Most of us know what it means when someone says that they are vegetarian or nut free. But the development of food allergies as well as cultural changes in eating preferences have created new food restrictions that are more prevalent than ever before. If you are responsible for your office’s food ordering, it’s important to be aware of these changes as well who in your office is effected by certain foods. Being aware of this information can help prevent potentially life-threatening situations and can create a better work environment for all employees whose needs are being noted and accounted for.
If you haven’t already done so, we suggest sending out an anonymous, brief questionnaire to all employees asking about their eating preferences: if they have any food allergies, if there are any items that they generally stay away from, if they have any religious or personal food preferences that they hold, or if they have a particular diet that they like to follow. In the mean time, we’ve created a dietary restriction 101 guide that breaks down some of the most common dietary restrictions that we encounter on a daily basis in the food industry. It’s important to know what they all mean and how you can make sure that every restriction is accommodated during your office meals!
Ovo-Vegetarian: A person that does not eat meat or dairy but does eat eggs.
Lacto-Vegetarian: A person that does does not eat meat or eggs but does eat dairy.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: A person that does not eat meat but does eat dairy and eggs. This is the most common form of vegetarianism.
Vegan: A person that does not eat anything that comes from an animal. This diet is plant-based and becomes a lifestyle for most people that follow it. Vegans will not use any products that come from or were tested on an animal, such as clothes, fragrances, household cleaners, etc. in order to reduce the exploitation of animals.
Pescatarian: A person that does not eat meat but will eat fish, dairy and eggs. A pescatarian has a very similar diet to a vegetarian but will also eat fish as an additional source of protesin.
Gluten Free: A person that cannot eat gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, is the most common cause for a gluten free diet. For people with this disease, eating gluten can trigger an immune system reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine and keeps the body from absorbing nutrients. There are also people that have a gluten-sensitivity or gluten intolerance and although they don’t have Celiac disease, they can have the same reaction to eating gluten that someone with Celiac disease does.
Dairy Free: A person that has an allergy to milk or a person that is lactose intolerant, which means that they are not able to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy products.
Nut Free: A person that has an allergy to a type of tree nut or peanut. This allergy can be mild or life-threatening, depending on the person. Some people have an airborne peanut allergy so it’s very important to clarify with all restaurants/caterers if they have a nut free kitchen, if any of the items that you order contain nuts or nut oils or if there is any cross contamination between items being cooked in the same oil or pans. It’s important to read the labels on all items as a lot of foods that you wouldn’t expect contain nuts.
Egg Free: A person that has an allergy to eggs.
Shellfish Free: A person that has an allergy to crustaceans (shrimp, crab and lobster) or mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops).
Fish Free: A person that has an allergy to fish. The most common fish allergies are salmon, tuna and halibut. Most people who are allergic to finned fish are not allergic to shellfish as well.
Soy Free: A person that has an allergy to soy.
Kosher: A person that must eat food that is prepared according to the requirements of the Jewish law. A person that is kosher cannot eat pork or shellfish and meat and dairy cannot be consumed together. All meat must be killed in a specific way and then blessed by a rabbi to make sure that it is fit and proper for consumption. For some people that are strictly kosher, only a specific set of dishes, pots, pans, etc. can be used while preparing the food and eating the meal.
Halal: A person that must eat food that is prepared according to the requirements of the Islamic law. A person that is halal cannot eat pork and all meat must be killed in a specific way to make it “permissible” for consumption. If you’re looking for a halal vendor for your next meal, be sure to clarify with the restaurant/caterer that their meat is certified halal.