Food allergies and restrictions are important to keep in mind when building a restaurant menu and figuring out sanitizing and cleaning procedures.
Whether based on an allergy, religious belief, or dietary preference, it’s key to understand the ins and outs of common dietary restrictions, both to cater to different guests’ wants and needs and prevent life-threatening situations.
Here are some of the most common dietary restrictions you might encounter at your restaurant.
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Vegetarian and Vegan
Being vegan and vegetarian are usually mentioned in the same category of dietary restrictions, but one is significantly more restrictive than the other. Both vegetarian and vegan diets avoid animal products, with veganism being the more restrictive of the two.
Vegetarians avoid all meat – including chicken, turkey, beef, pork, and fish. Pescetarians are typically included in the vegetarian bucket – they don’t eat beef or poultry, but do consume fish products. Both vegetarians and pescetarians eat dairy products and eggs.
Veganism is a stricter form of vegetarianism, and vegan restrictions avoid all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Raw vegans take this one step further, only eating uncooked fruits, vegetables, grains, and other non-animal products.
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Lactose is a type of sugar that is found in milk and other dairy products. Those who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme to break down lactose, causing digestive problems and discomfort. Lactose pills can be taken to help replace this enzyme, but those who are lactose intolerant tend to avoid high-lactose dairy products overall. Plant-based milks and low-lactose dairy products (like hard cheeses, yogurt, and butter) are both good options for lactose-intolerant people.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Those who are intolerant to gluten are split into two main categories: celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten intolerance.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease triggered by gluten, and causes gastrointestinal discomfort and inflammation of the small intestine. Over time, those with celiac disease who consume gluten can cause irreparable damage to their digestive tract.
Non-celiac gluten intolerance causes similar symptoms (GI discomfort), but without the autoimmune response. In both cases, those with any sort of gluten sensitivity avoid gluten as a whole, and instead look for items made with gluten-free grains like oats, rice and quinoa.
Allergies are the most severe of dietary restrictions meaning that you need to take a whole new level of precaution with food preparation.
Peanut allergies are extremely common. Children are the most likely to have a peanut allergy (and eventually outgrow it), but 1 - 2% of adults are allergic to peanuts as well. Reactions can vary – some individuals with a peanut allergy experience minor discomfort or itching, while others can experience severe anaphylaxis and require an epipen and a trip to the hospital.
Religious Food Restrictions
While not an exhaustive religious dietary restrictions list, here are two common religious food restrictions:
Kosher food is in compliance with Jewish dietary laws. Kosher foods are broken down into three categories: meat, dairy, and pareve (or neutral). Essentially, those who keep kosher do not mix meat and dairy products. There are other guidelines as well, including not using the same utensils or equipment for meat and dairy, as well as certification requirements from kosher organizations. Full details on kosher guidelines can be found here.
Halal is the Islamic dietary standard. Halal foods must be produced in a specific manner, specifically animal raising and slaughtering, and have certain foods prohibited. Similarly to kosher rules, in order for a food to be halal, it must be certified by an accredited bureau. Full details on halal guidelines can be found here.
Whatever your menu, keeping these dietary restrictions in mind ensures that your menu is accessible to many customers. For more information on the most common dietary requirements and food allergies, check out this post.