We grew up in a family of foodies. Cooking for friends and family is our big form of entertainment. Not long ago I had some friends over for dinner, and unbeknownst to me, I managed to trigger the food allergies of several guests. Between dairy, gluten, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish and crustacean shellfish it’s all too easy to cause at least one guest to have to pass on one or more dishes you serve. Finding recipes that everyone can enjoy at your dinner parties is no small feat. That is why I was excited to find Selectivor, a new way to organize food preferences and find a meal that everyone can eat without stressing out the host or the guests.
THE PROBLEM WITH FEEDING EVERYONE WHILE ENTERTAINING
Food allergies are increasingly common, and many people are saddled with dietary restrictions. Planning a meal around multiple types of food allergies, health problems, and picky eaters can be stressful for a host. I’ve been tempted to make multiple main courses and sides and serve them buffet style to accommodate everyone, but that can be labor intensive, and if possible, if it nice to sit around a table family style and share the same meal and spend time with my guests instead of juggling lots of different meals for different guests. And if you’re attempting wine pairings for each course, you don’t want to leave some people out by only having a substitute course for them. Ideally, if one meal could be prepared, it would allow you more time to spend with guests and be a less stressful and more enjoyable evening for everyone.
WHAT IS SELECTIVOR?
Selectivor is a web-based app that’s also available for iOS and Android, all for free.
HOW IT WORKS
- Selectivor allows you to organize food preferences such as food allergies, health, cultural or religiously-based food restrictions, clean food choices, low carb diets, or just foods a guest does not like. Then it finds what foods are commonly acceptable to the group so that everyone can eat without stressing out the host or the guests.
- Selectivor asks everyone just three things: food allergies, diets you’re on and foods you dislike. You and your friends input your dietary restrictions, and it shows you what foods are okay for everyone. It’s social media for meal planning!
Instead of the host having to ask awkward questions of if guests are allergic to anything, or risk having a guest feel left out, the common options are all spelled out for you. You plan your menu around the options provided and stop wasting time worrying about the meal choices or if you might inadvertently serve something that someone will cause a bad food reaction.
Instead of a haphazard collection of food items, Selectivor organizes your custom diet profile of 600 foods into foods that are okay and are not okay to eat. The Selectivor database is fairly extensive and has over eighty physician-curated diet templates which are advised by physicians from top US medical schools like Stanford, Duke, UCSF, UCLA, and University of Minnesota.
- Do you basically have a menu plan in mind but want to check to see if individual foods are okay for everyone? Use the Selectivor Quicksearch feature.
- Need inspiration and suggestions? Look through the food lists that are okay or not.
PLAN MEALS FOR HEALTH, MEDICAL, RELIGIOUS AND POPULAR DIETS
In addition to food allergy diets, other diets in the Selectivor database include:
- Health/Medical Diets: FODMAP (IBS), Low Glycemic Index, Low Glycemic Load, Diabetic, Healthy Skin, ADD/ADHD, DASH (high blood pressure), MIND, Fertility, Kidney Disease, Cancer, Inflammation, Arthritis, Autoimmune, Allergies, Reflux (Heartburn), Liver Disease, Gout, Headache, Low Mercury, Warfarin (Coumadin), Interstitial Cystitis, Kidney Stone, Gallstone, Low Residue/Fiber, Colitis, Osteoporosis, Celiac (Gluten-free), Pregnancy, Lectin Avoidance, and Cholesterol amongst many others
- Religious/Cultural Diets: Seventh-day Adventist, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Kosher, Halal, Mediterranean
- Popular Diets: Ketogenic, Low Carb, Low Fat plus dozens more!
And, as a beauty blog, the Style Chicks would be remiss if we did not mention our excitement to find that Selectivor has menu choices for the Healthy Skin diet, which not only has dietary answers to skin conditions like Eczema, dandruff, and acne but also has food plans for just having better skin.
OUR EXPERIENCE PLANNING OUR MEAL WITH SELECTIVOR: ADDING FOOD RESTRICTIONS AND PREFERENCES
StyleChicks recently celebrated a Social Media follower milestone, and the team wanted to celebrate! So it was a great time to put Selectivor to the test. All our invited guests created a Selectivor profile.
In based on our aggregate guest profiles, we had the following allergies and preferences to work around:
Amongst our guests we had the following food allergies:
- Peanuts, but other nuts are okay in moderation
One guest chooses to avoid red meat whenever possible, another actively dislikes fish.
In addition to a few foods that some guests don’t like that we wished to exclude, we also wanted to incorporate some organic produce, namely recipes that could use the fresh carrots or the other veggies we got this week at our local organic community farm. Using the Selectivor QuickSearch feature, we see that carrots check out okay for everyone, so we needed to find a tasty way to prepare them.
MENU PLANNING TIME
Now the fun begins. On my own, I would find it a bit overwhelming to find a recipe when we are basically left with only fowl or pasta entrees when fish, shellfish, and red meat are eliminated. But Selectivor delineates what is and is not an option to serve to display “Allowed foods“, “Maybe allowed foods“, and “Not Allowed Foods“.
With a gluten-free guest, there are gluten-free pasta options like veggie noodles, but we decided to stick with fowl, and in light of it being the end of the fall season, I chose Chicken over Turkey for this particular gathering.
I took inspiration from the Selectivor food lists of foods that are approved for everyone before proceeding to specific recipes. It felt like browsing Pinterest when I am looking for decorating ideas, but it sparked my creativity for food ideas instead! Here are my results:
THE MEAL: APPETIZERS
By using Selectivor, we found enough amuse-bouche appetizer selections that everyone could enjoy something along with a glass of a special wine before the meal started.
We casually had wine and appetizers before sitting down to dinner. The appetizers were set out informally on my farm-style kitchen table and guests grazed and drank and we chatted while I finished the final touches on the meal. It was a good way to spend time with my guests as we all ate and drank together.
Selectivor indicated that there were many fruits that everyone could eat, so we also served lots of fruit during the pre-dinner festivities. To complement the red wine, we selected grapes, apricots, plums, figs and bing cherries. This gave the appetizer food presentation some color and variety while also being edible by everyone.
I like that with Selectivor, you can find as many appetizers as you need if you choose to serve only foods everyone that can eat. Appetizers for food-restricted guests is difficult for me, so this is a real find.
Store-purchased Gluten Free baguettes are readily available fresh or frozen for my bruschetta and other bread-based appetizers. To compensate for any potential taste and texture gaps that gluten-eaters may sense from the lack of gluten, I used a particularly high-quality balsamic vinegar for the tomato and basil mix bruschetta topping to make the flavors stand out. Your gluten-enabled friends won’t notice a difference in taste or texture to the gluten-free bread as bruschetta is toasted with a bit of brushed olive oil that can be infused. The “Condiments, Sauces and Soups” section of the Selectivor Food List is very helpful to find ideas like this to enhance the meal for everyone’s enjoyment.
PEANUT ALLERGY WORKAROUNDS
One of the cheeses was nut-based, but come to find out, not everyone with Peanut allergies is allergic to other nuts, tree nuts might be on the “Maybe Foods List”. We had Rosemary and Garlic Infused Oven Roasted Almonds, (a tree nut) which was edible even by our guest with peanut allergies.
MY OVERALL IMPRESSION OF SELECTIVOR FOR FINDING APPETIZERS
I was pleased to have so many ideas and suggestions for inspiration from Selectivor so we could serve a full and tasty menu. Using Selectivor saved time so that instead of endless researching and stressing to find recipes to please everyone, I could focus on getting flowers for the table, find a few nice wine pairings for each course, pairing fruits to enhance the wine, selecting serving pieces and shopping for foods we could all eat and enjoy. I got to try a few new things too!
Are you worried your guests who eat everything will feel underwhelmed by your meal? Don’t. If you’re making many appetizers to enjoy with a pre-dinner glass of wine, you may still choose to have a crowd favorite that not everyone can have, like one seafood dish, as long as the seafood is clearly labeled as such to alert allergic guests to choose from the other selections. We typically serve plenty of seafood, but we found ample appetizers choices without it so this time we left it out.
Our guest-friendly meal: Curry Chicken, Brown Jasmine Rice, Glazed Carrot Coins, Gluten-Free Artisan Herbed Bread, and to drink there was a pitcher of home-brewed Green Tea Lemonade and bottles of Chardonnay, depending on the guests’ preference.
The Curry Chicken recipe is super easy to make, tender, moist and flavorful.
Food restrictions don’t have to mean bland tasting food. We got to use our organic farm carrots to make these Glazed Carrot Coins, a farm to table restaurant quality side style recipe made with orange juice, cinnamon, and fresh ginger that adds an unexpected lightly sweet but spicy, tangy taste!
We served sliced fruit and Gluten-free Carrot Cake Cupcakes (made with the organic farm carrots) with an optional cream cheese drizzle frosting served on the side for those who could have it. It was rich and sweet enough that it didn’t really need the frosting though.
Another Gluten-free option that would have worked for everyone was an Avocado Chocolate Mousse that sounded delicious, but we opted for the carrot cakes’ seasonal notes of the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla and will save the Mousse for our next gathering at the beginning of winter.
ABOUT THE RECIPE: This Gluten-free Carrot Cake recipe met the needs of our dairy-free and our gluten-free guests, and also incorporated our preference to use our organic farm fresh carrots. Here is a picture of the dessert prep stage.
TIP: while preparing the rest of the recipe, soak the shredded organic carrots and raisins in a bit of water with the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg to impart extra flavor and make the cupcake inclusions extra moist.
And here is the finished plated dessert:
OUR EXPERIENCE: MY RESULTS
My guests and I all found Selectivor to be easy to use and fun. It was so much easier for me to plan a menu and it introduced me to ideas that never occurred to me. There are foods I would have thought were not to be given to those with gluten allergies, but it turns out they are actually gluten-free foods that everyone can enjoy.
Guests with restricted diets do not have to worry that they are an imposition or being rude to make their food restrictions known, they can do so politely and discretely, and they don’t have to worry that they may inadvertently eat something they cannot or should not.
One guest, Gemma, found the idea of using Selectivor to be such a relief because she has so many food allergies that she is often reluctant to eat at restaurants or go over someone’s house for dinner because she feels like an imposition and she hates making someone feel bad by refusing a food she is allergic too, especially with misunderstood allergies like gluten. A few times well-meaning friends and family have served Gemma something they thought was gluten-free but it wasn’t. She also has been burned a few times by the “secret ingredient” in a family recipe being nuts or shellfish and has eaten something and not known until it was too late! But Selectivor is a great tool for highly food restricted guests or those who choose to adhere to certain dietary choices.
Do you have serious food allergies or restrictions like Gemma? Then don’t miss out or suffer in silence! Selectivor profiles can be shared with anyone you dine with.
Selectivor is accurate (no well-meaning mistakes about what is and is not gluten-free for example) it’s convenient and you do not need to worry about the social awkwardness of declining food items. Invite friends, family or anyone else to your profile on Facebook.
As a host, I found it so much easier to use a tool like Selectivor instead of manually researching through my recipes trying to find something everyone could have and like. It gave me ideas I would not have thought of and saved a great deal of time worrying about finding common foods for everyone. This gave me time to focus on what we could do instead of what we couldn’t, so I could prepare enough in advance to be able to spend the most time with my guests.
Selectivor allows you to create and manage profiles for loved ones who can’t or won’t create a profile, such as children or elderly relatives. This way, as a host, you are alerted to food restrictions you might otherwise forget, such as low salt or peanut allergies.
TIP: Do you have a secret ingredient in a family recipe you don’t wish to divulge but don’t want to accidentally trigger a food allergy? As long as you strictly adhere to Selectivor’s common food list when serving your guests, it’s okay to keep your family secret recipe a secret.
I also got to try food I would not have even thought of! For example, dairy-free doesn’t necessarily mean no cheese whatsoever, but perhaps ask dairy-free guests about trying a coconut milk cheese instead.
An easy and fun way to plan a meal for friends with various allergies, health conditions, and picky eaters with food preferences, sign up for Selectivor at Selectivor.com or download the app and begin the fun process of putting together a meal everyone can enjoy! We had a blast planning our meal this weekend!
WHERE TO FIND IT
Who doesn’t love a happy dinosaur? You can win a Selectivor T-Shirt or a four pack set of eco-friendly cork Selectivor logo coasters bearing the Selectivor dino for your very own! To enter, just comment below with a recipe you came up with thanks to Selectivor. Winners will be notified by December 15th.
Style Chicks reviewed the Selectivor app in exchange for our unbiased review and received compensation for our time and effort. However, our experience with the product and the opinions expressed in this review are 100% ours.