Even if you yourself do not have a restricted diet, chances are you probably know someone who does. Whether by choice or due to food allergies or intolerances, more and more people are becoming aware of foods that don’t serve their bodies and are consequently removing them from their diet. This awareness allows people to live a much happier and healthier life. I am living proof of that!
If you choose to host a dinner party at your home, even one as casual as a backyard BBQ, having someone on the guest list with a limited diet can definitely be daunting and intimidating. Sometimes it’s even tempting to just scratch them off the list and not invite them at all. The simple truth of the matter is, it isn’t easy – especially if you don’t have experience with their special dietary needs or choices. If you are making the choice to host them and accommodate their needs, the best advice I can give is to always ask them any and all questions that you have, so you can be educated on their diet limitations and provide for them, as best possible.
Those of you with the restricted diets, as a guest, owe it to your host to let them know of all of your restrictions – especially if they are offering to make food you can eat. Most of all, be as gracious as possible, especially if they are cooking and trying to accommodate you and your needs.
Here are some quick tips for both host and guest – and how to make everyone happy.
For the Host/ess
1. Do your homework.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – ask about ALL of their restrictions. Don’t guess and don’t ignore.
2. Ask what they can eat.
Just as important as the things they cannot eat, ask about all of the foods your guest is able to eat. Sometimes this can help open your eyes to all of the possibilities instead of focusing on the restrictions.
3. Ask specifically for recommendations or recipes.
Ask about dishes that you could make that would be safe for your guest, enjoyed by all and easy for you to prepare.
4. Ask for help.
If you feel comfortable, ask the guest to bring a dish or dishes to share.
5. Search the internet for recipes that fit into their restrictions.
There are so many amazing blogs with incredible recipes that everyone can enjoy. Send them over to your guest ahead of time for their approval. One of my favorite Vegan – which also covers lactose intolerant and vegetarian – sources is Kathy Patalsky’s Healthy Happy Life. For Gluten free and Paleo diets diets I like Elena’s Pantry.
6. Select a menu that is simple.
Select 3 items for your menu. One for the restricted diet, one salad and one main course. Keeping it simple but good quality will make it enjoyable for you and all of your guests. These days there are so many foods that are already naturally gluten-free, vegan, etc. Focus on those and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be.
7. Ask your guest to help you plan the menu.
Use this as an opportunity to deepen a friendship and cook or go shopping with together. This will insure you are selecting safe ingredients and you won’t put a ton of time into a dish they can’t end up eating.
8. Be mindful of cross contamination.
Watch for hidden ingredients.
9. Don’t try to guilt your guest.
It’s bad form and disrespectful to ask your guest to “just eat this or that”. If they aren’t interested in your cheese dip, even if they are just dairy-free by choice, it’s OK – I am sure your cheese dip is just fine, they probably just don’t want to spend the remainder of the evening in your bathroom. You probably don’t want this either.
For the Guest:
1. Make sure to call ahead to let the host know of your restrictions.
Some hosts may have more experience and awareness with your restrictions than you might realize.
2. Kindly offer to bring a dish to share that everyone will enjoy or to bring your own meal entirely.
Some people just might be uncomfortable with the daunting task of cooking for special dietary needs. Be prepared for that and don’t be put off.
3. Make it clear that you aren’t expecting them to bend over backwards for you.
Let them know you are totally willing to bring your own food if that makes them more comfortable.
4. Offer your advice if they have any questions.
Let them know to contact you with any and all things they are uncertain about.
5. Have a snack (or a full meal, if necessary) before you go.
If you are staying with someone for a length of time, bring plenty of snacks and foods to have on hand for in between meals or making your own meals.
6. Be as gracious as possible, no matter what the circumstances.
When there isn’t much for you to eat and the host is feeling guilty, let them know you appreciate their effort, be grateful and appreciative.
7. If you are headed to a formal event like a wedding.
Make note of your restrictions on the reply card if you feel comfortable. If you don’t, eat a decent sized meal before you leave in the event you cannot eat. If you can’t eat anything being served, don’t make a big deal at the event. Most people won’t even notice if you aren’t eating.
I hope these thoughtful tips help bridge the gap between the the host and the guest when it comes to restricted diets, as well as take some pressure off of everyone. After all, a host wants to do everything they can to make their guests feel special and welcome and I want to help make it as easy as pie – vegan, pale and gluten free of course!
XO – L