Different types of diet
A diet is not necessarily food which will help you lose weight. It merely means food which someone eats. is set up for a normal British diet. You may have to cook for more specialised diets.
There is no food which will meake you lose weight. On the other hand, what you eat is more likely to control your weight than how much exercise you do, unless you do a lot of exercise. Increasing the amount of exercise makes you hungrier, and that makes you eat more, which risks making you fatter, not thinner. So it's sensible to look at what you eat first. Exercise is good, certainly, and it gives you a better body, but it must be combined with a slimming diet to make you lose weight.
A conventional Western diet has too much carbohydrates (sugar and starch) and fats, all of which make you fat. Alcohol makes you fat as well. There is probably too much protein as well (like meat, and meat also contains fat). There is not enough vegetables or fruit. This is the basis of the 'eat 5 fruit and veg a day' campaigns, which we are all heartedly sick of (but still don't follow). The 5-a-day, by the way, should be different vegetables and fruit, and certainly not all fruit. Potatoes are not considered to be a vegetable (or a fruit). Fruit and veg have always been considered to be healthy (apart from medieval times, when they were sometimes considered to be dangerous!) The reasons vary, however: vitamin C, other vitamins and minerals, roughage, anti-oxidants. But whatever reason, they are good for you!
Sugar and starch and fat are not 'empty of nutrition' as some people describe them. They are not bad for us in moderation. But we eat far too much of them, and that is bad for us. Eat less of them for long enough, and you will lose weight! However, this is hard to do. Faddy diets usually start by working because they say that you must only eat food which you don't like, so naturally you eat less of it. Faddy diets usually end up by failing because you will only put up with this for a short time! (Some faddy diets may even lead you to be malnourised). There are more sensible ways to lose weight. These things might help:
Finally, thin is not good. Fat is not good either. Find out what the Body mass index (BMI) is for your height, and stay within the healthy band if you can.
Food allergies are common. Some can be dangerous. Severe peanut allergy can cause anaphylactic shock which can be lethal, and this can be brought on by small amounts of peanut. There are also intolerances. They might include whole food groups such as lactose intolerance (covering milk, butter, cheese and other milk products) or wheat intolerance. If you need to feed someone with an allergy or an intolerance, find out beforehand what it is, and what food products can cause problems.
Diabetes can cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Normally diabetics must not eat sugar, but if they are low on sugar, then they must eat something sugary fast. Desserts are obviously a problem here. You could leave the dessert course out of a meal. It is possible to buy diabetic chocolates, and you can get tinned fruit in fruit juice rather than syrup.
You should never offer alcohol to a recovering alcoholic, and it would be polite to abstain yourself in his/her company.
For these and other conditions, find out beforehand from the person concerned exactly where the problems are, and prepare and cook the right food appropriately.
Some people avoid certain foods. When happened, some mothers refused to allow their children to eat any beef products, which includes jelly. This made parties rather trying. Other mothers might ban food colouring, or addititives, or sugar, or whatever the latest fashion is. When I gave children's parties, I never fed a child (knowingly) with food disapproved of by his mother, but there was a lot of sugar and food colouring for the others, and the children were never hyper-active or badly behaved. And no-one died of BSE. So I am personally sceptical of these claims, but I feel as a host, and particularly of children, you should try to fall in with their requirements if at all possible.
Here I am not talking to vegetarians, who of course know far more about their diet than I do. I am talking to people who might have to cook for a vegetarian, although meat-eater themselves.
There are different types of vegetarian. Generally speaking, a vegetarian won't eat any form of meat or fish produce, but will eat eggs and milk. Some vegetarians will eat fish. (I knew a small boy who was a vegetarian but ate sausages and beef burgers, and a small girl who was a vegetarian and refused to eat vegetables!) Vegans are stricter, and refuse to eat eggs or milk (plus all dairy produce of course) as well. They have various reasons for their diet, some for health reasons, some on moral or political or religious grounds. You can ask them why but I don't think you should force them to defend themselves. (Quite apart from anything, they then have the right to expect you to defend yours!)
Since their rules do vary, then it's best to check beforehand what these rules are. Veganism can be quite difficult - not only no cheese and no eggs (so protein will be lentils, beans, nuts and wheat), but all products based on milk or eggs, so conventional cakes and biscuits will be banned. I suggest that you humbly ask for suggestions! Vegetarians are easier, and you can make a good meal quite easily: even shop bought pizzas may mark themselves as vegetarian, and Hinduism revers animal life, so there are many vegetarian curries (and you can easily invent your own which will taste OK).
I am not an expert of Jewish diet, so if feeding Jews, please check with them what they require. But here are some things I do know.
Pork and all pig products are forbidden. This includes bacon, ham and pork pies. Obvious enough, I suppose, but if you want cold meats for a party, then you start to realise how much the British depend on the pig! Pastrami is OK (beef) or cold chicken. For strict Orthodox Jews, all meat should be kosher, which means butchered in a specific way. Then you really WOULD have to ask them for advice!
Blood products are forbidden. Not high on the British agenda this one, although black pudding is forbidden.
Shellfish are forbidden, which is more likely to trip you up.
You are not allowed to mix meat and milk in the same meal, or eat them too close together. This one is rather trying. In fact, trying to avoid milk is hard, whether for vegans, lactose intolerant or Jews. It means no cheese, no cream, no ice cream (although most cheap ice cream doesn't have much acquanitance with real cream - but there is usually a little in it), and you have to look at ingredient lists for milk or butter in cakes, puddings and biscuits, and even chocolate.
Not all Jews follow all these rules, but it's best to check.
I am not an expert of Muslim diet either, so if feeding Muslims, please check with them what they require. But here are some things I do know.
Pork and all pig products are forbidden. This includes bacon, ham and pork pies. Obvious enough, I suppose, but if you want cold meats for a party, then you start to realise how much the British depend on the pig! Pastrami is OK (beef) or cold chicken. Muslims may require halal meat, which means butchered in a specific way.
Blood products are forbidden. Again, no black pudding!
I know very little about Hindu diet. India is a very big country, and Hindus in Britain may have adapted their diet still further. Some Hindus are vegetarian. Others will not eat beef.
I know very little about Buddhist diet, although I believe that vegetariasm is common.
I think that everyone is allowed to have one food that they don't like! Many people have more than that, and some people seem to be able to eat very little. It can be quite fun tempting children to try something knew which they start by completely refusing. My greatest success was with a little girl refusing (shop bought) Scotch pancakes, and eventually, she was teaching her mother how to make them! Adults are harder... Oh well, do the best you can, ask ahead if you can, and console yourself with the knowledge that no-one will die of starvation if they don't eat much at one meal!
© Jo Edkins 2012 -