11/23/2015 05:28 EST | Updated 11/23/2016 05:12 EST

Sticky Situation: Handling Dietary Restrictions During The Holidays

Family toasting at christmas dinner - IS446-028

Sticky Situation:

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

There are cocktails, potlucks, buffets and traditional dinner invitations. But what is one to do about all those dietary restrictions and trends?

Whether you are a host or guest, you may be wondering about diet dos and don'ts -- rules and responsibilities.


Here is a Q&A to help you handle the season's dietary dilemmas.

1. Who is responsible for food restrictions: host or guest?

First of all, there is a difference between an allergy, which involves your immune system; an intolerance, which usually gives you gastrointestinal symptoms; and a dietary choice, which is personal and will not, contrary to the previous two, require medical attention as a result of a physical reaction.

The responsibility is the guest's. When responding to an invitation, inform of any allergies.

"We'd love to come to your house for the tree trimming party, but I must tell you that our daughter is fatally allergic to peanuts."

For the other restrictions, based on the size, type and location of the celebration, decide whether or not it is necessary to mention it. For:

• A large buffet at a venue

Chances are that you can find something to eat. No need to mention it. If needed, find out about ingredients from the service personnel.

• Happy hour gathering for a few couples in someone's home

Your host will probably want you to sample all of the appetizers. It is best to inform when accepting the invitation. See above for a sample of what to say.

• A traditional Christmas weekend at your aunt's, when you have recently become a vegetarian

"I would be delighted to attend your celebration, but I should inform you that I am now a vegetarian. May I bring a meatless stuffing and cranberry muffins to contribute to the weekend?"

As a host, when entertaining:

• a small group, it is a good idea to inquire about restrictions.

• a large group, to have at least one safe side dish like a veggie rice or pasta.

2. I hate (fill in the blank with what you won't eat), is it okay to ask my host what the meal is or to inform him?

No, never. You are a guest in someone's home and not ordering in a restaurant.

The only time you may ask about what will be served is when you are contributing to the meal, and that is to make sure that your dish or the wine you are bringing will be in harmony with what will be served.

As a host, know that it is okay for guests to leave food on their plate.

3. I see (the food I hate) on my plate, do I have to eat it?

No, but don't make it obvious; spread it around a little as you eat the rest of your meal.

If the dishes are served family style, circulating around the table one after the other, and "it" comes to you, it is okay to pass on it.

As a host, don't force guests to eat everything.

4. When on a temporary diet, should I decline an invitation, or is it okay to let my host know?

To go, or not to go, is always your choice.

Don't inform your host. If you do, he/she may feel obligated to alter the menu. You can always eat a little before and/or after you've attended the Yuletide celebration.

5. I know that a friend is dieting, is it okay to compliment her on her new waistline?


6. What if the dieter is a colleague?

If he/she has confided in you that they were dieting, by all means do! But keep it private and general. "You look great!" will do. Don't get into details. Doing so could get you into a sticky situation.

As the song says, "Be of good cheer!"

You are not invited to a holiday gathering because they thought that you would be a little hungry or a little thirsty at that time. You are invited to celebrate the "hap-happiest season of all."

You have a sticky situation at work or at home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help, farewell faux pas and embarrassment. Hello confidence & credibility!


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