These days it seems like dietary issues are becoming more and more common among more and more people. Gluten-free is trendy, soy and almond substitutes are available to save the lactose intolerants, and veggie/vegans can enjoy a quality burger sans any meat.
For those of you living without any food restrictions, let me break it down for you:
- The Celiac (i.e. no gluten, which most commonly translates to bread products): eating out is a little more challenging for me, and, don’t judge my obsessive label reading.
- The Lactose (i.e. no dairy): don’t tempt me with ice cream please, and, bring on the almond, soy or coconut milk.
- The Veggie (i.e. no meat, sometimes including fish): don’t take me to a steak house… but if you do, don’t make any comments about my salad.
- The Vegan (i.e. no meat or dairy products): no eggs, no cheese, no milk, no meat…it’s not that bad, and, please stop asking me how I get my protein.
Despite the growing number of restaurants that accommodate those of us with food sensitivities, and the fact that an entire aisle in the grocery store is often stocked with products that cater to our needs, it’s still really tough to deal. Whether you’re celiac, lactose, veggie or vegan, it can be a serious downer when you’re always the odd one out. If you’re celiac, it sucks when you can’t join in for that round of beers; if you’re lactose, it sucks when you’re not really down for pizza night; and when you’re veggie/vegan, it sucks when you’re at a BBQ and have to settle for some grilled veggies (or embarrassingly supply your own special patty).
Not to mention that it sucks to be the high maintenance dinner guest at the party. And then there’s having to explain why you can’t/choose not to eat certain foods….Ugh, it can be exhausting.
Here are a few of the advantages that I’ve consoled myself with: dietary restrictions can help you get a lot healthier. You get to say no to the more unhealthy food choices out there, which makes dealing with the munchies a lot easier. Sometimes it can actually be nice to have a limited menu to choose from; I’m bad with choices and the decision making that follows. Leave me with two or three options instead of twenty and I’ll be just fine. Dealing with a restriction forces you to get creative with food too, and explore things you might not otherwise try.
Friend of a celiac, lactose, veggie or vegan? Here are a few tips for you: Be sensitive. It’s already difficult without friends making it harder on us. Don’t single us out, and please don’t make us feel guilty when we can’t join you for the bruschetta, pint of ice cream or plate of wings. And if you have to ask what the deal is, try to do it without any hint of judgement in your voice. A little understanding is appreciated, but don’t feel like you have to go above and beyond to accommodate us either—we usually try to come prepared and can make do without anyone fussing over us.
So for all you dietary needs folks out there, take heart—you’re not alone! For those with an iron stomach, take note — you’re bound to have at least one friend with a dietary issue. And to those just joining the dietary needs club? Welcome! It’s not all bad.