How Can I be a Gracious Dinner Party Guest with Food Restrictions?

by Jon Spayde

An etiquette consultant offers four tips to make it easy for everyone.

First, remember that you’re perfectly normal, says Ottawa-based etiquette consultant Julie Blais Comeau. “You’re probably not the only one at the party or in the hosts’ social circle” with specific dietary requirements.

Many people restrict certain foods from their diets: whether by choice or necessity. Regardless, it doesn’t have to create complications. Comeau advises:

Keep it simple. Brief explanations are best. “You don’t need to make your food needs a source of drama,” she says, even if you have an anaphylactic allergy. Comeau suggests being both direct and gracious. A statement like “I’m so delighted to be invited, and you should know that I have a serious peanut allergy, so I have to be on the alert” is often enough.

When you’re avoiding foods that are less dangerous to you, keep commentary to a minimum: “You know, dairy doesn’t agree with me, so I’ll forgo the pizza.”

Rehearse. If you’re unsure about whether you can state your needs directly and cheerfully, practice some stock phrases, says Comeau. She even endorses the use of polite fibs when necessary: “The meal was so delicious, and I ate a lot at lunch, so I’m going to pass on dessert.” This can save the conversation from turning to food restrictions.

Bring something appropriate for yourself — and share it. If the entrée is likely going to be something you can’t eat (maybe you’re a vegan on your way to a barbecue), propose bringing a dish when you accept the invitation. Comeau suggests offering to share something you make well, then asking the host if it fits with his or her meal plans.

Remember that the host wants you to be comfortable. “They invited you, so they enjoy your company, and you already know that,” says Comeau. “After all, what is the real goal of inviting people over for dinner? It’s the congeniality. It’s about being together. In the end, it’s really not about the food. It’s about making memories.”

This originally appeared as “I have food restrictions and worry about alienating hosts at dinner parties. How can I make it easier on all of us?” in the September 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

Related at Care2

Image via Thinkstock.


John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart3 months ago

I think the hosts should make at least one food option available without any offending foods in it- I went to a party with cheese served on the side for the salad- so vegans didn't have to worry about it! of a gracious host should let you bring a side to share . And maybe meat eaters don't have to apologize to vegans, but I really hate it when people have to add bacon or meat to mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese- really? You can't have one frickin side dish that doesn't have a dead animal in it???

Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Renata is correct. It also stands that people who eat meat shouldn't have to apologise to vegans.

Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley5 months ago

Thank you.

Justin M
Justin M5 months ago


Renata B
Renata B5 months ago

I don't agree with the embarrassment of the guest. People should respect the choices of their guests: if they don't like them, don't invite them, as simple as that. Whether it is for health, religious or ethical reasons, a person has the right to be respected and they don't have to apologise. Obviously there is a nice way to remind those who invite you, but that's it. And it is more than obvious that you have to inform them in advance, otherwise it's your fault.Come on, a bit of common sense on both sides. You may offer not to go if it is too trouble for them, but if you go they need to respect you and make you feel comfortable.

Holly Windle
Holly Windle5 months ago

I'd like some etiquette guidance about what to do when you learn of their restrictions after having invited someone for a meal.

Jean B
Jean B5 months ago

My dietary restrictions are by choice, not necessity, so I just clean my plate like a good little girl.

Elizabeth H
Elizabeth H5 months ago

My husband has a very restricted diet and all our friends and family know this so it's never a problem.