Whether you’re planning a party, cooking dinner for friends or heading to a restaurant, the subject of dietary requirements is one that comes up often. Unless you’re a sufferer or know someone close to you who is – it can be hard to know what different dietary requirements mean. Learn more about common dietary requirements to help you feel in the know.
A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat and fish. There are some vegetarians who also avoid other products such as leather or gelatine, and others who might eat no meat but eat fish instead (known as pescatarians). There are many types of vegetarian food available, as well as vegetarian-only restaurants. It’s become much easier to cater for vegetarian diets now that restaurants, cafes, etc. have widened their menus.
Vegan diets cut out all animal products, meaning they cut out meat and fish like vegetarians, but also cut out all animal products – including dairy and cosmetics that contain animal products. As with vegetarians, there’s a growing range of foods available for vegans, and there are plenty of tips available for maintaining a healthy diet as a vegan. Vegan diets are becoming more well-known, with plenty of vegan recipes, restaurants and more providing ideas and inspiration.
Many people adopt dairy-free diets because they are lactose intolerant or allergic to cow, goat and other types of milk. You need to be extra vigilant with dairy-free diets as many products contain milk proteins that you might not be aware of. Keep an eye on labels for allergens, and look for the ‘dairy-free’ sticker. There are other types of milk you can try such as coconut, almond and soy milk as fantastic alternatives to cow’s milk.
Gluten-free diets are often followed as a result of coeliac disease, an allergy, or an intolerance. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye – which are common cereals used to make food such as bread, pasta, cakes and sauces. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Be cautious when cooking and look for gluten-free foods which are becoming more widely available. Meat is one you should especially look out for around BBQ time, as many burgers and sausages contain wheat.
Some dietary requirements are a lifestyle choice, while others are because of intolerances or allergies. Some food allergies can be very serious, with the body’s immune system reacting to try and defend the body. Anaphylaxis shock in particular can be life-threatening, and you should always extra cautious when cooking for someone with a food allergy. In restaurants, make it clear that you or someone you’re with has food allergies – most kitchens are experienced in managing food allergies.
In addition to sensitivities and lifestyle choices, some religions can have an effect on dietary requirements. Islam prohibits pork, while other meats must be slaughtered in a specific way – known as halal. Judaism requires meat and fish to be kosher, with many types of fish excluded. There are also strict rules about eating and food preparation which also need to be followed and respected. Hindus mainly adopt a vegetarian diet, as well as not eating eggs. Different religions have different standpoints on food, so it’s worth doing some research if someone tells you they have religious restrictions to their diet.
Being sensitive to those with dietary requirements
When it comes to diet requirements, sometimes the easiest thing to do is ask. Ask about the foods they can and can’t eat, as well as whether or not they have any favourite dishes. When dealing with different dietary requirements, make sure you check the labels or do a search online if you’re unsure.
You can obtain helpful information on healthy eating, as well get recipe ideas from NHS Choices. You can get help with allergies from a number of health services. The more clued up you are about different dietary requirements, the more confident you’ll feel to be able to help others.