When Hospitality Meets Food Allergies

Today I am happy to have my friend Steph from Living Undone share some tips about extending hospitality to those with food allergies. I have a few fails in this category. Like the time I carefully made an entire meal gluten free only to realize that the soy sauce I used contained gluten. Or the time I failed to see the importance of cross-contamination.

I have many friends with celiac and other allergies. Some of them are so severe they could end up in the hospital if not treated properly. But just not having them over is not a good solution for me. Thankfully there are things we can learn.

Whether it’s a milk allergy, gluten intolerance, or a life threatening peanut allergy, extending hospitality when allergies are involved can be tricky.

As someone with severe gluten intolerance, let me share some tips for hosting those of us with allergies and intolerances.

Ask the Question

When I invite someone over I try to ask them if they have any food allergies. I do this because when I’m a guest somewhere I always find it easier to explain my needs to a host who asks, then to bring up the subject on my own.

Look for a Solution

Usually your guests will be so relieved that you’ve asked, they will give you ample indication about how to proceed. To get to the crux of the issue you can always ask, “What suggestions do you have for me in making something safe for you to eat?”

Here are some possible solutions:

Keep it Simple

If you know your guest has a food allergy and the thought of accommodating them intimidates you, keep it really simple. When someone is concerned about making a gluten free meal for me, I often suggest we get together for ice cream instead.

Double Check

If you are already familiar with your guests particular allergy you might say
something like, “I know your son can’t have casein, would you mind going over my menu with me to make sure I didn’t miss something?”

Another thoughtful way to double check is by saving labels of the items you put in a dish. This way if your guest has a question you can simply show them the ingredients.

Some Don’ts…

  • Don’t be offended if the solution involves your guest bringing her own
    food. People have different levels of sensitivity and when it comes to severe allergies, you can’t mess around. If your guest is most comfortable bringing her own food, you’re being hospitable by graciously accepting.
  • Never downplay someone’s allergies or ask, “Wouldn’t it be okay if you had just one (insert whatever here)?” Allergies and food intolerances aren’t fad diets or preferences: they are a matter of health (sometimes life and death).
  • Don’t feel like you need to make the entire meal something everyone can eat. It’s okay if there are some side dishes not every guest can have. Just be sure to avoid cross-contamination if that’s an issue. And point out to your guest which dishes are off limits.
Does your family deal with food allergies? Any additional tips for
showing hospitality to those with food allergies?

Photo Credit


  1. Awesome tips! I am gluten intolerant. It has taken a while to adjust to going gluten free. When my in-laws came to visit us the first time since discovering the allergy, they didn’t understand at all the new restrictions and unintentionally sent me on a guilt trip for the inconvenience of meal planning. Now that they understand the allergy, my mother in law went above and beyond to meet my dietary restrictions when we visited their home in France. I believe it is very important to assure the person with dietary needs that they are not a burden. :)

  2. So very true. I have a son with severe allergies. I always offer to bring his food. It is much easier and safer for him that way.

    Our sweet friends have learned a couple things he can have and they always make it for him when we come over. We have such incredible friends!

  3. These are great tips! I’m sure anything you can do as the host will help your guests feel more comfortable. A couple from our Bible class just had a baby, and they have several dietary restrictions within the family. Our class opted out of cooking meals for the family and decided to chip in for gift cards. I’m starting to wish we had called to get a list of their favorite meals to either buy the ingredients or prepare the meals for them.

    • It’s hard to know what to do. Sometimes buying pre-made stuff is easier as you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. I’m sure the gift cards were much appreciated though!

    • This is a great idea! The gift cards and even simply buying the ingredients for them to put together themselves.

  4. What a great post! I have been on both sides of this: I have several food allergies, and yet I still wonder how to have people over when they (for instance) can’t have gluten.
    This gives some great practical suggestions. Thanks!

  5. Excellent! Thanks for sharing! I have recently discovered that I have some food allergies, and I still feel awkward taking my own food to church every Sunday for lunch. But I’d rather feel awkward for 45 minutes than wretched for 3 days (or more!). :)

  6. I admit, I don’t ask at all if anyone has any allergies. I don’t know anyone who has allergies to gluten or celiac but I do have close family members with allergies to peanuts and some seafood like crab and shrimp. We’ve known this for a while though so it’s sort of a given that you don’t cook with that food or let them know.

    As far as non-family members, I need to do a better job about asking!

  7. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Great tips, Steph! I’m especially keeping this one in mind as I prepare for holiday meals later. I have a good friend who has a food allergy, and I want him to feel comfortable. In the past he’s brought a few sides for himself, and last Christmas I started making a dessert he could eat that everyone ended up liking. Now, the non-gluten dessert is becoming a tradition for us. :)

  8. Thanks for sharing these good tips… I have a two cousins who are lactose intolerant and I could do a better job at checking food labels and thinking ahead when I shop, although they always check themselves when they come visit. I must admit I have done the “come on, just a little can’t hurt” when it’s something tempting (it’s not a life-threatening allergy, but they do get digestive problems), so I’ll try do better on that!

  9. Hi Nu,Loved yesterdays inveitrew. Yet again I find out little things I didn’t know. I agree with Rachel and really enjoyed the story behind the story so to speak.And I can’t wait for the new novel! Yay!xx


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