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How to politely handle diet restrictions during the holidays

At just under 5 feet tall, I have to watch every single morsel that enters my mouth. Believe me, it’s not fun, and neither is celebrating one of the biggest food extravaganzas of the year with a diet restricted to a laundry list of nos.

Living in Los Angeles, the capital city of fad diets, doesn’t help. There are almost as many self-imposed dietary restrictions in this town as there are plastic surgery mishaps. So how does one break bread with family and friends at the Thanksgiving table when that very bread is considered taboo? And, how do we appease those with true intolerance to certain foods versus those who enforce restrictions for purely personal reasons?

Honestly, it’s enough to turn the most well-intentioned meal into a veritable food minefield. This one can’t eat wheat, that one won’t eat dairy and no one wants to touch anything that resembles a tofurky! While the Thanksgiving meal is the Super Bowl of dining experiences, the emphasis should really be on the gathering and bonding of family and friends, not on stuffing our mouths to the gills. Here’s how to navigate the Thanksgiving meal while keeping both guests and host happy.

Be a humble host

Before stepping one foot into the grocery store, a respectful host should defer to their guests to make sure there are no life-threatening dietary restrictions. Someone may be deathly allergic to pecans and another to cow’s milk. A good host never assumes and is creative with a menu of options to satiate the most scrupulous of guests.

Cook with consciousness

All Thanksgiving items should be cooked with love, care and good health in mind. Create a menu that will inspire palates, not just add inches to the waistline. Foods should be varied in color as well as selection. Choose whole ingredients and organic items whenever possible. Visit the farmers market to pick fresh produce and vegetables. Opt for a free-range turkey without growth hormones or antibiotics. Select quality meats that are grass-fed.

Embody the gracious guest

A gracious guest accepts an invitation to Thanksgiving with every intention to enjoy the meal and eat what is served. They would never present the host with a list of food demands or put the host in an uncomfortable position for not catering to their food limitations, especially if they are self-imposed.

Offer to contribute a dish

A surefire way to impress your host and address a dietary need is by offering to contribute a dish for the Thanksgiving table that is satisfying and delicious for all. Provide a recipe that is hearty and will satisfy your hunger in the event this becomes your main dish.

Eat a nibble beforehand

If you fashion yourself a picky eater or have major dietary constraints, grab a bite to eat at home before heading out to your Thanksgiving celebration. This will help curb your appetite should the meal not live up to your expectations. It’s not a bad idea for the host to enjoy a little pre-Thanksgiving tidbit as well. This will provide extra sustenance while they’re busy serving the guests. And, both host and guests may benefit from a light nibble beforehand to absorb alcoholic beverages and prevent potential holiday meltdowns.

Photo credit: Henner Zeller/Flickr

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