How to accommodate special diets during the holiday season.

How to accommodate special diets during the holiday season.
The holiday season is upon us, which means plenty of gatherings that revolve around food. This can create anxiety for hosts and attendees alike, as food sensitivities and special diets seem to be more prevalent than ever.

What is the etiquette regarding asking hosts to accommodate special diets and how far are hosts expected to go? Are there different rules if it’s a small gathering or a larger dinner party? And does the already stress-inducing holiday season mean we all need to loosen up our food

Allergies, sensitivities and preferences

If you have a food allergy, it’s your responsibility to let your host know. This is a safety issue, so don’t be shy about speaking up. Hosts should do everything they can to accommodate allergies.

With food sensitivities, intolerances, preferences or personal choices, things get a bit murkier. A good rule of thumb is the closer the relationship and the smaller the gathering, the more appropriate it is to bring up food preferences that aren’t allergies or otherwise essential. A festive dinner for three at your sister’s house? You can mention that you’re trying to avoid red meat. Going to a holiday party for 70 people at your significant other’s boss’s house? Best to keep nonessential special requests to yourself.

Advice for holiday hosts

If you don’t want to have to accommodate special diets, it’s best not to ask at all. If you ask about food preferences, you are then expected to make an effort to meet the needs brought up by your guests. You could be opening the floodgates.

If a guest does bring up a diet preference that you feel isn’t essential or is a bit too demanding, you can say: “I’ll do my best to accommodate that. I will be serving plenty of vegetables, a large salad and wild rice pilaf.” Letting the person know what other dishes you are planning will help them know what to expect, and they will know they can complement their meal with other options.

Remember it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the person with the allergy or food restriction to bring something.This makes the guests responsible for his or her own special requirements. They are experts on their diets, not you.

Advice for holiday guests

If you have a special diet, religious or other food restrictions, or especially an allergy, you should say to your holiday host: “I’d love to come, but I want you to know I’m allergic to/can’t have [blank]. I’d like to bring a dish to share with everyone.”

Take the guesswork and stress out of it for the host and take your own diet-appropriate side dish for everyone to try.

What if you’re on a juice fast, sugar detox, low-carb diet or other program that you have to admit is short-term? First of all, why are you on this diet at all, especially during the holidays? Second, it’s rude to share preferences or special diets you are on with your hosts. They were gracious enough to invite you to a meal. Either decline the invitation or let it go for that one meal.

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