Hosting holiday get-togethers and deciding what food and drinks to serve is complicated by the many special diets people are on. Between food allergies, dietary restrictions, and lifestyle choices such as vegan or vegetarian – finding a menu so your guests don't leave hungry can be a challenge.
Whether you're hosting an event and want all your guests to be comfortable or you're attending an event and don't want to be a #DietDiva, you can take steps in advance to plan for special dietary needs.
How Hosts Can Manage Guests' Special Diets
Whether you're planning a sit-down dinner for 6, a cocktail party for 20 or organizing a large event for hundreds, plan your menu with some neutral food and drink options that accommodate nearly every food plan.
● For small gatherings, you may want to inquire in advance if anyone has food allergies.
● Offer non-alchoholic beverage options including water, soda and coffee or tea.
● A fresh fruit and veggie tray accommodates many special diets.
● If a guest offers to bring their own meal or a dish to share to accommodate their dietary restrictions, graciously accept their offer. However, if your menu simply can't be changed (some people have airborne food allergies), just let the invitee know what's being served and let them decide if they will attend or not.
Tips for Party-Goers with Special Diets
Your host is probably not a nutritionist or chef, and shouldn't be expected to create a special menu for each guest. If you're invited to an event and are concerned that your diet – whether medically necessitated or by choice for fitness or lifestyle – there are some simple things you can do in advance so your host isn't put on the spot and you don't go home ravenous.
Small Dinner Parties or Gatherings
If you're invited to someone's home or an intimate location, let the host know in advance of your dietary restrictions. It's your decision whether to explain why you're on a special diet. In a small group where not eating will be obvious, when you RSVP to the invitation let the host know you're on a restricted diet. Your host may have the event planned around a special menu, such as a wine and cheese party when you're dairy-free, or time or budget may prevent the host from providing a special meal for you.
● If you're a close friend, ask what the menu will be and let the host know if you're able to enjoy what they serve.
● Offer to bring your own dish to supplement the menu. Bring enough to share!
● Eat before you arrive at the event so if there isn't enough food to fill you up, you're not sneaking peeks at your watch every few minutes for a safe time to depart.
● Politely thank the host and decline the invitation if you feel the event simply doesn't accommodate your diet needs, or if you feel there will be too much temptation to break your dietary goals.
Often for work or special occasions you want to attend an event without advising the host of your dietary needs. In that case, eat before you arrive and keep a stash of nuts or crackers or other small snacks in your purse.
With today's emphasis on healthy lifestyle choices, there is less pressure to drink alcoholic beverages at events and parties. Hosts should always have water, soda or other alcohol-free drinks available.
● At a small gathering at someone's home, simply ask for water or a soft drink. No explanation is required. If someone asks, simply say you prefer something light.
● Many large events have preset table settings. Turn your wine glass upside down if you do not want to be served. Lift your empty glass or water glass if there is a toast.
● At a large reception or event, a cocktail may be at your place when you are seated. If you're not tempted, simply leave your drink untouched. If it's too much temptation, request the waiter remove the drink. No explanation is required.
● Water is always available. If you don't want to call attention to your alcohol-free choices at a holiday event, ask the bartender for a sparkling water or club soda with lime.
It's possible to attend a holiday party or special event if you're on a restricted diet and not leave hungry or with a growling stomach. All it requires is a bit of advance planning!
Catherine Russell is Būband's Content Manager