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Gluten-free and vegan meals fattening profits

Sales of organic packaged foods rose 24 percent to $11.48 billion over five years. Gluten-free packaged foods more than doubled, to $419.8 million. Packaged foods for those avoiding wheat, dairy, and sugar rose 12 percent to $2.89 billion. Above, a vegetarian meal.

Matthew Mead/Associated Press/File 2012

Sales of organic packaged foods rose 24 percent to $11.48 billion over five years. Gluten-free packaged foods more than doubled, to $419.8 million. Packaged foods for those avoiding wheat, dairy, and sugar rose 12 percent to $2.89 billion. Above, a vegetarian meal.

NEW YORK — Three types of stuffing will be offered on Stacy Fox’s table this Thanksgiving: traditional, gluten-free, and vegan.

There will be steak for people who don’t like turkey. No eggs will be used in the latkes, or Jewish potato pancakes. And the sweet potato pie will be topped with vegan marshmallows from a health food store.

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‘‘My life used to be simple,’’ said Fox, who’s entertaining 18 guests in Suffern, N.Y.

Across the country, tables will be set to accommodate everyone from vegans and vegetarians to those trying to eat like cavemen. The increasingly complicated feasts reflect the growing ranks of Americans who are paying closer attention to the food they put into their bodies.

The reasons vary. With two-thirds of the US population overweight or obese, many find rules help ward off temptation. Or people steer clear of ingredients such as dairy to alleviate bloating or to boost energy. Others worry about the long-term effect of artificial dyes, preservatives, and antibiotics.

While dietary quirks may seem like a mere curiosity, they’re reshaping the food industry. Sales of organic packaged foods rose 24 percent to $11.48 billion over the past five years, according to the market researcher Euromonitor International. Gluten-free packaged foods, for those who are sensitive to wheat, more than doubled, to $419.8 million. And the broader market of packaged foods for people with intolerances of things like wheat, dairy, and sugar rose 12 percent to $2.89 billion.

With gluten-free varieties of Chex cereal, General Mills says it was able to reverse years of declines and get sales growing again. This year, its sales are up 6 percent from the same time last year.

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Hillshire Brands has expanded the number of sausages and meatballs made without antibiotics under its higher-end Aidells brand, a bright spot for the company. And sales of Tofurky, the tofu-based turkey alternative for vegetarians, have grown each year since it was introduced in 1995, said founder and president Seth Tibbott.

When Tofurky was rolled out, only about 500 were sold in health food stores in Portland and Seattle. This year, Tibbott expects to sell about 350,000 of the loaves.

‘‘People do say it’s close to turkey,’’ Tibbott said, noting the company has worked to achieve the hint of gaminess that distinguishes turkey from chicken.

Still, many remain Thanksgiving traditionalists. Some with dietary restrictions find they still must make concessions when eating at relatives’ houses.

Alison Johnson realizes it would be unreasonable to expect in-laws to cater to her many preferences. She’s a vegetarian, and she and her husband are on a Paleo diet that shuns processed foods, legumes, and most sugars. For Thanksgiving, she plans to relax her rules a bit, sticking to the side dishes and bringing her own Paleo-friendly pumpkin bars for dessert.

‘‘When you start saying you’re diabetic and Paleo and vegetarian, they would just throw their hands up and give up,’’ said Johnson, who runs a recruiting firm in the Albany, N.Y., region.

In other households, those with dietary restrictions have taken control.

Daniel Albaugh, a personal trainer in Houston, said his family feasts on Tofurky and stopped bothering with a turkey a few years ago. He and his fiance are vegans, as are his mother and sister.

‘‘We outnumber them now,’’ said Albaugh, 31, of his stepfather and grandmother. ‘‘They don’t mind it. We gradually stopped accommodating the meat eaters.’’

Making special dishes isn’t just about pacifying the squeaky wheels, either. When one family member makes a change in diet, it can have a ripple effect, particularly during the holidays, when food is center stage.

Eddie Garza, a sustainability coordinator for a real estate company in Dallas, became a vegan 10 years ago after growing up on the ‘‘typical American diet.’’ Over the years, he made it a point to educate his family about the health, environmental, and ethical reasons for his lifestyle. There will still be a turkey on the table this year, but a tofu alternative is now a staple, too. Garza, 36, is bringing four Gardein-brand tofu alternatives to dinner, because his relatives always end up eating some.

His mother, Emma Martinez, said she grew up on a meat-centric diet in Mexico. But the retired school nurse has cut down significantly on meat and other animal products, even when Eddie isn’t at home. She likes the tofu roast as much as the turkey.

‘‘I don’t really see too much of a difference; it’s just a matter of getting used to something,’’ said Martinez, 64.

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