Awhile ago one of my co-workers asked me what he should order for a team lunch we were having. He heard that I avoid gluten and wanted to know if gluten free pizza would work because that seemed to be the easiest option. That’s when I smiled and told him I don’t eat dairy, so it would have to be gluten-free, cheese-less pizza. Oh, I said, it also needs to be vegetarian!
After our exchange was over, I started to feel guilty because I was “that” picky eater that everyone rolls their eyes at. But then I reminded myself that I choose to eat this way for my health, and one should never apologize for that.
However, that doesn’t make it any easier when I list my restrictions to someone who is planning a meal I will consume. Part of it is because I really want to eat all of those foods, but I know that if I do, I’ll pay for it later in the form of a stomach ache, digestion problems and acne.
It’s been about two years since I started eating only local, humanely-raised meat and more than a year since I completed my elimination diet and started cutting out dairy, sugar and gluten. Over time I have had my fair share of awkward moments (true story, someone once told me: “Oh I made this vegetarian! It only has a little bit of bacon”) so I have learned how to handle those awkward situations.
To my delight, a few friends have recently asked me for some advice on this topic, so I thought I would share my tips for responding to a dinner invitation when you have food restrictions, whether it’s someone’s house, or at a restaurant. I’ve also included a few pieces of advice if you are inviting someone with food restrictions to eat at your home.
Tips for eating when someone invites you over:
- Explain your limitations early, preferably when they extend the invitation.
- Don’t apologize.
- Ask what dish you can bring to share.
- If the subject of your limitations comes up during the meal, don’t preach about why they should eliminate those foods from their diet, but instead briefly explain why you don’t eat a particular kind of food.
- If for some reason it turns out there is no food that meets your restrictions, eat as little as possible of the foods that will make you feel the least bad (disclaimer: if you are severely allergic, please do not eat it!). For me, it’s gluten, so if there is something with gluten I opt for that over something with dairy or meat. Fortunately, I’m not allergic to any of the foods I avoid, so if I eat them I will only feel crummy instead of having a dangerous reaction.
- Scout out the menu ahead of time to identify menu items you can have. This is especially important if you are not picking the restaurant.
- Eat a snack before you go so you’re not starving when you get there. This is especially important for me, because when I’m hungry I don’t make the best choices when it comes to food.
- Don’t be embarrassed to ask your sever if a dish contains a specific ingredient, and if necessary/appropriate, ask them to leave it out.
- When making special requests, be polite but again, don’t apologize or say “I know I’m being difficult but…” You should not be sorry for choosing to eat the food your body needs to feel its best.
How about you? If you have food restrictions how do you handle it when you eat out?