Plan a Party for Different Palates

Planning a party can have its share of ups and down. Depending on the party's degree of formality, the planning can range from super-stressful to incredibly easy. For more formal functions, planning can be on the stressful side, as hosts want to impress their guests. For more casual gatherings, the mood is generally more laid back, and the planning is typically easier on the host as a result.

One thing all hosts must consider when planning a get-together is their guests' palates. While there's no accounting for especially picky eaters, there are several things hosts must consider and quiz prospective guests about when putting together a party menu, whether that party is a black-tie affair or more of a jeans and T-shirt type of gathering.

* Health conditions. Some health conditions greatly restrict what a person can and cannot eat. To put everyone at ease, privately ask guests if they have any dietary restrictions. Some guests might be lactose intolerant, while others might not be able to eat foods prepared with salt. Asking about health restrictions prior to the party will keep guests from feeling as if they should bring their own food, and it will save hosts the embarrassment of serving a meal their guests might not be able to enjoy.

* Religious restrictions. Observant followers of certain religions might be prohibited to eat certain foods. Even if host and guest are of the same faith, some people follow religion more closely than others, so it's best to ask guests about any religious dietary restrictions.

* Lifestyle. More and more people have adopted vegetarian or even vegan lifestyles. Hosts who are not vegetarian or vegan might find it difficult to feed guests who are. If guests do follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, ask them for meal suggestions and offer to prepare a meal for them. If they insist on bringing their own dish, hosts should not be offended but allow their guests the freedom to prepare their own meals if they so desire.

* Allergies. While adults routinely grow out of food allergies, not all adults leave their allergies behind. Hosts can inquire ahead of time as to guests' food allergies and avoid a potentially dangerous situation once guests sit down to eat.

* "Diet"ary restrictions. Some dietary restrictions have nothing to do with existing medical conditions, religion, lifestyle, or allergies. Some people just restrict what they eat to watch their weight. While a party is supposed to be a time to let loose, some guests might want to avoid certain foods to stay true to their diets. If guests are trying to lose weight, hosts should offer some food that won't pack on the pounds but will be delicious nonetheless.

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