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Feb 15, 2013 06:41 AM

Planning a dinner party, How do you handle dietary restrictions

Nowadays it seems like everyone has some dietary restrictions, and I understand that. We have vegetarian friends, gluten free, no dairy, etc. If I know someone has a dietary restriction, of course I do my best to serve foods they can eat.

When planning a dinner party with several people you don't know well, do you feel the need to ask if there are any dietary restrictions?

And for example, I have a friend who only buys organic foods. She will not purchase anything else. She likes everything plain--dry salad, no dressing, dry bread--no butter. I think you get the picture. So I'm including her in my dinner party. Do I need to purchase organic foods? Do I leave the garlic out of my sauteed spinach?

To me, a true dietary restriction is different from a preference. Do you agree?

And if you have special dietary needs, how do you handle it when someone invites you to dinner? Do you let them know what you cannot eat?


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  1. I am diabetic and very lactose intolerant. I go to dinner and eat what I can eat. I don't have food allergies per se, those are different in my thinking. My sister cannot eat nuts or seafood, and when inviting her I obviously don't prepare anything with nuts or seafood.

    I agree with you, a restriction is different from a preference. Our family get togethers include me and my sister and low carbers, vegetarians etc. We make dishes everyone can eat, but we also include dishes that some might not partake of i.e. we don't give up turkey at Thanksgiving, but we do have a tofuturkey and mashed cauliflower as well.

    Do NOT eliminate the garlic from the spinach.

    2 Replies
    1. re: laliz

      Your last line is the most important. Garlic should never be elminated from any dish that calls for it!

      1. re: Isolda

        however, as someone who doesn't like garlic in spinach, it would be nice to know BEFORE i got close enough to smell it.

    2. I'm strict with allergies and other health problems. A person who only buys organic will probably eat conventional food if she eats out at all. If there are various dietary concerns, I make sure to have at least one or two things each person can have, eg bread, plain salad, protein and avoid making one big casserole type meal. People who have dietary concerns usually are used to not being able to eat everything and adjust to what is available.

      3 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            "People who have dietary concerns usually are used to not being able to eat everything and adjust to what is available."


            I have a long list of allergies/sensitivities. I pick other things on the menu when eating at restaurants and I eat around it in other group situations. No one, other than me, could possibly make a menu that took absolutely all of my allergies into consideration, and it's ludicrous of me to expect them to.

          2. A good guest will eat what they can without complaining. I have vegetarian friends and allergy friends. I usually do buffet style meals, with a simple meat main and several sustantial sides. Apps are mainly vegetarian - crudites with dip, mini samosas, hummus, cheese platter, etc. That way everyone has options.

            1. It's your party....
              That said, serve a variety of things, and let the diners know that you understand if they don't taste everything, maybe do a buffet instead of plated courses. Then, people can pick and choose. If they are your friends, you've invited them, and they tell you they have dietary needs, then try to have something for them to eat. If it is dietary preference, well, they can choose to come or not, and still, pick and choose.
              I don't think one has to accommodate every desire, but if someone is invited that you know is allergic to shellfish, then don't serve shellfish.
              On the other hand...
              My daughter-in-law absolutely hates the smell of seafood. I would never serve it in her presence. I found this out while visiting them in Va Beach, and had picked up some great shrimp to add to the b-b-q. oops. I won't do it again. Now, I find a place for my husband and I to go out for seafood lunch at a restaurant.

              1. As Wyogal said, it's your party. You can only cater so much to individual needs or preferences before you drive yourself crazy and you end up not even enjoying the dinner party.

                I would suggest pre-planning and sending out your menu plans to your invitees, indicating if any of the dishes you plan to make might have allergy-sensitive ingredients. If there are some guests that have such allergies, you can extend the offer that they bring a dish they can eat and also share with the group. I wouldn't even bother bending over backwards for the picky "organic only" eaters. That's their choice, not biological make-up. Otherwise, you can suggest they bring something to share as well.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Dinermite

                  You send out your menu before dinner parties? I've never heard of that. Now I will say to people "Do you eat meat?" That answer tells me whether I'm going to go vegetarian--to me that's fine and I can make a great meal without meat--or can have meat as a main element. But to have guests critique the menu, that I would never do. (I used to be a picky eater but never said a word--ate what I could and pushed the rest around on my plate.)

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I usually run a menu by dinner guests. I've found if you ask a somewhat generic question like "anything you don't eat" they'll often forget to mention things. Then they get there and say "oh, didn't I tell you I don't eat (fill in the blank)." So....I usually say "I was thinking of making grilled scallops and pasta with pesto" or whatever. That way that I won't waste time and money on a meal someone won't enjoy.

                    1. re: perk

                      You are very thoughtful. I truly appreciate the posts on this site. This aspartame restriction is new to me, a definite DO NOT EAT as opposed to a preference, but I didn't know how to handle it when I am invited to dinner at someone's home. Thank you to everyone who has posted on this matter.