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