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Holiday Hosting: How To Accommodate A Variety Of Dietary Needs

The good news is there are a number of ingredients that accommodate everyone.
Randy Faris via Getty Images

The modern festive gathering can bring about a minefield of allergies and preferences that will have any host stressing out. Deciding what dishes to make when you have guests that are vegan, ketogenic, paleo and/or gluten-free might seem impossible, but the good news is there are a number of ingredients that accommodate everyone!

Five ingredients to keep on hand for festive inclusiveness:

Coconut is rich in MCT (medium chain triglycerides) that provides extra energy for the holiday season. Coconut (butter, oil, flakes, milk, chips, etc.) is a key ingredient in the keto and paleo menu and vegans love the fact that coconut oil at room temperature can substitute for butter at the holiday table.

Hemp hearts are an incredibly versatile vegan protein source that is also used in keto, paleo and gluten-free menus. Its creamy texture makes it a great dairy substitute when pureed into sauces and soups. Hemp hearts are also a wonderful substitute for nuts for people with peanut or tree nut allergies — and are classroom-safe to boot!

Hemp hearts.
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm via Getty Images
Hemp hearts.

Make some cookies with hemp hearts as a direct substitution for nuts, or add them to any favourite holiday recipe for a healthy boost and added texture Note: Avoid buying hemp hearts in bulk to keep your celiac (highly sensitive gluten free folks) safe. Hemp is best bought in nitrogen-flushed packages to preserve the precious omega-3 and GLA oils from oxidation.

Cauliflower is the chameleon of the vegetable kingdom. When made to look like rice or mashed potatoes, it slashes calories from carbs making it a mainstay in the ketogentic diet. It's also found as the base of paleo pizza crust and makes great vegan steaks when sauced and grilled!

Mushrooms are getting a resurgence of interest lately not only because of their immune-boosting abilities, but also because they are a fantastic source of vegetarian protein. The darker mushrooms like cremini, portobello and shitake are also a rare source of vegan vitamin D. Enjoy grain free mushroom gravy that is cooked stovetop to please both paleo and vegan friends.

Sugar-free Dark Chocolate has exploded on the market with sweeteners like stevia, monkfruit and erythritol replacing the cane-based sugar or artificial sweeteners. Dark chocolate is your best bet as a crowd pleaser, but be sure to seek out brands that are dairy-free. If you are looking for a great activity to do with kids this season, check out my sugar-free holiday bark recipe at the bottom of this blog.

Watch: How to let your host know if you have dietary restrictions. Blog continues below.

Low-Carb Stuffing


  • 2 tbsp avocado oil, ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • ½-1 tsp herbed sea salt
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ cup hemp hearts
  • 1/2 cup parsley

Optional ingredients:

  • 1 cup cauliflower rice (will stretch the dish), or
  • 2 slices low carb bread (recipe here)

If you want to add some healthier carbs:

  • 1 medium apple, chopped or ¼ cup juice sweetened dried cranberries


Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ghee or oil.

Add yellow onion and celery, stirring occasionally until the edges of onion begin to brown and onion is becoming translucent. Onions and celery should both be soft. Reduce heat to medium.

Stir in thyme, poultry seasoning and salt. Stir to combine.

Add pecans, hemp hearts and parsley and optional ingredients if using. Stir and cook for about three minutes to soften the flavours.

Add more seasoning to taste if desired.

Serves 6

Chocolate hemp bark.
Julie Daniluk
Chocolate hemp bark.

Festive Chocolate Hemp Bark

This recipe is good for both your heart and your sweethearts as the chocolate, cranberries and seeds all have heart healthy power! This fun recipe takes only minutes to make and really impresses.


  • 375 g unsweetened organic, fair-trade baking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice sweetened, dried cranberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup hemp hearts
  • 20 drops liquid stevia (This will be according to your taste. Start with 10 drops and taste it before removing it from the pot. It will taste sweeter when it is hot.)

Optional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp pink or grey unrefined sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have all your ingredients ready to use.

2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler on the lowest setting. Melting chocolate is simple, but it can be a little bit tricky. If not you're not careful, chocolate can burn, separate (into its liquid and solid parts) and become greasy. The best method to melt chocolate it to use a double boiler on the stovetop a over very low simmering water. This keeps the chocolate away from direct heat. This allows it to melt at a low enough temperature to prevent burning and separating.

3. Pull chocolate off the stove once completely melted and smooth and immediately stir in the stevia liquid and hemp hearts plus the salt and coconut flakes if using.

4. Pour chocolate onto parchment paper forming puddles. It's okay if they run into each other.

5. Sprinkle with cranberries and some extra hemp hearts before the chocolate hardens.

6. Refrigerate until set (45 to 60 min). Break or cut into pieces as desired.

7. Bark will keep well, stored in an airtight container or in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge.

Makes 16 pieces.

Recipe reprinted with permission by Julie Daniluk RHN and Random House Canada. © Meals That Heal Inflammation, 2012

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