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Doctor’s Orders: Cooking for Common Dietary Restrictions

Doctor’s Orders: Cooking for Common Dietary Restrictions


Chances are, someone you know is following some kind of dietary regimen, whether it’s by doctor’s orders or by choice. And as a host, you don’t want to single out a guest on a special diet. Or worse, leave them with just a side salad to munch on.

To help you plan a suitable menu, here are a few things to note about some common dietary restrictions and tips on what you can and can’t serve.


Lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, is difficult for some people to digest. Tolerance levels vary, but people who are lactose intolerant should avoid milk, whipped cream, creamer, ice cream, cheese, butter, yogurt, puddings and custards. So if your recipe calls for milk, cream or yogurt, opt for a rice-, almond-, coconut- or soy-based product instead. Skip the cheese and crackers for happy hour, and offer chips and salsa or veggies and hummus. Avoid creamy soups or cheesy casseroles for dinner, and stick with meats, veggies and starches prepared with oil. For dessert, offer brownies (which are lactose-free when made with oil and cocoa powder) and fruit sorbets.


People follow a gluten-free diet for a variety of reasons, but for someone with celiac disease, it’s crucial to their health and safety to avoid all gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, so most crackers, pastas and breads are off limits. While it may sound intimidating to exclude, plenty of foods are naturally gluten-free, like fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, beans, rice, quinoa, nuts, eggs and cheese (purchased in blocks or slices, not shredded). Most corn tortillas (not flour tortillas) and corn chips are gluten-free, so taco night works, and pasta dinners are fine when you substitute spaghetti squash for the noodles (or just buy gluten-free pasta). For more ideas, check out Classic Dinners Gone Gluten Free. Keep in mind that gluten can hide in store-bought products like salad dressings, sauces and soups, so check ingredients or simply make your own. For a sweet finish, make everyone their own Gluten-Free Red Velvet Honey Mug Cake, which cooks perfectly inside a CorningWare® Pop-ins® 20 Ounce Mug.


Most people are comfortable preparing a vegetarian meal, but you should be aware that a vegan diet avoids all animal products—that means eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, seafood and even honey. Instead, build your menu around fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, grains and tofu. Think grilled portabella burgers, veggie burritos, bean chili or spaghetti with homemade marinara. Or try our Sweet Potato, Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole, which can be made, baked and served in a CorningWare® French White 2.5-qt. casserole. When baking desserts, use recipes that call for oil or applesauce instead of butter or eggs.

TIP: Most chocolate products contain dairy, but cocoa powder and carob chips are naturally dairy-free.


Managing diabetes means keeping blood sugars in check. Since all carbohydrates turn to sugar during digestion, many people with diabetes count the amount of carbohydrates they consume. So when it comes to menu planning, a good rule of thumb is to offer a protein, two to three non-starchy veggies (pretty much anything except peas, corn, winter squash, parsnips and potatoes), and a whole-grain item, such as wild rice or a whole-wheat dinner roll. Or put it all together, like we do in our Southwest Chicken Casserole, and round it out with a green salad. Include unsweetened beverages and keep dessert offerings simple and light.


  • DAIRY DON’TS: Even if an item is lactose-free, it isn’t necessarily dairy-free. For those who avoid all dairy, you’ll need to steer clear of foods containing the proteins casein and whey as well.
  • SHOUT OUT TO THE OVERLAP: Because it eliminates animal products, a vegan diet should always be dairy-free. (But still read labels on packaged products.)
  • LEAVE NO TRACE: For some, even minute amounts can matter. Cross-contamination does happen, both in processing facilities and kitchens, so be aware and be careful.
  • THE NEXT LEVEL: Restrictions and lifestyle choices are one thing, but what about dealing with a friend or family member who has a full-on food allergy? Read How to Handle Common Food Allergies for more insight and ideas.

Many grocery stores now carry a variety of alternatives for gluten-free diets, as well as substitutes for dairy and meat, and you can find tons of resources and recipes online. Familiarize yourself with what’s okay and what’s not, factor in a little extra time for scanning labels, and you’ll be able to fix a regimen-friendly meal with ease.