One thing about pasta is that it can make you satisfactory full easily. However, this food also carries tons of gluten, very high in carbohydrates, and low in fiber. Some people that are sensitive to gluten can spark negative immune responses on this food and may cause damage in the small intestine and may experience digestive issues. The good news is there are other gluten-free options to make pasta like using whole-grain, corn or rice flour.

pasta

3. Noodles - This is a staple food among Asian cuisine. Some types of noodles are ramen, Hokkien, and udon that are made using wheat and other main ingredients like eggs. The majority of noodles are low in calories, fiber, and protein. It is also gluten-laden and bad news to those who are gluten sensitive. But there are great substitutes like rice noodles and noodles that are made from pure buckwheat flour like soba noodles.  

noodles

4. Couscous –They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as gluten-free but in actuality, it is made from semolina which is a granule of durum wheat. So you must avoid this food if you are catering to people that are gluten sensitive. The common substitute for couscous is corn. It may have a different taste from couscous but it gives out a distinctive great flavor to the same dishes that have couscous on it.

couscous

5. Cereals – They are promoted as healthy food for breakfast especially for kids but they contain processed grains and seeds that are loaded with gluten. They are typically made through processing using fine flour, mixing it with sugar and other ingredients, subjected to a higher temperature so it can be shaped, drying it and finally shaping it like balls, stars, and rectangles. So the process alone has stripped the cereals the necessary vitamins and minerals. However, there are good substitutes for cereals that you can offer to your customers among them are oats, muesli, and granola that are tummy-friendly and allergy safe.

cereals-to-food-allergies

6. Milk, cheese, cream, yogurt – Lactose intolerant is very common among Australians and it affects 75% of the world’s population. The body cannot digest lactose which is the main carbohydrate in dairy products which can cause mild to severe digestive problems like bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. It is important to carefully read the labels for the ingredients that may contain a higher dose of hidden lactose. You can avoid it totally or you can substitute dairy that comes from animal to plant-based alternatives like almond milk or almond butter, cheeses that contain less lactose like cheddar, swiss, Colby, Monterey Jack, and mozzarella.

Another condition that arises from eating dairy is dairy allergies which compared to lactose intolerance can pose life-threatening allergic reactions. It is a condition that your immune system is reacting to the protein in milk and other dairy products as if it is a foreign invader. You can offer non-dairy milk for your customers or use them as ingredients in your food like almond milk, soya milk, coconut milk, oat milk, and rice milk.

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7. FODMAP – Since what we eat affects our body whether good or not, digestive issues are very common. One of the types of food that cause unfavorable digestive reactions is FODMAP. It stands for fermentable oligo-, di-mono-saccharides and polyols. These are a type of carbohydrates that are found in certain food like wheat and beans that can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps when ingested. These short-chain carbohydrates settle to the very far end of your digestive system where gut bacteria reside. These bacteria use that carb as a fuel that produces hydrogen gas that causes digestive ailments in sensitive people. Likewise, it also draws water from your intestine that causes diarrhea. Although only small portions of the population are affected by FODMAP, it is still common for those people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

Here are the common FODMAPs:

  • Lactose – This is a common carbohydrate that is found in dairy products derived from animals like cow’s milk and cheeses that cause digestive issues with adults and even with kids.
  • Fructose – A simple sugar that is found in many fruits and vegetables that makes up for table sugar.
  • Fructan – A simple carbohydrate made from a chain of fructose molecules that hang together. It is found in foods like onion, garlic, artichokes, ripe bananas, and grains like rye, wheat, spelt, and barley. It also uses by food manufacturer’s to increase the fiber in food.  
  • Galactans – These are complex carbohydrates from the chains of the sugar galactose. It can be found mostly in legumes like kidney beans, soy products, chickpeas, green and yellow beans, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
  • Polyols – This is also called sugar alcohol that provides reduced-calorie carbohydrates that gives the texture and taste of sugar with half the calorie. The common sugar alcohols available in the market are xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol.  
foodmap

8. Tree nuts and Peanuts allergies – Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies. It is not a true nut but it is part of the family of legumes just like peas and lentils and has the same structure of a protein to those of tree nuts. For this reason, if a person has an allergy for peanuts, he or she will also have the same allergic reactions to other tree nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, and cashew nuts.

When someone has a nut allergy, the body reacts to the protein that is in the peanuts and thinks that it is a harmful invader. The body will naturally respond by working very hard to fight off the invader. Even a small amount of protein from peanuts and tree nuts can cause an allergic reaction.

When catering for a group of people with sensitivities to peanuts, it is better to avoid serving food that may have peanuts or tree nuts as ingredients to it. The best way to be safe is to read the labels. Food manufacturers usually state to their labels if it contains tree nut or peanuts in their ingredients. Be aware of these phrases in the labels: “may contain tree nuts” and “produced or shared with equipment with tree nuts or peanuts”.

As a food caterer, it is also safe if you practice due diligence in your kitchen. Watch for cross-contamination that can happen from kitchen surfaces to utensils. Make sure that the utensils used in preparing food that has peanuts will not be used on nut-free foods. You can always add a menu plan that omits the inclusion of any tree nuts or peanuts on it.

nuts-allergies

9. Seafood or shellfish allergies – This kind of allergy occurs where the seafood is an important diet like in Asia and Scandinavian countries. A seafood allergy is the body’s immune system abnormal response to a protein found in marine animals such as crustaceans, and mollusks like squid, shrimp, lobsters, oysters, and scallops.

It is estimated that 1% of the Australian population suffers from seafood allergies which are not rare and about 20% will outgrow it in time. Two food groups of seafood can trigger an allergy reaction:

  • Vertebrates – Fish with a backbone such as salmon, cod, sardines, tuna, herring, trout, eels and rays.
  • Invertebrates – These are seafood without a backbone like prawns, shrimps, lobster, crab, crayfish, mollusks such as squids, clams, octopus, calamari, etc.

The protein allergen that belongs to one of these food groups is different from the other group even though they both live in the same place. This means that one can be allergic either from fish only or shellfish only or to one member of each group. Seafood allergens are commonly heated stable meaning it does not destroy through cooking. Some cannot even tolerate freshly cooked seafood. While allergy reaction usually occurs when the food is eaten, in seafood allergy the mere smell of fumes coming from the seafood being cooked or by touch from handling fish can trigger an allergic response for some sensitive individuals.

Several foods contain seafood such as in Asian dishes like spring rolls, sushi trays, and fried rice, fish-based sauce like oyster sauce, Worcestershire, salad dressing, food that contain gelatin like marshmallow and hot dogs. When planning for seafood- free menu, you can instead swap seafood for tofu to make fried rice or stir-fried dishes. Beans and lentils are also a good addition to the salad instead of seafood. As always when incorporating an ingredient to every food, try to read the labels if it is safe from any allergens.

seafood-and-fish-allergies

WHAT ARE SPECIAL DIETS?

People with food allergies and intolerances follow special diets to improve their quality of life. Special diets are meal plans that control or eliminate certain intake of food and nutrients that help them feel their best. It will be an edge to your catering business to know these special diets so that you can have an idea of how you can help your customers and make a menu that understands these diets fully.

1. Vegetarian diet – This type of special diet is geared to lifestyle choice and intentional dietary restrictions to some specified foods. There are several reasons why people adopt a vegetarian diet. It may be for personal health reasons, some for religious beliefs, and others for an ethical reason such as animal rights and environmental concerns like emitting greenhouses gas from agriculture.

In recent years, vegetarian diets have gained widespread popularity. As estimated, there are 18% of the global population are vegetarian and 2.1 million adult Australians are embracing this diet as well. This translates to bigger opportunities in the catering business because there’s a big chance of serving this kind of diet. Vegetarian foods are easier to prepare and cater by just sticking to vegetables and meat substitutes.

veggies-diets

There are different forms on this kind of diet with each differs from its restrictions:

  • Lacto Ovo vegetarian – Doesn’t eat meat, fish, and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products
  • Lacto vegetarian – Doesn’t eat meat, fish, poultry, and eggs but allows dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarian- Doesn’t eat meat, fish, poultry and dairy products but allows eggs.
  • Pescetarian – Doesn’t eat meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.

2. Vegan – Unlike a vegetarian diet, vegans are in strict compliance with not eating any animal products including meat, poultry and any products derived from animals. While vegetarians chose to eliminate meat in their diet due to mishandling of animals, vegans also follow this kind of thinking but even more they are against for animals to be bred and held captive to an environment for the sole purpose of exploiting their lifestyle for the creation of food. Because of this, vegan is considered a preference diet wherein it is no longer due to any food allergy and intolerances. However, the vegan diet is a good option for those suffering from dairy allergy because the food choices in this diet are very safe to consume.

vegan-food

When catering for vegans, it seems easy to just avoid offering meat products. However, making sure that there are no animal products to an entire meal can be quite complicated as the food manufacturer uses a significant amount of animal products in food processing such as eggs and milk. A simple solution for this is to cook whole food. A vegan diet includes eating grains, seeds, beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Several vegan-friendly foods are out in the market like vegan hotdogs, non-dairy yogurt, veggie burgers, vegan mayonnaise, soy milk and non-dairy milk, and vegan’s favorite tofu. Also, ordinary food that contains no meat and dairy-free is suitable for vegans to eat like green salads, peanut butter sandwiches, egg-free pasta with tomato sauce and most bread that doesn’t include any dairy is also vegan-friendly.

3. Paleo – The paleo diet is an eating plan that imitates how ancient people may have eaten. It includes eating whole foods that presumably hunted and gathered. This diet is also called a caveman’s diet, a stone-age diet, hunter-gatherer diet because of its focus on eating foods that belong to the Palaeolithic era.

The concept behind this diet is that long before modern agricultural farming exists, people usually eat their food that is hunted or gathered like fish, meat, fruits, vegetable nuts, and seeds. When modern farming developed, it changed how people ate and adopt a diet that is full of dairy products, legumes, and grains. Paleo advocates disapprove on modern eating that is full of processed food. They believe that going back to how our ancestral eat as hunter-gatherer can make fewer health problems. They also believed that the human body has not developed to process dairy foods, legumes, and grains and eating these foods can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. However, doctors do not know its effects on children, pregnant women, and older adults. Those who are planning to start on this diet should consult first with their health care provider.

Here is the list of foods that you can provide when catering for people on paleo diets: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, seeds, fish, eggs, herbs, spices, and oil that comes from fruit and nuts like olive oil, coconut oil, and almond oil. Paleo diets also include drinking black coffee or green tea and drinks plenty of water and need to be active every day.

paleo

Avoid these foods and ingredients:

  • Sugar and high fructose beverages like soft drinks, fruit juice, table sugars, pastries, candies, ice cream.
  • Legumes like beans and lentils.
  • Avoid all dairy products especially those that are low in fat. However, the paleo diet includes full-fat dairy like grass-fed butter and cheeses.
  • Some vegetable oils such as soybean oils, sunflower oil, corn oil, grape seed oil, and safflower oil
  • Trans fat that is found in margarine and those that are typically labeled as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamates, maltodextrine, acesulfame potassium.
  • High processed foods that are labeled “low fat” and “healthy food” usually have a lot of additives including artificial meal replacements.

It is a good opportunity for your restaurants to embrace and understand today’s diets. As more people are adjusting their eating lifestyles to a healthier and safer way, giving them food choices that are tailored fit to these diets will give your business a chance to expand and develop to a kind that will make people comfortable in coming back with their friends and families.

Here are some final tips for hosting your dietary requirements:

Know your foods. Be hands-on when it comes to your food. You should be diligent in knowing where it comes from, how it was prepared from the sauces down to seasonings, additives, and condiments.

knows-your-food

Know your customer. Be appreciative of your loyal customers by getting to know them. What food do they order often, what are the foods they enjoy the most in your restaurants, what are some changes they want to see in your menu when it comes to their dietary requirements. Chat with your staff on what the customers are asking for, what are their feedbacks and what needs to be improved. Read reviews and feedback on your establishment online. At the end of the day, it is not only your customers that will be happy with the service you provide them but your establishment will also enjoy the benefits of reaping the rewards.

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Improve on your menu by creating appealing foods that are suited for different groups. Have a delicious vegan and vegetarian options that will be a hit even for customers with a restrictive diet. It will be helpful for your patrons and staff to have some markings on ingredients and disclaimers.

Always have a conversation. No one knows your customer conditions more than themselves. It is also good to educate your staff to ask about the customer’s restriction if there are any for safety reasons and to provide excellent service. Customers would appreciate the effort and concern.

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Order online. Just visit our bakery website to see the wide range of catering menus and make your choice. All of our menus are marked with a special icon for each dietary need like if they need gluten-free, dairy-free, halal, vegan or vegetarian foods. There is also a live chat to our website monitored by our catering experts and will be happy to answer all your concerns

Here are some ways we can accommodate your order for special diets for your office lunch or events and finger food catering is the most popular one in our experience. Give us a call. A little inquiry will be asked if there are any special diets that your guests require. We must understand and inquire about their needs so that we can provide tasty food solutions for their dietary needs.

We can also create specialized menus in line with your business catering requirements. Every time you order with a pre-selected dietary option, your menu will be available. It’s that easy and will give you the peace of mind knowing that all your guests’ needs are met.

Catering for special dietary requirements is important and we are here to assist you in making it simple and easy. Book your next office catering with us and we guarantee that your guests’ dietary requirement will be well taken care of.


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