Planning a wedding, or any other large, catered event, is often quite stressful. And if you or any of your friends and family are living with diabetes and trying to stick to a meal plan, it can add a whole new level of concern. Menu planning may suddenly seem significantly more complicated, as you juggle the dietary needs of individual wedding guests. You want to make sure that everyone at the party can eat, drink, and be merry – yourself included! But these considerations need not overshadow your big day. There are many delicious low-carbohydrate options that are suitable for all occasions. You and your guests may even have your wedding cake … and eat it too.
There are two basic options when it comes to accommodating dietary restrictions. You can either request special meals that meet the needs of the individuals in question, or you can create a full menu that is diabetes-friendly and offer all guests the same dishes. Decide how you want to approach the matter and be upfront with your venue manager or catering company about your needs. If you choose to go the first route, executive chef Tony Cascino of Boston’s BG Events and Catering suggests making minor changes to the basic meal so that no guest feels singled out, such as simply replacing a higher-carb risotto cake with a more diabetes-friendly mushroom confit. You may want to ask your guests about dietary needs in the invitation, because it’s easier for your caterer to prepare individualized menus well in advance of the event.
Creating a full diabetes-friendlier menu
Designing a lower-carbohydrate menu that nearly all guests can enjoy regardless of dietary preference is challenging, but may not be as daunting a task as it might seem. These days, caterers and reception venues are increasingly familiar with all sorts of dietary considerations, ranging from vegan to gluten-free to low-carb, and most are willing to adapt their standard dishes to suit your needs. (Read more about a gluten-free diet here. For more about vegan choices, click here.)
For a diabetes-friendlier menu, I like to focus on fresh, whole foods, prepared without flour or sugar-based sauces. Scott and Emily Imblum of Pumppeelz.com worked out a Mediterranean-inspired menu for their August 2013 nuptials in Pennsylvania. The hors d’oeuvres were heavy on the fresh vegetables, and the main course included grilled beef tenderloin kabobs and boneless chicken thighs with eggplant rollatini, and a selection of light vegetable salads. Emily lives with type 1 diabetes, so in addition to accommodating her needs, this menu was fresh and delicious! These were appealing, healthier choices for all the guests and as Scott points out, “this is the kind of food we like to eat anyway.”
Your just desserts
The dessert table is usually a big part of any wedding or catered party and I like to remind people that low-carb doesn’t have to mean dessert-free! Even sweets may be made diabetes-friendlier and still be delicious (just remember to fit them into your meal plan). One of my favorite suggestions is telling couples not to be afraid to break from tradition and forgo the wedding cake in favor of smaller, individual desserts. Chef Tony says that one of the most popular options for the events his team caters is a table of elegant, tasting-sized desserts served in shot glasses. Many of these treats – like chocolate mousse, fruit parfaits, and crustless cheesecakes – may be made low-carb simply by replacing the sugar with alternative sweeteners. The Imblums followed their local Pittsburgh tradition of the “cookie table,” where all guests bring their favorite homemade cookies, some of which were low-carb and gluten-free. If you’d rather have a large cake as a showpiece, consider cheesecakes on tiered pedestals. Ask your caterer or bakery to work with you on creative ideas for elegant low-carb desserts.
Hosting a diabetes-friendlier wedding or event doesn’t need to be overwhelming or stressful. Remember, this is your big day, and it’s important to have things just the way you want them. Be prepared to interview several caterers or venues to find one that best suits your requirements. While it’s reasonable to put the onus on them to come up with a suitable menu, it may be a good idea to look for caterers who specialize in creating special meals. Once you select someone, don’t be afraid to give them the guidelines you want followed. They want your business and should be willing to work with you. “It’s in the name of what we do,” says Chef Tony. “It’s catering, and we are catering to people’s needs and their likes and dislikes.”
Carolyn Ketchum is a writer, runner, and the mastermind behind All Day I Dream About Food, a mostly low-carb, gluten-free food blog. She has a master’s degree in physical anthropology and an extensive background in higher education administration. Ketchum is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience