Staying Dairy-Free at Someone Else’s Home
Eating outside the home when you’re dairy-free poses a different set of challenges than those you face at home. Eating meals at home has the distinct advantage of giving you maximum control over what you eat. When you’re at home, you get to choose the ingredients that go into each dish, and you have access to food labels and can read what’s in the food you buy. Not so when you’re away from home.
When someone invites you to his home for a meal, it’s often to commemorate a happy occasion. Having special dietary needs may complicate matters. If you don’t divulge your needs, what happens when the main course turns out to be pasta with Alfredo sauce? This situation turns out bad for everyone — the guest goes hungry, and the host feels terrible and embarrassed.
Sharing your dietary needs with your host is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, if you’re open about your needs, you may find you’re not alone. Many people have special dietary preferences or restrictions because of health issues or personal preferences. They’re watching their saturated fat or cholesterol, or they’re limiting added sugars because of diabetes. Maybe they’re cutting down on salt to control their blood pressure. Or maybe they’re vegetarians or vegans, who are vegetarians who eat no animal products whatsoever — not even eggs or dairy products.
Mention your diet at the time of the invitation. Doing so gives you an opportunity to explain exactly what you can and can’t eat, and it will give your host time to plan. If the invitation is less direct — it comes in the mail or through a second party, such as a friend or your partner — you have a couple of choices:
Say nothing and eat what you can. If you stay silent, you’ll be in the position of arriving at your host’s home and making do with what’s served. If the meal is a buffet or potluck with lots of different foods available, you may have plenty of dairy-free choices.
Contact the host and tell her about your diet restrictions. Give the host a call, thank her for the invitation, and then explain that you have some special dietary considerations. Tell your host that you wanted to mention your diet so she didn’t go to any trouble serving something you couldn’t eat. At the same time, you may tell your host that she needn’t go to any special effort on your behalf.
Contact the host and offer to bring a dish. This option works well when the setting is casual and you’re among people you know well. Potluck dinners and meals among friends, for example, may be good opportunities to bring a dairy-free dish you can share.
Whatever you do, don’t get angry and make a fuss that you can’t find anything to eat. Otherwise, you can ruin the meal by spoiling everyone’s good time and never be welcomed back.
If you know you’re going someplace where the choices may be slim, have a snack before you leave home. That way, you won’t find yourself gnawing on your knuckles if there isn’t much you can eat. Another option: Fill up on other nondairy items, including appetizers like crackers and veggies that may come before the meal.