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Universal Meals: Food Everyone Can Enjoy

More people than ever are changing the way they eat—for health reasons, environmental or humane concerns, or other motivations. Many more have followed cultural or religious food traditions all their lives.

They take their preferences and traditions with them when they board a plane, go to a business meeting, visit the breakfast bar at a hotel, have lunch in a cafeteria, or meet friends at a restaurant. It is challenging for them if their nutritional preferences are not reflected in anything that is served. And it is no less challenging for businesses that want to be able to respond to clients’ requests.

Universal Meals is a simple set of guidelines that meet a wide range of food requirements and can be implemented anywhere food is served. Imagine being lactose intolerant, following a vegan diet, or avoiding meat and eggs for religious reasons, and never again having to ask if suitable foods would be available—because they always are. Imagine being a flight attendant who never again has to say, “I’m sorry, if you wanted a vegan meal, you would have had to order it 48 hours in advance.” Universal Meals means never having to say you’re sorry.

Different Needs and Traditions

Diet choices differ for many reasons:

Religious traditions

People from a Jewish tradition often avoid pork and shellfish. Those from a Muslim tradition often avoid pork and alcohol. Those from a Hindu tradition avoid beef and most avoid meat and eggs. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians avoid animal products two days each week and during Lent.

Health, humane, or environmental concerns: Many people avoid meat or all animal products.

Lactose intolerance

Many people, particularly people of color, have difficulty digesting dairy products.

Gluten-free

Individuals with gluten sensitivities avoid wheat, barley, and rye.

Allergies

Certain foods trigger allergies in sensitive people: dairy products, eggs, fish and shellfish, nuts and peanuts, wheat, and soybeans, for example.

Foods that work well for nearly everyone include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and non-gluten grains (e.g., rice, corn, quinoa, etc.). While it is not possible to cover every possible food tradition, preference, or medical need, it is relatively straightforward to cover the vast majority of them.