Whether you’re hosting this year’s holiday meal or attending a dinner party elsewhere, conversations around food allergies and dietary intolerances can be somewhat insensitive and isolating.

The following tips will help ensure that you accommodate others’ dietary restrictions – or navigate your own – without cooking up a hot debate over the holiday menu.

What Are Common Food Intolerances?

Nearly 20% of the population may have a food intolerance. Common intolerances include lactose, dairy, gluten, caffeine, salicylates, amines, and fructose, among many others. Food intolerance is not the same thing as a food allergy, which can be potentially life-threatening.

Before you add those nuts on top of your sweet potato casserole, be sure to find out what your guests may or may not safely consume. Rest easy; you can savor the holidays and handle any of your guests’ food concerns without skimping on taste.

Tips for Dealing with Dietary Restrictions During the Holidays

Contact Guests Beforehand

Rather than have your guests placed in the awkward position of passing on an offer of your famous whipped mashed potatoes, why not reach out to all invited and find out if anyone has dietary restrictions? Not only will this gesture be appreciated, but you’ll also be able to plan and provide other options to create a happy dining experience for everyone attending.

Notify the Host of Your Preferences

If you’re a vegetarian, it can be pretty awkward to show up to a dinner party only to turn down the poultry or the green beans mixed with ham. Instead, take the time to notify the party’s host, explaining your choice not to eat from a traditional menu, and then offer to bring a couple of your favorite dishes.

Consider Splurging For the Day (Or Not)

It can be challenging to explain to Grandma why you don’t choose to eat all the stuffing and carb-loaded casseroles she takes great pride in preparing year after year. So, if it’s not an allergy or health issue, and you’re merely trying to follow a carb-restrictive diet, you may decide to splurge for the day.

If you’re diligent about getting back on your diet track after your meal, you can enjoy a holiday feast without sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. In other words, it’s okay to have a “cheat” day here or there. And there’s simply no better time to do that than at a family feast.

That said, your diet is no one’s decision but your own. If you want to maintain a strict protocol through the holidays, do not feel responsible for protecting everyone’s feelings. Be polite always, and then eat what you choose to eat (or not eat) without guilt or shame.

Don’t Take Things Personally

If you’re the cook, you might allow feelings that your guests shouldn’t limit their intake of your lovingly-prepared meal. Rather than take food preferences and dietary omissions personally, be graceful and understanding that food sensitivity does exist. Please don’t make it an issue. It’s much better to display empathy than judgment for others’ choices. After all, holiday meals are a time to come together with loved ones, not make them wish they’d never arrived at your table.

Find Alternatives

There’s nothing wrong with offering a few alternative menu items if it means providing a safe meal for everyone to enjoy. Once you have a list of dietary concerns or sensitivities, you can prepare a well-planned feast that satisfies everyone. From tasty side dishes to the main course, there are plenty of alternatives to satisfy every guest’s palates and dietary needs.

Pick Your Battles

If you know dietary concerns are a heated issue in your family, you might find it’s better to keep the topic off the menu entirely. Chances are everyone will be focused on their plate rather than watching what you do or don’t eat. There’s nothing wrong with subtly passing on a dish without bringing up the issue for discussion.

Show Gratitude

Even if your host isn’t open to accommodate your diet, it pays to be grateful and appreciative of the invitation. Family and friends are more important than heated debates about food. If you know that the host will be upset by your dietary restrictions, you can either make and bring your meal or pass on their invite with grace. You can always offer to attend the after-dinner party instead.

Hire a Professional Chef

Want to wow your guests and make everyone happy at the dining table? Hire a personal chef who will honor the needs of every loved one invited. Not only will your family and friends enjoy an expertly crafted meal, but by notifying the chef of any food concerns, you set a spirit of love and accommodation around your holiday table.

Whether it’s keto, paleo, dairy, gluten, or nut-free, Savor will happily plan a feast that’s delicious for all your guests. We’ll help you keep sensitive discussion off the dinner table by delivering full-course, personalized holiday meals that accommodate nearly every dietary preference and restriction.