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5 Tips for Hosting a Guest with Dietary Restrictions

Six years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when you ingest gluten. Even the tiniest amount of gluten, a mere crumb, can make me sick for weeks.

Not surprisingly, since my diagnosis, I haven’t been invited to many dinner parties. It’s just too hard to figure out how to safely feed someone like me.

But here’s the thing I want you to know, being invited into your home for a meal is about much more than food.

The whole point is being together, getting to know each other better, and gathering around the table.

I may not eat your food, but will you please still invite me over for dinner?

Chances are you know someone with some kind of dietary restriction and are wondering how to host them for a meal.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Find out whether their dietary restriction is an allergy, an autoimmune issue, or simply a dietary preference. This will determine how careful you need to be about cross contamination. (Allergy and autoimmune = be extremely careful.)

2. Ask your guest if there is anything you should be aware of or any precautions you should take that you might not think of.

3. If your guest is avoiding something as a dietary preference (not an autoimmune disease or allergy), invite them to look through your menu plan to make sure you are on the same page.

4. If cross contamination is a serious issue, invite your guest to help you in preparing the meal. I love cooking with friends because it helps them to see exactly how to keep my food safe. After a few times, they get the hang of it and are able to do it themselves.

5. Let your guest know that it’s perfectly fine to bring their own food if that would make them more comfortable. Remember, they just want to be invited, whether they can eat your food or not!

Keeping the line of communication open and asking the right questions will help your guest not only feel safe, but feel wanted and valued. I’m grateful for friends who have the guts to invite me over for dinner, whether I can eat their food or not.

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  1. Emily @ everydaymom

    THIS! 100 percent. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease two years ago. It’s so hard to not be invited, and it’s so hard to know what to say when you are invited. Thank you for these great tips.

    • Alysa Bajenaru

      Thank you Emily.

  2. Meghan L

    We have several friends with severe food allergies, as in you all what they can and not what they can’t eat. I’ve had such fun cooking with their son, who has the most restrictions, and teaching him techniques that make his safe food more enjoyable!

    • Alysa Bajenaru

      That is so great!

  3. miss agnes

    My two children have diet restrictions due to health issues – I so appreciate when friends take the time to make a meal that works for all of us. And it is not that difficult once you suggest they cook a very simple meal (no cream, no butter, no complicated sauce). My kids feel included and loved, and I usually bring a suitable dessert because I know how hard to it is to make something nice without gluten, milk and any kind of nut (most vegan recipes don’t work either because of the emphasis on almonds, cashews and so on).
    So for those who are afraid to do it, please know that your friends with restrictions will be so grateful and truly see your efforts as a loving gift.

    • Alysa Bajenaru

      It’s true! I often say that my love language is friends who feed me safely.

  4. Andrea

    My daughter is Celiac and allergic to whey and tree nuts – seriously allergic. I am Celiac and allergic to dairy, eggs and various other things like bananas and buckwheat. My son is allergic to wheat, corn, soy, dairy, and eggs. To say eating outside of our home is a challenge, is a total understatement.

    I wholeheartedly agree that we would LOVE to be invited. We are happy to bring what we can eat. We are happy to help you prepare and plan the evening. Please accept our help. It is lonely to be so isolated because of food. Community and food go together. We all crave community.

    • Alysa Bajenaru

      Yes exactly! Please don’t leave us out of community because we can’t eat your food.

  5. Katia

    This is very timely, as I have just been diagnosed with coeliac disease. “The whole point is being together, getting to know each other better, and gathering around the table.” Yes!

    • Alysa Bajenaru

      Hey Katia, if you ever have any questions about life with celiac disease, don’t hesitate to reach out!

  6. Susan

    I would add to please please tell your hosts if you have a special dietary need. I hosted a silver wedding anniversary party for my brother and his wife, inviting many friends of theirs that I didn’t know to our home. My meal was catered Italian with gluten in absolutely everything. It was horrifying to find out mid-party that my sister-in-law’s best friend had celiac and couldn’t eat a bite. Even the salad had croutons in it. I think she was trying to not make a fuss, but if I she had let me know, we would have absolutely planned accordingly or she could have brought something if I could have given her a heads up on my menu plan. My sister in law should have clued me in too.

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