Dining Out on a Diet

As more and more people discover the benefit of personalizing their food intake, questions emerge about how to maintain this care while dining at a table other than your own.

This post comes from wellness expert, Tara Curran.

Recently, I received a text from a friend that confirms that very fact. “You should have come to dinner with this family. Melly is gluten-free and vegetarian — so is her mom, but she eats fish and David is vegan. Kaya and I wanted everything regular, we have no restrictions, and his dad wanted tofu soup with chicken broth.”

Making a conscious effort to address dietary needs and subsequent food allergies can sometimes make an evening out with friends and family more complicated than not. Then there are those who shy away from eating out altogether, embarrassed to admit their restrictions. Living in a city that caters well to its dieting clientele, I’ve become accustomed to knowing that any restaurant will surely accommodate one’s needs. But I understand this is not the case for everyone.

Dining out with friends and family can churn up anxiety and frustration, putting pressure on you, the planner, and the attendees. It’s usually the same song and dance: What kind of food do you feel like? Are you sensitive to anything? Do they take reservations? I’ve found that with a little patience and planning and the will to voice your needs, it is indeed possible to a) please everyone and b) have a pleasant and enjoyable dining experience. Take my dear friend Hayley’s advice. She struggled with voicing her needs; as a result, she internalized her anxiety and was left with little else than terrible stomach pains. Since then, she has made a conscious decision to prepare before eating out. “I bring digestive enzymes with me to almost every meal and try to educate myself about menu items and sourcing prior to my arrival to the restaurant.”

As a practicing vegan, Sara’s advice and dine-out routine looks like this: “I’ve adapted by incorporating ‘creative combining,’ I’ll look over a menu to determine what the restaurant offers, re: ingredients, and then combine pieces of meals to create a vegan option without nightshades, spicy spices, etc. So for me, it’s all about addition and subtraction. For example, I may ask them to please add rice and beans and take out the meat. Or add avocado.”

My biggest advice to my clients? Speak up! Don’t hesitate to tell your waiter about any and all food allergies, including any food groups you’re choosing to avoid. Any restaurant should be happy to accommodate your restrictions or sensitivities. To guide those without restrictions, I like to suggest ordering a few dishes that can be shared by everyone.

Regardless of your dietary needs, know that it’s only beneficial to consider health when dining out. You don’t have to restrict or deprive yourself of certain food choices, but a little research can lead you to better-quality food. If you choose to host a meal, acknowledge the needs of your vegetarian, pescatarian and meat-eating guests. It’s important that they feel comfortable and supported. A long-time friend, Natalie, was surprised to learn that a large percentage of her coworkers had food restrictions. “Moving from the south to the Pacific Northwest, if anything, has been a food-culture shock. At work, I am often the one organizing catering for clients or meetings. Instead of just ordering one thing, I have made it my mission to find out every person’s food allergy/sensitivity and to always be sure that there are enough options. You just never know, and it always feels nice to know that someone isn’t missing out.”


Dining is meant to be a celebration, one full of joy. Follow the motto of doing your best and don’t stress. Whether you have restrictions or not, always come with gratitude, self-love and appreciation for the time you’re about to spend with one another.


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5 years ago

I fully agree