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Helpful Tips To Enjoy Social Situations On a Special Diet

If you eat a special diet, enjoying dining out and social situations can be challenging, but not impossible. A few simple tips will help make the experience enjoyable for everyone.

So there’s no misunderstanding, by diet, I’m referring to a general term for however you choose to eat and not necessarily a weight loss program which might be implied with the term diet. By specialty, I’m referring to, and trying not to perpetuate labeling ourselves, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, dairy free, etc. food choices.

Vegetarian Times released a study, Vegetarianism In America. Did you know 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet? Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all.

How about gluten free diners? Beyond Celiac reports, an estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has celiac disease. About 30 percent of American adults are living gluten free. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness about 18 millions Americans have non-celiac sensitivity to gluten.

And dairy free? 30-50 percent of Americans are lactose intolerant.

No matter how you look at it, those numbers equal a lot of parties, picnics, office parties, and special events with friends and family. The numbers also mean challenging social situations for a lot of Americans.

You can eat a special diet and enjoy social situations.

These tips will help:

Be a Helpful Guest

When you’re going to a dinner party, be considerate of the host and let them know your dietary needs in advance so they can be prepared. Try to avoid the event becoming about you not eating. Think about sharing simple recipes that meet your diet needs and/or offering to bring a dish or 2.

Be a Thoughtful and Prepared Host

If you’re serving family and friends a meal, consider any special diet needs of your guests. When you’re planning the menu think whole food recipes that many can enjoy whether on a special diet or not. You can even ask for recipe suggestions. Make the event about connecting and being together and not all about the food being shared. I’ve personally taken many social opportunities to introduce how tasty plant-based meals can be and so far some have been very surprised and I’ve had no complaints.

Make Restaurant Suggestions

You know the restaurants that offer gluten free or vegetarian menus. Suggest a few restaurants that you know will be a pleasant dining experience for everyone.

Ask the Chef

If you’re dining at a restaurant that doesn’t offer specialty diet menus or menu items, have the server ask the chef if he/she can take special [and simple] requests. Talk to the server away from the table if that’s more comfortable for you. Many chefs will enjoy the challenge of creating a dish that you can eat and will enjoy.

Stay Committed

Don’t let the comments, opinions or pressure of others derail your healthy efforts. Remember why you have made the healthy changes and commit to your decision. If jokes are cracked and/or questions are asked, politely offer to share your story at another time.

Enjoy Yourself

The important part of the event is the people. Being together, talking, laughing and connecting is what’s important. The food is just extra. If you do give in at the birthday party or succumb at the office pizza party, don’t beat yourself up. That’s a guarantee to not enjoy yourself. Continue with the evening and get back on track with your next meal.

The foods you eat is a personal choice and that choice doesn’t mean you have to give up the social  events that come with living a a healthy well rounded life.

Looking for more tips that will make healthy living a whole lot easier? Check out the great posts on the Healthy Living Tips Pinterest board:

Do you ever make special requests when dining out? What other ways can social situations be challenging?

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  1. Those statistics were very interesting as were your tips for social situations. Recently there was a restaurant here and the diner told the owner that he had a peanut allergy. He made his order and the chef ignored the peanut allergy. The diner died and the owner of the restaurant is in goal.

    Bloggers Pit Stop

  2. Man, when I first starting going out or to places like birthday dinners or comedy club outings (when I was on a diet), it was soooo hard. It takes time to get used to it, but you eventually find a groove.

  3. These are all great tips. I personally always make sure to take a side dish when I am invited somewhere to ensure I eat! lol

  4. I LOVE this! I have a severe peanut and tree nut allergy and have always been able to enjoy myself at cookouts or parties by being proactive and coming prepared. These tips can apply to all different types of situations, whether you’re on a diet, have an allergy, or choose not to eat certain things. Great tips!

  5. I used to have the hardest time with this when I first went dairy-free but I had a couple other lactose intolerant friends so it wasn’t that bad. But now that I’m plant based and only of my friends is, we have a tougher time finding foods to satisfy everyone. So I usually just walk with my own stuff or eat before I go.

  6. My daughter gets so embarrassed when asking for gluten free options or if the food is prepared in a gluten free area. I know our dining experiences have changed and become more difficult.

  7. these are great tips. Son has an ulcer so eating at other people’s house can get rough. I need to try some of theses tips.

  8. I can be hard when everyone around you is eating things that you just cant eat. I was lactose intolerant (I thought) for a year and it would leave me severely sick for at least 12 hours if I had any dairy. In most cases people were kind about it, but it was hard when others made it into something big. We all need to be aware and kind when people have special dietary needs. Thanks for the tips!

  9. I avoid eating so many foods, it is very difficult to attend a dinner at someone’s house. I agree with you, I always bring a dish to pass so I know I will have something to eat, and I can usually find something I can nibble.

  10. I’m newly embarking on a special needs diet. I’m definitely apprehensive about social situations, particularly restaurants. And not so much the nicer ones, but more like the delis and bagel shops, that sort of thing. Thanks for posting this!

  11. I am a vegetarian and it can be frustrating sometimes, especially at blogging events were they barely cater to us veggies. I agree letting hosts know beforehand is good protocol.

  12. This is so great! I always try to be a helpful host when friends and family members with special diets come over 🙂

  13. These are all such great tips. I hate to be difficult, so the biggest thing for me was learning to speak up.

  14. These are really great tips! I’m noticing though, that a lot of major restaurant chains (and local/smaller restaurants) are offering more options now.

  15. These tips are so great! Having food allergies can be super hard… both physically and socially. I usually bring a dish to any social event, just so I know I can eat something! Thanks for the other suggestions!

  16. Great tips Jill! Whenever I am hosting I always ask my guests if they have any food allergies/restrictions so I can be prepared and make sure I have something for everyone. Maybe it’s the dietitian in me, but I think it’s the considerate thing to do!

  17. I sometimes make requests when dining out, but only if I can’t find something on the menu I really like. I rarely have an issue when I’m at someone’s house, unless I don’t know them, but usually, I can find something to eat. I don’t like to make a big deal out of my diet unless someone asks, then I will respectfully tell them about certain foods I can’t eat.

  18. Love this! A lot of my friends are on a dietary restriction so we always have to ensure the restaurant we pick is accommodating.

  19. Great tips! I’m always so afraid of speaking up but I’m getting better about!

  20. There’s always the option to eat before you go too.

  21. These are all great tips. It definitely helps to bring a dish that you know is healthy. That way you cut down on temptation and know you have a go to dish if you need it.

  22. These are great tips! When I was a teen and a vegetarian it was very unusual and I always felt odd bringing it up. I try to offer to bring a dish to parties so I always have something to eat

  23. These are wonderful tips Jill! As someone with a clam allergy, I ALWAYS ask questions because you never know what ingredients are hiding in things! Fish sauce is especially suspicious! I hope you have a great weekend!

  24. Wow, those numbers really put things in perspective! This is a great topic and definitely one I want to keep in mind when I’m having or attending social gatherings. I didn’t realize so many adults are gluten-free!

  25. Great tips-especially being considerate of friends if you are hosting them or going out to eat with them so you can pick a place where they can actually eat something and have options!

  26. When I was a vegan I definitely ran into a few challenging situations, mostly when someone would have me over for dinner. I Didn’t want to seem too demanding but I wanted to make sure I could eat something! Usually I’d offer to bring a side dish that could work as a main dish in case they were making meat! 🙂 Great tips, Jill!

    1. I offer to bring dishes too! Usually the host(ess) is ok with it because it’s one less thing for them to do AND they get to try something new 🙂

  27. When it comes to cookouts, potlucks or holiday dinners, I always offer to make and bring a vegetarian dish that all can enjoy, and I can have something to eat. When going out, my friends usually let me choose the restaurant, which I research ahead of time for food options we’ll all like and can eat.

  28. i make a ton of special requests when dining out. both for health reasons and because i am a picky eater. i make up for it by tipping really well!

    1. Haha I was going to mention leave a great tip. I do. Always when the server is helpful. I’ve had a few, not so much.

      Have a great weekend Glenneth!

  29. Some days I feel like Im a minority. Both my family and I are food allergy free with no restrictions. I always offer options for my guests to enjoy, upon request. I love this list its very helpful!

    1. I see what you mean but no, restriction free is still the majority. So as a hostess you like it when requests are made or no?

  30. These are great tips! I raised my two nut allergic (and one was dairy allergic) boys like this. Birthday parties were tough. School parties were tough too. But I tried really hard not to make a big deal about it–I did n’t want them to be singled out nor did I want to burden the hosts of the parties.

    1. Not making a big deal. Exactly. I can imagine school parties could be a nightmare.

  31. My biggest piece of advice for those who have special dietary restrictions is to simply SPEAK UP. Neither you nor your host(ess) want you to be miserable! So be proacitve, but be polite, and everyone will thank you for it.

    1. Exactly! That way the event doesn’t become about you not eating or what you can’t eat. Keep it at not a big deal. Thanks Susie.

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