Wheat-Free at Work Functions and Business Dinners

The last thing you need to be stressed out about at a work function is what you're going to eat that is wheat-free. Work functions and business dinners are for gathering with coworkers you seldom see, landing the next big deal, developing your business knowledge base, and impressing the boss.

Although some company meal planners consider every possible food recommendation from attendees, you can't afford to take this accommodation for granted. You must be proactive in your approach to your next business dinner.

Whether you're planning events or attend them, the issue of food preparation is extremely important to your and other attendees’ health. Here are some pointers for planning meals and events that take into account people's special dietary needs and help you navigate gatherings planned by others.

Accommodating wheat-free needs when hosting a business meal or event

When choosing a restaurant or planning the menu for a meeting, sales pitch, or event that includes food, you must consider the other attendees’ dietary requirements. Your consideration allows the attendees an opportunity to enjoy the meal and eliminates the temptations to straying from their wheat-free diet.

In the planning stage, ask those who will be attending whether they have any food requirements. Have attendees fill out a food questionnaire, and then follow up with them by phone to make sure you're clear on their dietary needs.

Do everything you can to accommodate those requests. If you're not sure whether the foods you've selected will suit your guests’ needs, ask the restaurant or caterer for guidance on which foods are wheat-free.

Receptions can be one of the more challenging occasions to plan. Heavy hors d'oeuvres are a popular reception food that doesn't exactly give you a whole bunch of options. As the host, though, always work to provide at least one wheat-free option for your guests. Your wheat-free guests will appreciate it.

If you're throwing a birthday or retirement party or a wedding or baby shower for one of your coworkers, be considerate of the fact that others in attendance may be wheat- or gluten-free. Provide a wheat-free treat for those who may prefer that option. Some wheat-free party foods are so delicious that your party attendees may not even know they're guiltlessly indulging.

Attending a business meal or event where food will be served

When you're invited to a breakfast or lunch meeting, business dinner, or other business event involving food, you have some options for sticking to your wheat-free diet:

  • Let the organizer know that you need a wheat-free meal. If your request isn't well received, offer to help with the meal planning. If your assistance is refused, don't give up. Try one of the following options.

  • Eat before the meeting or event. A wheat-free snack such as a hard-boiled egg and fruit may be enough to tide you over until you can eat a full meal after your meeting. When people ask why you're not eating, explain that you already ate.

  • Eat after the meeting or event. When people ask why you're not eating, say that you're not hungry if you don't want to discuss your choice to live wheat-free. (If the meeting may be a long one, consider having a snack beforehand.)

  • Call ahead to see whether the restaurant can accommodate your food preferences. If you can order your own meal for the meeting, you're home-free.

Satisfying your stomach at conferences

When attending large sales meetings or conferences, look for questions about dietary requirements on the registration form. They're your opportunity to express your wheat- or grain-free needs. If the registration form doesn't ask about the need for special meals, make sure you convey that information to the event coordinator some other way.

Most coordinators carefully plan out the menu to feed the masses and address each special dietary requirement individually. If you don't make your needs known, chances are you won't have wheat-free meals waiting for you at the conference. When conferences are held at facilities that don't have kitchens, it's very difficult for the caterer to accommodate someone who hasn't pre-ordered a wheat-free meal.

Often times, conference coordinators hand you a colored card at check-in that indicates you stated a wheat-free food preference. Placing this card at your table ensures a wheat-free meal will be delivered to you when you're seated.

Sometimes you attend a meeting or conference where the meal is served buffet style. More than likely, you'll find wheat- or grain-free options, but be extremely careful of cross-contamination. Facilities don't always pay close attention to transferring food from place to place, and serving utensils in the various dishes are sure to get moved from dish to dish without regard for wheat content.

Celebrating milestones with coworkers

If you attend a celebratory event like a birthday party or baby shower and no wheat-free choices are available, you have a few options that don't have to draw attention to your situation:

  • Skip out on the cake or cookies with the explanation that you're on a wheat-free diet and trying to stay strong in your commitment to it. If you know that the temptation will be great, bring a prepared wheat-free treat for yourself.

  • Politely take some of the treats to your desk and privately dispose of them without eating any.

  • If you find out about the party at the last second, walk into the room eating a healthy, wheat-free snack. You'll get a pass when you finish your snack and say you're full.

Although some people may be out to sabotage your dietary efforts, stay the course. Many people will try to persuade you by saying, “Here, have a small piece,” or “Bernice made this; it's to die for!” Whatever the temptation, exercise self-control.

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