Savoring Social Moments: Navigating Parties and Gatherings on a Low FODMAP DietPublished on Monday, December 04, 2023 by
The Low FODMAP Challenge: Enjoying Social Life with IBS
It's the holiday season, so our Outlook calendars are as stuffed to the brim as the turkeys on our tables. For those with dietary restrictions like following the Low FODMAP diet, the excitement can be met with trepidation as you anticipate the awkward questions about your food preferences.
Questions like, “Don’t you like my cooking?” and “Why isn’t there more food on your plate?” can be uncomfortable to answer when all eyes are on you, and frankly, explaining your diet needs can be pretty personal. I have some strategies to help you navigate these moments like a pro.
Give your host a heads-up.
Party hosts often face anxiety of their own when trying to coordinate an event that is a joy for all. Most would likely appreciate a warning ahead of time if you have dietary restrictions. If you’re choosing to eat ahead of time, this gives you a chance to politely and discreetly let them know that, no, it's not their cooking you’re avoiding! They may even offer to make a special dish or leave certain ingredients that you may be avoiding on the side, but don’t expect this of them- they already have a lot on their plate! But if they offer to make concessions, thank your host appropriately by giving them a hand in the kitchen or bringing a thoughtful hostess gift to express gratitude.
Bring a dish that meets your needs to share.
In the spirit of giving, if you bring a separate item that meets your dietary needs, bring enough for everyone to try! Someone else at your event may have the same restrictions as you, which can maximize your options. Only by bringing enough for yourself can you draw attention to your diet needs. If you bring a dish for everyone, guests may not even notice the nutritional differences!
Try to be first in line at the buffet.
Typically, when an event provides food for those with dietary restrictions, there isn’t enough of that dish for every person to have a full serving. I can’t tell you how many times I went to a pizza party back in my vegetarian days with two veggie pizzas and 10 with meat. Yet, by the time it was my turn, all the veggie pizza was gone! Try to grab one of the first spots in line so you don’t go hungry, and maybe suggest to your host to invite those with dietary restrictions to go through the line first.
Swerve questions regarding your food choices by practicing what you’ll say beforehand.
Inevitably, someone will make a comment or ask a question about your food preferences. While usually well-meaning, the office work party is probably not the time you were hoping to talk about your GI symptoms. Have a couple of short and sweet statements to reply with that protect your privacy or politely divert from further questions. Some example statements include, “I’m trying to adhere to a diet that fits my current health needs best, so right now, I’m being more thoughtful about my choices, but I love the quinoa salad. What’s your favorite dish here tonight?” or try, “I wasn’t sure if the food served would fit my preferences, so I ate beforehand.”
Suggest activities that don’t revolve around food.
While tables are meant for gathering, there are so many other wonderful wintertime activities that don’t revolve around food. Ice skating, light shows, 5ks, and concerts are just a few activities that can bring connection without GI discomfort.
In conclusion, mastering the art of socializing with dietary restrictions, such as those accompanying the Low FODMAP diet, involves a strategic approach and effective communication. Providing hosts with a heads-up demonstrates consideration and opens the door for potential accommodations. Bringing a dish to share not only ensures a variety of options but fosters inclusivity among guests.
Being proactive at the buffet and suggesting activities beyond food-centric gatherings are practical steps to enhance your social experience. Preparing concise responses to inquiries safeguards your privacy, allowing you to navigate social events confidently. By combining these strategies, you can embrace the joy of the holiday season without compromising your dietary needs, turning social moments into memorable, stress-free occasions.
Savannah DuffyMS, RDN, LD