Food Matters: 7 Dietarily-Sensitive Meals For A Crowd

Food Matters: 7 Dietarily-Sensitive Meals For A Crowd

I have often wondered how many other individuals in our parish (or other parishes) are not fed balanced meals in their churches, and how many churches do not recognize this as a part of hospitality.

Food Matters for Participation & Hospitality

Several years ago at a church where I was employed, we had a family with four children who did not participate in our Wednesday night gatherings. When I asked why, the mom told me the whole family was vegetarian and offering a salad to her was not a meal. I cringed as the reality hit me – we were not being good hosts.

I have often wondered how many other individuals in our parish (or other parishes) are not fed balanced meals in their churches, and how many churches do not recognize this as a part of hospitality.

Food Intentionality

Do not assume since no one has said anything that everyone in your parish is a carnivore or allergy-free. Visitors to your church may not say anything because they are not sure who to tell or how it will be received. Here are some ideas for increasing your intentionality around the food you serve at church.

  1. If there is an RSVP for an event that includes food, ask about dietary concerns. You can simply say, “Does anyone in your party have dietary concerns or allergies we should be aware of?”
  2. If you are hosting a potluck, do your best to make sure there are some options for those with dietary concerns. You can recruit someone to make special dishes, for example a vegetarian chili is meat, dairy, and gluten free. Another option is to create a sign up genius for your potluck that includes a request for a few vegetarian main dishes and a few gluten free main dishes (depending on the size of your church).
  3. Label allergy free foods AND label foods that contain common allergens such as nuts. If someone makes a gluten-free coffee cake for coffee hour, make sure to label it gluten free. Even better, print a copy of the recipe and set it next to the coffee cake.
  4. As you learn of those with allergies, keep a list. Ask about what meals work well for them. If you are not able to provide a full meal, that fits their restrictions you can communicate ahead of time what the food options will be. Sometimes folks are willing to bring their own food to supplement.
  5. If you are providing the food for a meal, here are some ideas that are sensitive to dietary concerns AND feed a crowd!

7 Dietarily-Sensitive Meals For A Crowd

Taco Bar – A taco bar is a great option because folks who are gluten free can make a taco salad, dairy free folks can avoid the sour cream and cheese, and vegetarians/vegans can get protein from the beans.
*Make sure to have a good amount of beans for the vegetarians. Consider getting gluten free corn tortillas instead of flour.

Soup, Salad, & Sandwich – A soup/salad/sandwich meal provides a number of options for folks with dietary concerns. One option would be a meat-free soup such as tomato soup or garden vegetable along with a simple salad and club sandwiches. Alternatively, you could offer a chicken-noodle soup with simple salad and grilled cheese.
*Salad is a great addition to any meal because it is easy to make it gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan. Make sure to offer either a soup or a sandwich that is gluten free and vegetarian.

Cook Out – Many churches offer a hamburgers/hot dogs meal at some point during the calendar year. To address dietary concerns with such a meal, consider offering gluten free buns, gluten free hot dogs as well as vegetarian hot dogs and burgers.

BBQ – Barbecue is generally gluten/dairy/nut free. Macaroni and cheese is a great vegetarian option that goes with this entree. By adding a vegetarian green bean casserole, vegetarian baked beans, a salad, and some gluten free rolls, you’ll have a meal the majority of folks can enjoy.

Spaghetti Dinner – If you’re preparing a spaghetti dinner, make sure to offer a plain marinara sauce as well as meat sauce and gluten free pasta.
*You can go a step further by roasting a spaghetti squash and offering this as an alternative to gluten-filled pasta.

Pancake Supper – Folks of all ages enjoy breakfast for dinner! Consider offering gluten free pancakes along side regular pancakes and eggs or vegetarian sausage alongside the traditional breakfast meat.

Baked Potato Bar – Like the taco bar, a baked potato bar allows folks to choose the toppings that fit their dietary restrictions and preferences. Make sure to offer various proteins such as shredded chicken and black beans.
*You could add a little variety by including some baked sweet potatoes.


Sabrina Evans serves as the Director of Christian Formation for the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, serving here for the last ten years. Her previous work has been in large parishes in the Diocese of Alabama and Tennessee. A vegetarian for over 20 years, it is her goal to see that all are able to partake of the meals offered at our churches, from the altar to pot luck!

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