Written by Bonnie Nasar, RDN

Eating out at dinner parties, restaurants, and events are a fun way to get together with family and friends. Having a diagnosis of mast cell disease doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the fun! Yes, it takes a little bit more planning, so read on to find out how you can enjoy life while eating outside your home safely!

Just the thought of eating out can sometimes feel overwhelming, but with proper planning you can manage it. By knowing what you will be walking into, it’ll take away the stress so you can enjoy yourself rather than worry about what you’ll be eating. Let’s look at some scenarios, and break them down into manageable steps so you can enjoy your time out!

I Am Going to a Dinner Party or Holiday Meal.

If you have plans to eat at a friend or family member’s home, give them a call a week or so in advance to ask what is on the menu. A good follow-up question would be to ask for the recipes the person is using, and check the ingredients. If none of the items are safe for you, offer to bring a homemade dish. This is a polite way of offering assistance and making sure there is a safe option for you to eat. As a last resort, if you cannot safely eat at the dinner, consider eating beforehand, or just bringing a single-portion plate of your own safe foods.

I Am Going to a Restaurant

Going out to eat with Mast Cell Disease may feel impossible, but it can be done. Just like with a dinner party, the key is planning! A week before the plans, look up the menu and see what options are available. If options seem suitable, you will want to call the restaurant and ask some questions depending on the severity of your disease. It is a good idea to ask the restaurant to clarify their allergy policies, how the food is cooked, and if they permit substitutions. Ideally, you would speak directly to the chef during a time when the restaurant is not busy. The best time to call would be between mealtimes, when there is more downtime. A good restaurant will gladly make the accommodations necessary to have you as a patron! If it looks like there aren’t many options for you, eating beforehand and just ordering single-ingredient sides or drinks at the restaurant might be best.

How Do I Answer Questions and Comments from Family and Friends?

Family and friends often mean well when asking questions about your diet and lifestyle. They are curious in their own way and may ask questions to better understand. Sometimes you might feel like giving explanations, and sometimes you might not. It is totally up to you! If questions make you feel uncomfortable, you can deflect them. A great way to handle unwanted questions is to turn the question back on the person asking it. For instance, if someone asks you why you eat the way you do, simply ask them the same question back! This tactic is a not-so-subtle way for people to see the intrusiveness of their own questions. Or, you can simply reply, “What do you mean by that?” The easiest way to dodge a question is to just smile, nod your head, and move on to another subject. This works especially well in group settings, and people often are not prepared with a follow-up when you ignore their first question.

On the off chance that these tactics do not work and someone is continuing to berate you with questions and comments, you may need to have a private conversation. Pull them aside and gently tell them that they are making you uncomfortable, and that you would rather not discuss your dietary habits while trying to enjoy yourself. You can control the narrative of how things play out! And remember, you deserve to feel as comfortable as everyone around you. If that means you need to speak up and make your needs known, go right ahead and do it!

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