Special Diets and Sticky Situations

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Without a doubt, most social gatherings are centered around food. So if you happen to be following a special diet (such as gluten-free or low-glycemic index), I bet you’ve found yourself in some pretty sticky social situations. Simply going out to dinner with friends, attending a wedding reception or dinner party can seem daunting when you’re anxious not only about the food options, but also about calling attention to yourself. As a diabetic on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, I understand that from a social standpoint being on a special diet doesn’t always feel “special”! Here are some general tips that I have found helpful for handling some of the tricky social aspects of following such diets.
  • Consider dining at local restaurants rather than chain restaurants. Chain restaurants often use mostly pre-made ingredients, and so they are less able to accommodate special requests than a restaurant that cooks from scratch.
  • When dining out, if possible come up with a couple of options that fit your diet by checking out the restaurant’s website and menu online ahead of time.
  • Call ahead during a non-busy time and talk with the manager of the restaurant about possible options to accommodate your needs.
  • A typically safe bet when dining out is to order items off the menu without sauces, dressings or condiments. For example, grilled meat or seafood, plain rice or baked potatoes, and steamed vegetables would likely be good options.
  • Leave your house prepared with appropriate snacks just in case there are few menu options that fit into your dietary needs.
  • Seek out online resources such as forums or chat rooms that address your specific special diet for tips from others in your situation.
  • If you’re invited to a party where you do not know the host or hostess well and you don’t want to disclose your special dietary needs, call to thank them for the invitation and ask if you can bring something (“Can I ask what you’re serving so I can bring something that complements?”). Unless they tell you not to bring anything, this can be a tactful way to find out what’s being served.
  • Talk to your loved ones about how important it is for you to stay true to your diet in tricky situations. Ask for their support.
  • If you’re concerned about causing an inconvenience, remember that you are the one who will need to deal with consequences of eating something that may not agree with you. Staying true to your health needs means you’re respecting yourself.
Here are a few helpful resources for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and diabetic living:
  1. Gluten Intolerance Group website http://www.gluten.net/
  2. Gluten-Free Apps for your mobile device
  3. The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free by Jules E. Dowler Shepard
  4. dLife website and diabetes forum: http://www.dlife.com/
  5. The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen cookbook and blog: http://www.nourishingmeals.com/
  6. Go Dairy Free website and cookbook: http://www.godairyfree.org
Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health. She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.