Catering for Special Diets

When my daughter turned 18 she had a fairy/pirate children’s themed birthday party complete with children’s party games. 

As her brother and father have both been dealing with food intolerances for a number of years, she wanted to make sure that we catered for all her guests’ dietary needs.  There were a number of different intolerances and allergies ranging from vegetarian to gluten free to peanut allergy.  The guests who required special diets appreciated the fact that we’d gone to the trouble of catering for them.

A couple of the guests needed to be gluten free, dairy free, egg free and chocolate free, among other things.  So I made 2 cakes.  The larger one was a normal cake and the smaller one was safe for all to eat.  These guests with the multiple food intolerances were so appreciative of the fact that they could eat some cake.  One of them even asked to take some home to share with her sister who needed to follow a similar diet.

There were many other choices of food that those needing special diets could eat.  Some of the food was easy to tweak such as using a ‘chia egg’ instead of egg in the meatballs.  For others we made several options so we had vegetarian and meatier pizzas.  We labelled all the food so that people knew which ones were safe for them to eat.

Perhaps you’d like to invite someone over for a play date but the child or the parent can’t eat certain foods.  Or your child is having a birthday party but you know that some of their friends can’t eat certain foods.  Often parents of these children are used to bringing their own food, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could have some choices that they can safely eat when you’re catering for them?

Here are some tips and ideas to help you cater for those who require special diets:

  • Find out specifically what they can and can’t eat
  • Find out if it’s an intolerance or an allergy and how particular they need to be
  • Label food so that people know what’s in it or tell them the ingredients
  • For young children, make sure they know exactly what they can and can’t eat
  • Go through the menu and ask what you can substitute to make it safe
  • If it’s a larger gathering, put the special diet food on a separate table
  • Be aware of cross contamination when preparing – use separate clean boards, bowls and utensils
  • Be aware of cross contamination when serving – use separate utensils for the safe foods

Some simple changes/ideas for catering:

  • Serve plain rice crackers (most brands are gluten free, though may not be soy free), with dips instead of wheat based crackers.
  • There are a few brands of dips that are dairy and gluten free.  Some of them are also egg free.
  • Plain chips or corn chips are more likely to be gluten, dairy and soy free than flavoured chips.
  • A Depression or Wacky cake is oiled based and is dairy and egg free and can easily be adapted to be gluten free.

Generally parents appreciate that you want to cater for their child and will be only too happy to talk to you about their child’s special dietary requirements.  Some people may still feel safer in bringing their own food but will welcome the fact that you’ve tried to cater for them.


Jillian Ross
Assistant Coordinator, Stafford MOPS & MUMSnext


Jillian has been writing about dealing with food intolerances at for over 5 years.  She also writes about feeding the family in mind, heart and soul.  Jillian enjoys speaking at women’s groups and conferences about parenting and passing on faith to our children.  She is currently studying for a Graduate Certificate in Children and Families Ministry.

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