How to Manage Holiday Gatherings When You’re on a Diet (No, Not That Kind of Diet)

By now you’re a pro at managing your food allergy, intolerance, or special dietary restrictions, but what about at holiday parties? Especially when you have a history of disordered eating and people at the party know about it, meal time can get awkward. The people around you might feel the need to ask intrusive questions related to what you do and don’t eat. The comments might seem accusatory and too personal. Way to ruin a party!

Here’s how you can handle meals at parties when not all foods fit:

  • If you have a life-threatening food allergy you already know you MUST make sure the allergen is not being served at the party and find out the ingredients in all items served. It’s not rude, it’s your safety, and people should be understanding. When in doubt, it’s always a wise idea to bring your own food. In this case I personally don’t think you need to bring enough to share, but it’s up to you.
  • If you just started following a diet regimen recommended by your doctor or registered dietitian such as a low FODMAP diet or a gluten free or dairy free diet, don’t expect your host to cater the meal to you. If you’re not sure there will be food you can comfortably enjoy, offer to bring your own dish to share. And remember that you’re not obligated to explain to anyone that you have persistent diarrhea/ painful constipation and hope this diet can help. Although the more details you provide, the more likely they are to not have further questions or comments! Also, remember that it is an act of self-care to avoid foods that might make you feel sick.
  • My vegetarians and vegans, I know your pain! Is the only thing available a plain salad? Did your host forget you don’t eat chicken broth, cheese or eggs and make something they thought you could eat? If you’re up for making a dish, offer to bring something that will wow everyone and make them want to try more vegetarian/vegan foods. Not feeling like cooking and willing to take your chances? Pack a snack just in case. Nuts, trail mix, and protein bars all travel well and can be discrete if necessary. No need to explain your diet. In fact, most people don’t want to hear about why you don’t eat animals!
  • Do you know the host well? Raid the pantry! Peanut butter is my go-to at events where there’s not food for me. How about tuna fish? Cheese and crackers? Cold cut sandwich? If it’s close family check out any leftovers! Hosts generally want their guests to eat and be happy!
  • If your host is not accommodating, it’s too short notice to bring your own food, or it otherwise won’t work to eat at the party, make sure you eat a meal beforehand. When people ask you why you’re not eating, let them know you just ate because you wanted to make sure you had a proper meal. Sorry, but a plain salad for dinner just isn’t going to cut it! They should accept that answer and be wowed by your ability for self-care, but if not, time to get up for a drink or go say hi to your friend across the room.
  • And lastly, no need to feel bad if someone is pressuring you to eat a food item you know you can’t have. The person might think it’s okay to have that bread since it’s Christmas, even though you have Celiac Disease, or that you can eat the brisket today just because it’s Hanukkah, even though you’re vegan. Kindly say no thank you, walk away, and then feel free to roll your eyes!


Struggling with your relationship with food? Needing help navigating a chronic health issue or an eating disorder and in search of an experienced registered dietitian in the Centerport, New York area or virtually? Send me an email to learn more about 1:1 nutrition therapy sessions!

Published by Christina Frangione, MS, RD, CDN, RYT

Christina Frangione, MS, RD, CDN, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist serving the Long Island, New York City, and New York State areas helping clients with eating disorders and disordered eating recover their relationship with food and their body. She utilizes a Health at Every Size® approach and supports Intuitive Eating and knows that while she is the food and nutrition expert, you are the expert of your body and life.

11 thoughts on “How to Manage Holiday Gatherings When You’re on a Diet (No, Not That Kind of Diet)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: