Special Diets Can Heighten Tensions at the Holiday Dinner Table

When a child who has decided to go vegan won’t eat just a sliver of Grandma’s famous pie, feelings can be hurt.

Comments: 152

  1. I've been a vegetarian for 45 years (though I didn't become one until I was 20). But as a guest at meals, I would let my host or hostess know in advance that I was a vegetarian, and I would then assure them that I would eat around what was served; one meal would not make or break me. If I went hungry, that was my problem. I never expected anyone to accommodate my dietary preferences. However, I don't serve meat at meals I prepare for my guests. And I have discovered that there are many, many tasty dishes that are vegan and even gluten free. Nut-free, too. However, there are so many food restrictions these days that it becomes impossible to satisfy every one of them. So traveling with a dish to share that you can also enjoy as a guest makes sense.

  2. Dr J, I couldn't agree more! (I have been a vegetarian for 45 years as well.) I tend not to mention my vegetarianism when the guest of someone that I don't know well, since it seems to be a plea for special treatment. There are usually vegetables or salads--and if there aren't, no one ever died from skipping one meal and eating when they got home. With friends or family, it's frankly enough to be told that a particular dish is appropriate or not for me.
    I will say that it's heartwarming when someone has prepared a vegetarian dish with me in mind, and I do feel particularly welcome under those circumstances.
    And might I offer the observation to some of the more critical commentators that many vegetarians have made the choice for moral/ethical reasons as opposed to faddism or willful contrarianism? It's a serious and deeply felt commitment for us.

  3. "...55 percent said it was hard to find the time to prepare special foods..."

    And the reason the teenager is not preparing their own food is...?

    As long as they can treat their mother (and it always seems to be the mother) like a waiter in an upscale restaurant, why shouldn't these Special Snowflakes demand catered service?

    And how long would these food preferences last if the child had to make their own meals? Hint: About a week.

  4. Any adolescent exploring his/her identity through food choices definitely needs to explore not only learning to cook but also to plan for a balanced diet. Vegetarian and vegan wanna-bees would do well to consult with a registered dietitian. Many pediatricians will gladly make such a referral, but lacking that, the Seventh Day Adventists are another resource.

  5. This may be a special circumstance but as a teen, my mother did not allow me to prepare my own vegetarian meals. I bought cookbooks, clipped out magazine recipes and sent her emails with links. I tried to get the whole family onboard- maybe we could cut back on some of our meat consumption (we were consuming a lot of it!). Maybe that way, I could be more included and everyone would be eating a little healthier.
    It didn't fly. Despite my best efforts my mother saw my trying as threatening her role as a mom. There were many fights and tears as she yelled at me to just eat the steak she had prepared. Even when I had offered to grill myself a mushroom.
    Even on thanksgiving all of the above still applied.
    Don't be so harsh. You might not know the full story.

  6. Happy camper, you are so right.

    I know a number of friends of my teen daughter who have decided to go "vegetarian" – – which seems to mean that they now only eat starchy processed junk food plus maybe pasta.

    Eliminating meat without planning your diet carefully around that gap is a very bad formula for nourishing a growing body.

  7. I encourage everyone, young and old, to find a reason to stay away from the pecan pie. Gluten, nuts, sugar or politics - any reason is valid.

    Otherwise I have almost no chance of savoring any leftover pie for the rest of the long weekend.

  8. Haha! Well done. My husband shares your love of pecan pie, and each year makes a goofy show of lobbying for his pronunciation -- "PEE-can" -- over mine, "pe-CAHN". Eh, it's the holidays. Live and let live, and have some more pie.

  9. Outside of food allergies, please don't expect people to accommodate your dietary needs. Thanksgiving is not a hard holiday for vegetarians, paleo or by choice gluten free to navigate. Vegetarian- eat mashed potatoes, salad, veggies, pie. Paleo- eat turkey and salad. Gluten free- eat turkey, salad, potatoes. Having done ALL of the above diets, there really is not need for special snowflake treatment. If your kid is committed, they can make a meal anywhere. Yeah, sure- it might be dull, but they will have something to eat. I can't tell you how many BBQ's I've attended and eaten a bun with coleslaw and a side of coleslaw.
    I get needing to make a special meal if your kid will get ill from common foods like nuts and gluten. Of course, pack them something to eat.
    If you have a special diet, politely decline what you won't eat, or just don't take any and don't say anything. And PLEASE DO NOT PREACH AT THE TABLE.

  10. No kidding. My son gave up meat at three, and I totally support that (and have started eating a lot less myself because of it), and no way would I expect others to rearrange their menus (or send labels from everything being used; I don't want to even imagine my sisters' faces if I suggested that!) for him. Nor am I carrying food to a dinner I wouldn't otherwise be bringing a dish for. He can eat what he wants at the dinner, and if he doesn't like it, he can eat a peanut butter sandwich. He's not going to starve even if he likes nothing at one meal. And knowing him, he'd be cool with the peanut butter and some randomly available fruit and vegetables, and he'd move on with his day. I think the underlying concern in the article is that if your kid's dietary needs need to be treated "like a special snowflake", then there might, in fact, be an underlying health problem that does actually need to be addressed--the kid may be choosing a diet for "health" or "ethics" when really, it's a socially-acceptable way to defend an eating disorder. I think if you have to work to "manage" your child's dietary choices, it might be time to talk to the doctor to make sure they are healthy choices and motivations.

  11. About having access to labels:
    The wording of the article, where Ms. Yates, "instructed" her sister to send pictures of all the foods she is using, casts a negative tone on a common safety practice in the food allergy world. One of my children has multiple life-threatening food allergies. While I pretty much can't remember a food event in the past 13 years where I didn't help with a dish or baked good, we are blessed with lovely friends, family, restaurant staff, teachers and classmates who have kindly offered/provided us labels to double check if our child can enjoy their offering safely.

  12. And how long after eating the bun and coleslaw did you begin to suffer from low blood sugar because you had no protein?

  13. As expected, I see comments berating vegetarians for expecting others to accommodate their peculiar diets, when the article is about exactly the opposite situation: Grandma is personally offended by the vegetarian teenager who refuses her meat dish. In my book, it's Grandma who's demanding accommodation here--the teenager is presumably happy to eat anything else, or nothing at all, without complaint, and may have brought his or her own food to share.

    Also, to the obviously well-intentioned Ms. Clark, don't you think saying "Teenagers who adopt a special diet are often exploring their identity and declaring their independence," is just a bit patronizing? There are a lot of old, reasonable-minded vegetarians out there. That we view it as an ethical, if personal, choice, is hardly unreasonable. Live and let live.

  14. Agreed. Grandma doesn't have to like or agree with Junior's decision to be a vegetarian, but Grandma is a bit of an ego maniac if she things Junior's vegetarianism is somehow about her.

  15. So don't eat the turkey. But don't worry about whether something might be tainted by broth or by touching the forbidden poultry....

  16. I get the sentiment, Longue Carabine, but who are we to tell other people what they should worry about? If someone prefers to discreetly opt out of the turkey stuffing, so what? Few vegetarians would be so rude as to expect special accommodation, but is it too much to ask everyone else to mind their own plates and not take offense at what anyone else is (not) eating? Vegetarianism may mean going hungry occasionally; it's a personal choice, there's nothing wrong with that.

  17. If the kids actually have food allergies or celliac disease, then yes, bringing foods to someone else;s house makes sense. If it's just pickiness or trendy eating, then maybe you should stage the thanksgiving dinner at your home, and let the others decide if they want to come.

  18. "And everyone needs to get sufficient calories; if teenagers don’t consume enough, she warned, “it will stunt their growth.""

    Although food insecurity is alive and well in the U.S., I am skeptical that this is a problem for the general population of American kids who are experimenting with different diets that might make them feel healthier. Are you seriously saying that a teenager who chooses to go on a gluten-free or vegetarian diet should use caution because they may be in danger of not getting enough calories and stunting their growth? I'd be more worried about kids who continue their unhealthy eating habits and grow more and more obese. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that teenagers who are actively engaged in making decisions about different healthy eating habits are far more likely to be healthier in the long run than those who simply continue to eat the standard American diet of sugar, carbs, and processed foods.

  19. "Stunt their growth" may not be the right way to put it, but there is a malnutrition risk for many American teenagers, especially girls on restrictive diets. The latter often don't get enough calcium and magnesium at a time when crucial bone growth takes place. I've met some young, female vegetarians with dreadful eating habits. They replace meat with starchy sweets, and they don't eat the nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens that provide necessary minerals. You can be overweight, even obese, and still suffer from anemia and osteoporosis.

  20. Agreed. Nutrition issues should be monitored. But I was reacting to the fairly ludicrous statement about the fear that kids who choose to try a vegetarian or gluten-free diet may be in danger of starving. Not getting enough calories to stunt their growth? Seriously? I find it depressing that the "expert" uses fear-mongering to discourage kids from taking responsibility for their own health. I don't advocate any particular diet, but after witnessing high school cafeterias where kids are plowing into pizzas, chips, cookies, and sodas daily, I find teens who are trying to buck this trend and take responsibility for their own health refreshing. The particular diet they choose may or may not be the right one, but the desire to find a healthy lifestyle will certainly benefit them in the future.

  21. I envy families with such "problems." My niece, a teenager, has to contend with both celiac and Type I diabetes. She never, ever complains about the lack of food choices offered and never expects anyone to cater to her special dietary needs. But she is beyond grateful when people who care about her make the effort to include her.

  22. Where I live, people don't generally plan a dinner with guests without absolutely speaking to each of the invitees who accepts the invitation, saying something like "I'm so glad you'll be able to make it. Now what are your dietary needs and restrictions, so that I can be prepared?" What the author calls "special diets" have simply become the norm. Every body is different and nobody needs to eat undesired or unhealthful food just to stay in step with the group. At least here in California, the people I know are way past that.

  23. A few years ago, two new families moved in to houses across the street from me. I planned on having a dinner party to get to know them and so they could meet one another. I called the two couples (who each had children, but this was an "adults-only" dinner), and invited them and then asked them if they had any dietary restrictions. I was thinking of gluten (if they had celiac disease), shellfish, peanuts. I immediately was told that they would email me a list of their restrictions, none of which were health related. The lists arrived, I looked at them and realized that I would have no idea what to serve such people. I called and rescinded the invitation, explaining that at my elderly age, I simply didn't know how to cook with this many restrictions. They couldn't have cared less.

    Such utter self-absorption is appalling. How did we come to this?

  24. It would have been lovely if, rather than "not caring less" that you had to rescind the invitation for very understandable reasons, one of them had instead invited YOU to a dinner at THEIR house. That would have provided the neighborly gesture you were seeking and would have built a foundation for a wonderful relationship.

    I wish you were my neighbor. When I moved to my current suburb, I felt crushed by loneliness. (I speak in the past tense, but really nothing has changed except I got used to it.) So many days, my toddler and I were the only ones out for walks, the only ones on the playground. I only saw other families when my son and I would go out to watch children board the school bus - but the parents largely stayed in their cars, driving back to their individual houses once the kids had all gotten on the bus. I found myself hoping that there were some elderly people around, since maybe they would be lonely too (sad for them, but misery loves company), and we could be lonely together.

    I would have loved to have been invited to anyone's home for dinner. And I'd have eaten anything you served! You could've had a strictly "raw" vegetarian dinner, or a pig on a spit in the backyard with an apple in its mouth and everything, or Velveeta poured over microwaveable rice, or a 1950s jello mold as the main course, or a multi-course "meal" consisting entirely of fresh pressed juices - it would have been a fun dinner, regardless! I'm sorry your neighbors could not see that.

  25. The New York metro area is almost as bad. It's become a tiresome joke.

  26. That’s nothing. Try making your spouse’s lunch for work every day. You don’t know until that morning how she’s feeling and what this will imply for the order, but it usually tells you what kind of day it’s going be. An order for a green salad is not a good sign.

  27. If I had a husband that made my lunch every day, I would have only one mood: Happy.

  28. Why isn't she making her own lunch?

  29. I would imagine these special diets could create a lot of work for those preparing the meals, as well as considerable expense. Obviously, if someone is allergic to peanuts or has a true gluten allergy, they must be accommodated. But all these fad diets (no wheat, no carbs, paleo, etc) need to be mainly the financial and work responsibility of the teen.

  30. @Jack:
    "Fad" is in the eye of the beholder. Humans ate few or no grains/wheat for 95% of our evolution as a species.

    As a host, I try to accommodate my guests' dietary requests. As a guest, I try not to make unreasonable demands on the host, and/or I bring my dish to eat.

  31. a newsflash from the british museum: humans also were not able to start cities or what we consider a more complex civilisation before they started eating grain. meat does not keep well.

  32. A newsflash from science: cooked meat gave our acnestors enough calories to stop gathering for a while and start having culture.

  33. I became a vegetarian in 1974. My mom would "forget" when I came home from college for the first few years, but as time went on, my parents adjusted by going back to their old Italian traditions of eating lots of vegetables. They've have no problem feeding my family, all of whom are vegetarian. Now, my parents are 85 and 88, in great health and take no medications. Adjustment can be good for everybody.

  34. Your last two sentences: big leap to causal inference there. A là post hoc ergo propter hoc.

  35. I think the point was that eating more vegetables and less meat hasn't hurt their health any. Are you a proselytizing carnivore, by any chance?

  36. Sadly, people following specific dietary plans also have to beware of the relative who sneaks the forbidden food into a recipe. I find such behavior extraordinarily bizarre, but it exists and it breeds serious mistrust. I've had to put my foot down on it before.

  37. At holidays our table includes one diabetic (Type 1), one with a serious nut allergy, one with gluten intolerance (but not celiac disease), one who won't eat pork of any kind because she never got over Charlotte's Web, and one who's just plain picky. All the grownups bring two or three dishes, and I make some as well, so there's plenty of food available to everyone, no matter what their dietary preferences/restrictions. And we're always careful to point out what's what, so the diabetic doesn't accidentally get hold of something loaded with sugar. As for the granddaughter with nut allergies - we simply don't allow nuts in anything, and everyone knows the rule - we don't want to have her carted off to the hospital mid-dinner. We're always ready to try new things - we've found some new favorites this way - and nobody gets hurt if their "signature" dish isn't eaten by everyone - that's just life.

  38. My 6th-grade teacher read Charlotte's Web to us. We were all farm kids, and when Fern was upset at the thought of Wilbur being destined for the dinner table, our only reaction was, "She's pretty stupid if she lived in farm country and didn't know why farmers raise pigs."

    Your non-pork eating relative needs to spend some time on a farm and learn that the cute little piglets she can't stand the thought of eating would never have been allowed to be born if someone wasn't planning on using them for food.

  39. So she should eat pork so that pigs are allowed to be born...?

  40. I usually just ask people ahead of time about their dietary restrictions. If they are more than I can deal with, I just say "I can't deal".

    I can do OK with vegetarians, vegans, and some other restrictions, but I would feel nervous about a true food allergy.

    Since I'm not the parent, I wouldn't have to worry, but some of the teenagers may be using these restrictions as excuses for eating disorders. If they have so many restrictions they can't get their nutrition and their BMI goes way low, you've got a serious problem.

  41. When teenagers voluntarily decide to eat, say, a vegan diet, they should learn to prepare much of their own food. And they should take these foods that they are willing to eat, when they go to family holiday meals.

  42. Keep in mind doing that can inspire vicious teasing...

  43. Correct. the kid should eat what he/she can eat, or eat nothing. and say nothing. Most kids are well fed and one meal wont matter at all.
    Or perhaps the teen might skip the holiday meal altogether, until they are ready to resume interaction with the family.

  44. The one thing I tell my children at a holiday dinner: eat what you can, don't complain, be gracious and thank the hosts! Beyond that, it's just not important if they eat all of the meal. Enjoy and give thanks for what you have.

  45. It's not just holidays anymore.

    Just try inviting people to dinner at your house anytime. Everyone I know is a PITA about food these days.

  46. Maybe you need to try cultivating some new friendships with nicer people.

  47. My husband, daughter, and I, each have separate and common dietary needs. My husband's allergens are easily avoided. I am allergic to fish and seafood, asparagus, sulfites and certain types of melon. Our daughter shares both of our allergies, is Celiac, doesn't tolerate pork, corn, soy, dairy (both the protein & sugars), citrus, and a few other things. She's also on a special diet for Epilepsy.

    I would never expect anyone, family or not, to meet the specs my daughter requires. The learning curve for keeping most of these things out of the diet is quite steep. It took me years to figure out those weird long names on labels. It takes quite a bit of effort to find ingredients that are safe. Table salt, for example, is mixed with anti-caking agent that is derived from corn. We bring her food with us whenever we eat out, and we make sure her meal more or less matches what is being served. We've been doing this for years now.

    That said, when we entertain, I always ask. I've never felt it is weird or faddish of people to avoid certain foods. I've hosted Thanksgiving dinners without turkey on the menu. A shared meal is supposed to be about family and friendship, and not bending people to our will.

    Chacun a le sien et vive la difference!
    ---
    www.rimaregas.com

  48. My tested tactic (as a teenager and non-teenager) for refusing food: "no thank you, it looks delicious, but I can't eat that." Done. It's easy to get defensive, but best to keep in mind that other family members (especially older ones) who don't understand why anyone would stray from an all-inclusive diet, and it usually saddens them to imagine you depriving yourself on a holiday. If they get pushy, don't get hung up trying to justify your choices. Just offer a firm "no thank you" and try to move on. It gets stressful and irritating, but luckily alcohol is compatible with most restrictive diets (unless you're a teenager of course!) Best idea: bring a big tupperware with enough of a dish you AND everyone else can eat. And always be gracious!

  49. Like many people, I've gotten really tired of the collage of dietary preferences that can show up to a dinner. And not all of them are as gracious and the letters below suggest. Recently, when I was confirming some details of restrictions with one guest prior to the event, she informed me that "restrictions can inspire creativity." I guess protocol really demanded that I thank HER for coming and imposing her restrictions on me. I wish I had thought to tell her that "Well thanks for the opportunity, and if I ever get an invitation to your place, I'll look forward to your creativity with meat and seafood." Not that vegetarians or vegans EVER accommodate.

  50. What exactly would a vegetarian need to accommodate? That you choose not to eat vegetables? Anyone who isn't vegetarian can fairly readily "accommodate" by serving, you know, vegetables. Anyone who eats meat is hardly going to be deprived because they are given a meal that doesn't include it. Your potential guest sounds rude: that's not because she is vegetarian,

  51. It sounds like you kind of hate this person, so maybe don't invite them to your house?

  52. People should remember vegetarianism, paleo, and celiac are socially-acceptable ways for budding anorexics to disguise their disordered eating. Many teenagers will claim health-related but it's really a way to lose weight in a cagey way.

    Anyway, you don't need to force your kids to eat. My father always offered us the choice of a peanut butter sandwich. Find the equivalent for these kids and move on.

  53. Of the three you mention, true celiac disease is a cause for alarm: a person with celiac will die—or at least have a life-threatening event—if they ingest any amount of gluten. Often doctors like to play an elimination diet in which the patient is instructed to remove wheat, just to see if that might be the culprit that's causing the person's symptoms.

    As a 15-year vegan, I dislike having people trivialize my food choices as unimportant or even whimsical; although I may not have a bona-fide allergy to meat or dairy, I'm much healthier getting it out of my diet.

    However, if I'm invited to someone's home for a meal, I try to eat beforehand so that I don't need to depend on food I may not be able to eat for sustenance.

  54. For the record, people with celiac disease would certainly *not* die if they accidentally ingest gluten. They may have a bad, unpleasant stomach reaction, but that's about it. Not to mention that the grand majority of celiacs have no symptoms at all and would not even know if they ate gluten (I am one of them). The bad effects of eating gluten in celiacs are long term. I am just saying that celiac disease is no-where like a life-threatening nut allergy.

  55. amto--

    My cousin, who has celiac, gets severe digestive cramps and explosive diarrhea if he ingests bread, etc. Maybe his celiac is more severe than yours, but it's definitely not a trivial matter if he eats outside his food restriction. I feel sorry for him -- he misses out on foods he loves every day just to feel physically normal.

  56. My house, my menu. Eat or don't eat as you see fit, I won't be offended, but if I'm cooking, I cook as I like. Thank you.

  57. Amen

  58. It is just as important to be a gracious host as it is to be a gracious guest. If I am hosting a gathering and I know that, say, one of the attendees is vegan, I make sure to have some dishes they can eat. I will have several side dishes anyway; why not make sure I cover all bases by having at least one or two that contain absolutely no animal products? Sometimes this is as simple as substituting out the butter in a vegetable dish, sometimes it means changing a dish I might otherwise have served to something else entirely. It's not like vegan food is inedible to non-vegans - it's still food. Of course, if an omnivore at my gathering refuses to eat the brussels sprouts because they don't have crumbles of bacon in them, that's his right, just like the vegan can decline the turkey and the buttery mashed potatoes.

    I don't really care if everyone can (or wants to) eat EVERY SINGLE dish. People are welcome to pick and choose, at my table, free of judgment or pressure. I do take care, as a host, to ensure within reason that all my guests have at least two things they are able to "choose" from. After all, the food is there for the people eating it - so to me it makes no sense to prioritize the food you want to serve, over the guests you want to have attend. T

    o me, saying, "You are welcome in my house, but I don't care if you have anything to eat" is essentially the same as saying, "You are not welcome in my house." That's not being welcome, that's being tolerated.

  59. Amen. The essence of hospitality is delighting in your guests' comfort and enjoyment of the time and experience you share. What thoughtful, loving host wouldn't positively enjoy being able to make food that is delicious, satisfying, and safe for everyone? This doesn't mean going to extremes of time or money one can't afford, but if you can do it, whyever not?

    When I take birthday snacks for my kids at school I always get a list of the allergies and other food restrictions for all the kids, then provide something everyone can eat together. On more than one occasion, my favorite part of the party has been witnessing the pleasure of the allergic kids in being fully included, even more than watching the enjoyment of the birthday honoree.

  60. It absolutely blows my mind the small-mindedness of the comments on this post. Why is it "OK" if someone with an allergy comes to your home for a holiday dinner and be accommodated, but someone who "chooses" to eat in a particular fashion is NOT okay and must deal with the consequences? It's almost as if you're saying someone will eat whatever you serve and they will like it. It's asinine. Everyone has different tastes. The solution to this problem is simple, if they don't choose to eat what you serve, it's their prerogative. Stop trying to force it. Let people be people. Would you force someone who is lactose intolerant to eat something with milk in it, just because it's not an official allergy? If you don't like it, don't host gatherings.

    As someone with "food issues" as I like to call them, I find myself asking at gatherings what ingredients are in foods and passing on what I cannot eat. Sometimes that means I eat the one food I brought and grab dinner on the way home. It's a blessing when someone cooks something special for me, but I would never request it and find that most people (obviously none of which are commenting here) are very OK with me avoiding dishes. I feel absolutely awful that I have to go through this with people when I'm at someone's house and find myself apologizing the entire event for avoiding the food.

    My cousin, who is a teenager, and also a vegan, does something similar and would never berate someone for not having any vegan-friendly dishes.

  61. Re your second sentence:

    There are needs, and then there are wants. I remember being taught the difference explicitly in a third-grade learning unit. What is wrong with dedicating extra work and time to accommodate the NEEDS of others, but catering less (if at all) to mere WANTS?

    And who here is trying to push a particular food offering a guest doesn't want on that guest? I don't see any examples of such an attitude.

  62. If the child is demanding a special diet on a whim, make sure they are the ones that are being inconvenienced. Let them prepare their own food when in conflicts with what everyone else is having. See how long the diet lasts when they find out it actually takes them some effort rather than making Mom do the extra work. If they are willing, more power to them but I suspect the majority will soon be joining back in with the family meals.

  63. You are exactly correct but we are in a day and age when many parents cook several dinners for the family just to satisfy different whims and demands. The rule I grew up with and I now go by as well, "This is what there is, eat it or don't." Of course I do make exceptions to true allergies, but not the goof balls who just want to be gluten free for the heck of it.

  64. When people can't eat a particular food for medical reasons, it's reasonable to explain ahead of time and offer to bring an alternative. No one should feel offended. When someone simply has chosen not to eat certain foods, the polite thing to do is say, "No thank you" and simply pass the dish on to the next person. The hosts are not short order cooks. If I can't stand succotash (and I hate lima beans) no host is obligated to provide me an alternative. If this is a paleo feast and I am a vegetarian who can't eat any of it, the polite thing to do is to decline the invitation. And on the other hand, if your guests don't want to eat certain things, it's not an indictment of your cooking or a personal insult. If I skip the rolls and mashed potatoes because I would like to limit my carbs to stuffing and leave some room for dessert, it's because I can no longer eat like a teenaged boy, not because I don't love you. We all need to behave like grown ups. And children need to learn how to politely refuse something rather than use a holiday to proselitize for their newfound food preferences.

  65. @Ceilidth:
    Great comment! But a proper "paleo feast" would always include both meat and vegetables.

  66. Unfortunately, I know some paleos that won't even eat veggies. I call it the "teenage boy" diet but these guys are thirty something hipsters. I did hear recently though that some paleos consider cheesecake a paleo dish. I burst out laughing.

  67. Funny you should mention Lima beans. There is no food that grows in the earth I shove to the edge of my plate, with the sole exception of Lima beans. Such a miserable excuse for a vegetable.

  68. Really?
    Try being a child, or a parent of a child, or any aged person who cannot under any circumstances consume gluten or nuts.
    Only then will the general public understand what goes on inside!
    Cool the judgements, people...try accommodating, at least a little!

  69. Quite honestly, I don't read the comments as being intolerant of people with true medical conditions or allergies. I have a cousin with celiac disease, and I do not hesitate to accommodate him cheerfully. People voluntarily engaging in fad food trends, however, are a different matter.

  70. We have a really eclectic crowd for thanksgiving. For each dish we have a regular; gluten free; dairy free; nut free and vegetarian version. It's complicated but we have worked it over the years as the allergies increased. A wholly satisfying meal for everyone, no exceptions.

  71. Happy to report it was a great success once again. The trick is to do it potluck so everyone brings their allergy to avoid dish to share, leaving the host to focus on essentials. Yes we do have a kitchen counter that looks like a farmers market stall but it's so worth it. Everyone gets to bring leftovers home to eat the rest of the thanksgiving holiday break.

  72. The tensions from dietary preferences is not limited to teenagers. The joy of Thanksgiving is that the diversity of dishes will accommodate most dietary approaches, and that can be increased by opening the sideboard to contributions from all participants. "My home, my menu" doesn't fly in this household because I love my niece dearly, yet could easily kill her if I had such a hard nosed approach. Diabetics can make choices from our meals with no surprises, as can those with celiacs. Ingredients are always available to help with decisions. Food should not be a weapon, even if the cook is proud of the best spread in the country.

  73. The first sentence of the article mentions a mother who has one child who "cannot" eat nuts and another child who "will not" eat gluten.

    When I am acting as host, that kind of distinction is the crux of the matter. I will put in extra time, work, and thought for a person who CANNOT eat a particular type of ingredient for medical or religious reasons. Plus, vegetarians will always be happy at my table because I love to serve a variety of vegetable dishes.

    "Will not"? You're on your own. I will happily plate what you bring for yourself, and will welcome you to eat around my offerings.

    And please, "will not" people -- do not regale the rest of us with the benefits of your new crackpot diet. So boring.

  74. Look, I know I am probably a throwback to dinosaur parenting, but there's no way I would accommodate special food restrictions imposed by one of my kids unless medically required. I work hard, and I am not running a restaurant. I make balanced healthy meals, the same thing for all of us, and if somebody doesn't want to eat the meal, there is always good homemade granola in the cabinet. Also, there is no room in my small kitchen for anyone to conduct a parallel food project at busy hours, and I plan carefully to keep food waste to a minimum in my household.

    For my kids, exploring a "new food identity" would have to wait until they live independently. And if they hate me for that, they're just going to have to pay for their own therapy when they can afford it!

  75. "...exploring a "new food identity" would have to wait until they live independently. And if they hate me for that, they're just going to have to pay for their own therapy when they can afford it!..."

    BRILLIANT! THANK YOU! I said something similar but with not as much passion or as eloquently. Perfect, thank you, Busy mom. ;-) grinning from ear to ear!

  76. Vegans do not need to make sure they're getting enough protein. That is a myth. Plants contain all the amino acids, and our bodies maintain a pool of amino acids to make complete protein.

    Gorillas are vegan. Do you think they're lacking in protein?

  77. Do you think gorillas just might have some anatomical and physiological adaptations which make them different from humans? How about whales -- they are even bigger and stronger than gorillas! Maybe we should all eat plankton?

    With the exception of soy, plant proteins are more difficult to digest and are lacking in essential amino acids compared to animal proteins. If you getting protein from beans and grains, great, but there is a huge pile of starch to wade through to get a tiny fraction of protein.

  78. We are not gorillas. We are a different species.

    As we learned in ninth grade biology, different species fabricate/metabolize/utilize different nutrients differently. Some species can fabricate nutritional components of certain types, while others must consume foods containing those components. Some species require a broader or different range of nutritional components than others.

    Anyone who plans to responsibly follow a restrictive diet of any type should educate him or herself in the fundamentals of human nutritional biology.

  79. @The Pooch: Most humans get far too much protein in their diets, which is evidenced in the prevalence of diseases and conditions in our culture like osteoporosis, kidney stones and liver diseases. Plant-based proteins are more easily metabolized than animal-based proteins, and create fewer long-term problems.

    The biggest ward in any medical center is the cardiac care ward. Why do you think that is? Few of these patients were eating a plant-based diet, and most are hospitalized for blockage of the coronary arteries—and usually heart attacks, or related conditions.

  80. Not holiday related, but I once spent a great deal of time preparing food for a farewell dinner party with around 8 guests. Every single person except the guest of honor said they were on some fad-type of diet and no one, save the guest of honor, ate my lovingly prepared food. By the following week, everyone had fallen off the wagon and was eating again with reckless abandon.

    Another time, I had friends over for a football game. I had a nice spread of snack-y type stuff and as soon as she walked in, one woman said, "Oh, you always have such JUNK". I don't eat meat, but I had purchased a steak for the grill and another couple said they only eat grass fed organic.

    I have given up attempting to host anymore.

  81. One answer: potluck! Each person will bring a dish he or she can eat. (And don't invite the jerk who made the junk food remark.)

  82. If a teenager has chosen to adopt a special diet, then they are certainly old enough to prepare the food they need to eat and bring it to the holiday gathering. Making a choice also comes with owning the responsibility.

  83. No one needs a medical diagnosis to justify their not eating a particular food, but people (including teens) must always be prepared to provide their own food, should what is offered not be appropriate to their dietary needs.

    The best defense can be bringing your own food to an occasion, or if possible, hosting the meal and preparing all the food in your own, safe kitchen (cross-contamination is a huge concern for those with food allergies/sensitivites).
    It didn't take long for my family to agree that food can taste great without (in our case) grains, soy and dairy. Of course, we welcome any "regular" dishes our guests would like to bring and share.

  84. Our family has hosted a number of European au pairs for one year each.

    One of our au pairs decided midyear to become a vegetarian, and I adapted.

    A month later, she decided to become a vegan. This created an enormous amount of extra expense and extra work for me. I got through the remaining months mostly by buying processed and prepared vegan foods, but it was nothing I would have volunteered for.

    If one of my kids decided to become a vegan, that kid would have to wait until he or she achieved independence outside my household. My kitchen is not a restaurant, and I am not a short order cook. And buying prepared vegan food is very expensive as I discovered.

  85. Our family hosted a foreign exchange student once who, we were informed at the last minute, was a vegetarian. The kid had to eat a lot of potatoes for the five months he was with me because I too do not run a restaurant. I grew up with a sister who from age 8-18 progressively eliminated all animal products from her diet; another one just starved herself. My mom was a great cook and I truly believe the 10 year struggle to nourish these girls who used food as a power tool against her contributed to her early death. Young folk! Don't jerk your mother around! If you have any human feeling, you will one day grow to regret it.

  86. "...Tensions may be eased if family members are informed of the child’s dietary preference in advance"

    No. Sorry. Unless it's an allergy diagnosed by a medical practitioner, the "child" can avoid the food entirely, if s/he chooses; or have a small amount to be polite (which would have been encouraged in my neck of the woods.) But to make a "special dish" to schlep to someone's home because a child is being ornery and expressing him/herself? Not a chance. You eat what's served, or you say "No thank you" and move on.

    My. We certainly do indulge them these days, don't we?

  87. Huh. In my family we've always tried to respect people's preferences. I don't think it ever struck any of us as "indulging" them. And knowing ahead of time doesn't mean we necessarily change the menu, but if we can accommodate, we certainly would - and we know what's up and can be sensitive to that.

  88. I've been a pescetarian for 40 years. When I went to my mother's for Thanksgiving, she would never make anything special. I would happily eat the mashed potatoes without gravy, salad, squash and cranberries. However, whenever I'm invited to other relatives, they invariably make me a side of shrimp or salmon that no one else eats. It feels awkward that they take extra work and expense when there is so much else they need to do. I've tried bringing a dish or two to offset, but I find no one touches my dishes. It seems that being primarily vegetarian diet has created a palate that is more flexible or something. Or perhaps people do not want to stray one iota from traditional dishes. I can tell you that many people make vegetarians feel weird and unwelcome during holidays. It's pretty sad given how many of us there are, but its just more indication of rampant xenophobia.

  89. I look forward to spending time with family and friends. They bring far more to the table than their food preferences (which I would hope to accommodate since they are my honored guests.) I hope they will find something to enjoy and I look forward to their conversation and their good jokes.

  90. I recently mentioned to someone that my Italian grandmother, who made the most delicious meals, would actually buy Stove Top stuffing to make on Thanksgiving. She thought it tasted better than any stuffing she made! The person I was speaking to said to me "oh, my family won't eat anything with high fructose corn syrup." Seriously? What do these people do? Demand to see the wrappings/boxes of every dish that is on the Thanksgiving table?

  91. This is so facile. First of all, it's harmful to equate those who choose to be gluten-free because a fad from 2012 said it was better for them with those who have a gluten allergy -- for the love of God, stop doing that. Second of all, no, a host of a traditional meal should not be obligated to incorporate all dietary preferences. Of course, if a dish appears vegan, for example, but is not, the host should warn those who wish to eat vegan, who may then choose not to eat the dish. Simple and respectful solution.

  92. I feel like people tend to generalize so much when it comes to dietary restrictions. As a vegan, I am perfectly ok if someone hasn't prepared something for me, I am fine with eating vegetables as a side dish, and never ask for someone to accommodate me. I don't want to inconvenience anyone because of my diet, if they specifically ask about what I don't eat, I'll let them know but also let them know that there's no expectation that they should feel like they need to change any of their plans for me. If I can, I'll bring a vegan dish of my own for everyone to enjoy! I realize that there are entitled people everywhere, but I wish that people wouldn't use these unfortunate few as a basis for how everyone with dietary restrictions acts.

  93. Abigail has it exactly right! As a vegan I bring a dish to family gatherings and sample what I can of the veggies, etc.
    Also, the assumption that vegans don't get enough protein is not correct. It is the omnivores/carnivores who are 'overdosed' on protein. The average person needs 45-60 grams of protein a day, which is easily attainable eating vegan.

  94. @mtb doc:
    Protein is self-limiting because protein-rich foods are incredibly satiating. Nobody is "overdosing" on protein except possibly those with pre-existing kidney disease.

    The amount and quality of protein required to be healthy, lean, and strong is more than the amount and quality required to simply be alive and not have a deficiency disease.

  95. There's a big difference between expecting a host to be conscious of allergies--one woman who's had us to dinner brings toasted almonds to the table even though I've emailed her I'm violently allergic--and demanding some special diet. It's fine for a guest to say, "I'm vegetarian" or "I'm allergic to X," but if very special foods are required, the guest should bring his or her own dinner. Moses Montefiore brought a Kosher chicken when he visited Queen Victoria, I am told.
    http://www.thecriticalmom.blogspot.com

  96. Dear Confused from New York,

    If children in school are consuming the lunch from the National School Lunch Program, they are getting two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day at lunch. If they also eat the school breakfast from the same program, they get an additional two servings from the fruit and vegetable group per day. This adds up to six servings of fruit and vegetables per day before the child gets home in the afternoon. Perhaps you were visiting a private school that does not participate in the program or that children had lots of spending money to choose items from the a la cart menu.

    The reason dairy is recommended for children is because there are very few foods (but there are some) other than dairy that are high in calcium. Bone mass is developed in childhood, the teen years, and early adulthood, then bone mass starts to decline. There is this one chance to develop peak bone mass. Osteoporosis is a disease of young people that manifests itself in old age.

  97. Our family is omnivore and we usually host both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Our extended family protocol is that if an extended family member is on a special diet they must provide their own main course. When we polled the family this year what food they were really looking forward to, every single one of them responded, "Pumpkin pie." Funny how all dietary concerns fade when a homemade pumpkin pie is within sight.

  98. There's a really big difference between can't and won't eat. Can't eat is easily accommodated, won't eat can be more annoying than anything. I get the whole "food identity" thing but for crying out loud, when you're invited to someone's home for a holiday meal, suck it up buttercup. Slap a smile on, take a tiny spoonful and pass it on. No comments about not eating it. No one really notices who eats what anyway.

  99. I actually think the problem is that there are many people who DO monitor what others eat. Certainly there can be a problem with people announcing their food preferences and expecting others to accommodate, but I think there's an equal problem with people monitoring the plates of others — "you're not going to eat the turkey?" "you absolutely must try some pie!" or "we picked out this wine especially for you" — and then watching the other person to make sure they eat. I'm a vegetarian, but I'd be happiest if no one knew that and just let me eat in peace!

  100. I think if I had relatives that were so high maintenance with their eating demands, I would tell them, sorry, I can't attend or host any family dinners. I am going on a cruise Thanksgiving week. ditto for Christmas and the New Year. As for teenagers, if you are old enough to make decisions about your diet, you are old enough to cook for yourself. Your drama is not my drama.

  101. It is the announcing of these "diets" at the meal that get people crazy! People think it makes them "special." Give thanks that there is much to eat and quietly pick what foods you will enjoy during your meal. We had lactose-free and vegetarians at our table, but no one would have know. A few versions of things to make all happy.

  102. As someone who has to take lactase supplements to digest dairy products and Beano to digest vegetables, as well as someone who becomes ill after eating scallops, I only wish I weren't special in those ways, and would prefer not to disclose my problems to others. At restaurants, where the menus often list most or all of the ingredients, I discreetly reach into my purse for the supplements just before digging into the food, and I avoid certain types of food (e.g., dairy whey additives and seafood that may have been contaminated by scallops) entirely. I am so grateful that I don't have a possibly deadly peanut allergy or diagnosed celiac disease, but I and others do have to know what is in the foods we consume, because these problems are not just a a conceit for us, but a fact of life. It's not the same as someone deciding that he or she wishes to be a vegetarian or a vegan or concluding, without medical testing for confirmation, that he or she is intolerant of gluten, although I respect those choices and always try to accommodate them, too, at my table.

  103. Agreed, and when one grows up and creates community changing policies,
    discovers a cure for life threatening illnesses, or plays Hamlet with depth and power, then one can act "special."

  104. Raising a child means preparing them for the world. As parents, we want to model good eating habits and not pressure our children about their eating choices. If an older child makes the choice to adopt a special diet, we need to be supportive but also help them understand that it is they who have to adapt to the food that's served out there, not the other way around. Why not teach that teenager to take responsibility for his choices and make their own dish to bring to the gathering? If they must refuse a food that's served, there's a way of doing it politely. As well, if someone bursts into tears because others don't want to try the special dish they made, well that's a bit too thin-skinned and it's their problem.

  105. Unless they are quite old.

  106. Our thanksgiving table was replete with food. It was almost shameful. We are grateful for it. There were thirty nine (yes, 39) people at the table. Not one person announced having special dietary needs. Each one took a portion of whatever it was she or he had a desire to try, and there was no drama. The table included people aged 5 to 80.

    I love my family. and thank you, Alan and Evelyn, for being such gracious and generous hosts. I love you.

  107. Let's do a potluck. Hosts' AND guests' buffets should feature clearly identified dishes with names and ingredients.

    The holiday is all about diversity just as it is inclusion and unity. Reach out to others; don't mock or reject their choices. We had enough of that this season, didn't we? Perspiration yes, exasperation no. Embrace altruism, and leave egocentrism in the dust.

    Big tent as well as hearty welcome advised. About 102 Pilgrims and Native Americans reportedly attended the First Thanksgiving in 1621. Squanto served as the translator. He is missed today, don't you think?

    Toast to tolerance, good spirits, and good will. (O.K., so not with soda pop.)

    Don't permit a "signature dish" to be the grinch that steals Thanksgiving. Serve it with panache. If it's spurned, know that this is not a rejection of you and your culinary skill. Plenty is swell. Pride not so much.

  108. If guests on special diets could quietly eat/not eat whatever works for them, then maybe everyone else could mind their own business as well. As a diabetic, I dread the holidays because the food police are out in force. It varies from being urged to eat food I don't want to being admonished for what I do eat.
    Could everyone just mind their own business?

  109. Thank you for this. I was a vegetarian for over 20 years and given my private personality, I tried to quietly eat what I wanted and simply pass on the meat. No one should have to explain their health, religious, or or personal reasons for eating as they do. Weeping because someone won't eat your pie? Pressuring people to eat something when they say, "No thank you." Very immature.

  110. Unless of course it is grandma, who is advancing in age ...

  111. The right approach is not discussed at all in this article: Cook whatever you want to cook, and if the child does not want to eat it, he or she can bring her own stuff, or not eat. Why would anyone care what another person eats or doesn't eat? As long as they don't expect everyone around them to adjust to their special diet.

  112. My initial reaction to this article was to start off on a rant about what a pain it can be to share meals with pushy vegetarians who all seem to be on a political campaign against animal cruelty. Then I started reading the comments about teenagers using special diets to hide incipient anorexia. This really scares me as I have a close female relative who has been battling various episodes of gastrointestinal distress by self-diagnosing as gluten intolerant, among other things. She has been tested by various doctors who have ruled out celiac disease and everything else she has ever suspected (although she has probably inherited both lactose intolerance and a seafood allergy, both of which run in the family).

    It never occurred to me that her going gluten-free, or semi-vegetarian could be a disquise for anorexia. She is pretty tiny and very, very thin. From time to time she has severe vitamin deficiencies. Sometimes I think this is all being caused by emotional stress and not by what she is eating or not eating, but then again isn't emotional stress one of the causes of anorexia? The emotions causing an unhealthy relationship with food? Thank you for givng me "food for thought" on how to find a new approach to my concerns for this young woman in my life.

  113. Do you understand why some people don't want to participate in eating turkeys or other animal foods? Animal agriculture is monstrously cruel to animals and is destroying the planet. Kudos to those teenagers who are taking a stand against one of the greatest injustices of our time. Their parents should be proud to be raising children with a moral compass and the integrity to act on those values, even when it's difficult.

    Please watch the acclaimed documentary Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, to learn more about why people are choosing to become vegan. Hint: it's not to annoy you.

  114. Just don't eat it and shut up!

  115. Homo sapien sapien is an omnivore. We evolved that way as a matter of survival.

  116. When people entertain and plan a menu, other folks showing up with their own dishes and turning the meal into a potluck is simply rude. It is insulting to the host. Please don't do it!
    Your teenagers can learn to say "no thanks" for food they don't want to eat. And parents can discuss ahead of time, and model for their children, appropriate behavior for folks at the table who try to force food on guests. Like, just keep saying "no thank you" and change the subject? (If they will allow it!) Hosts should not be checking each guest's plate to evaluate what and how much they are eating. Nor should anyone feel obligated to conform to keep someone from crying because you don't want their pie!

  117. I couldn't agree more. As someone with "real" food allergies for all these years, I have learned to deal with the issue. As a veteran cook who likes to entertain, I always am offended that someone turns my carefully planned menu into a potluck.

  118. It's Thanksgiving and somebody wants to gripe about what someone else will or will no eat. Be thankful everybody has something to eat.

  119. Wonder why this has not come up in our family? we do potluck, buffet and no one is monitored. Most people seem to eat most of the stuff. I don't like turkey and often skip that myself. No one seems hungry, after. Attendance is not required, either. The goal is that people come with the intent of enjoyment.

    When my kids were younger, we had the rule, mom made one meal and if someone didn't like it, he could make a sandwich after. Peanut butter was always available, or they could eat whatever appealed, but not at the table instead of my carefully prepared meal. the same held for going to meals hosted by others. If someone didn't eat, then he didn't. If he was teased, so be it.

    As for the allergy thing, bring your own stuff. I cant guarantee no cross contamination, and have no interest in providing lists of ingredients, at my peril of blame if I make a mistake. Perhaps a person with such issues and unwilling to bring their own is not suited for attending meals made by others.

  120. Potluck sounds like a perfect solution for large cross-generational gatherings. Good for your family for having a positive attitude!

  121. I was reading this and thought, another nancy who agrees with me. But it IS me, last year. No one has ever asked for a list of ingredients. I guess our neuroses tend in other directions.

  122. When my kids were younger, we had the rule that it won't harm you to eat one tablespoon of anything you are not medically documented to be allergic to. It is amazing how many different foods my children learned to enjoy, especially those of other cultures and nationalities.

  123. As Director of The New York Center for Eating Disorders, I was pleased to see mentioned in this article that food fads of teenagers may be a way of exploring identity BUT they can also be hidden eating disorders. What looks like a teen trying to eat healthier often is an attempt to secretly reduce calorie intake. Parents need to be alert to the meaning of their child's food restrictions.
    www.EmotionalEating.Org.

  124. I am a vegetarian, will not eat anything I can pet. I do not call attention to myself, quietly pass the bowl carrying a food I do not eat. I carry my own vegetarian bar to eat later if I am still hungry. Usually there are enough side dishes at Thanksgiving and that is not an issue.

  125. Common sense and adult behavior, Why are so many people lacking those traits?

  126. Amen!

  127. Please. My youngest son, now 23, has been severely allergic to milk, wheat, eggs, barley, oats , mustard, tree nuts and fish since he was a baby. I made two small turkeys at Thanksgiving: one for him and his girlfriend and one for everyone else. Two days later they traveled to visit her family and they cooked the turkey and gluten-free stuffing and gravy themselves. Guests brought sides. I am grateful he is alive and that we are able to work together to provide him safe meals. It is stressful, expensive and tiring and he is worth every minute of that and more.

  128. As a certified food coach, we teach it is healthy to explore ways of eating and finding what works best for your body. We all go through phases. When parents deny the exploration of this it can create a negative relationship with food and increase tension in the family.

    Emotions do run high around traditions and food. People often take personal offense to changing behaviors around food and diet, often from their own personal issues about food. It is also OK for grandma to be upset. Asking someone to do something they don't want to do, that is not hurting anyone, so they don't hurt grandma's feelings is not healthy. Teach your teen how to explain to their relative their choice or illness and how to create healthy boundaries.

    Support your teen/child and encourage a well-balanced way of eating any diet. That said, if the person is leaning towards a disordered way of eating with too much restriction it may be important to seek out a nutritionist or therapist to find out the underlying issue. www.pathnutrition.com

  129. Certified food coach? Certified by who? As a person who didn't always have enough to eat, I think it is healthy to respect food that is nutritious. this stuff, ordering your family ( the working mother, likely) to provide special meals on whim, is a control thing. My position back in the day, was that I was not a short order cook, nor was the kitchen a restaurant. Further I expected everyone to sit at the table and be reasonably pleasant, no fighting. If someone didn't want to eat dinner, they could have a peanut butter sandwich later. Which happened. And don't set " healthy boundaries" with grandma. there would have been repercussions, when that kid got home, for sure. Be polite and manage not to eat it if you don't want. Barf in the bathroom. A joke, but a lot of this sounds like encouraging anorexia.

  130. What a world...I can't help thinking how far we have gotten in this culture from any shred of our origins as a nation, which yes, was the Pilgrims, like it or not.
    They were starving, that is the point of this holiday. They were taken in by the native Americans and saved. That is something to be grateful for. And we as a nation repaid them....go ahead and forget that. They don't. Standing Rock is an indication that true spirit lives on.
    What if the pilgrims had said "oh I don't eat fish, and corn is too fattening..."
    Fall ...of ...Rome...

  131. I am not sure that we today are eating the same corn and same turkey meat as the Pilgrims once did... As someone who developed gluten intolerance I still wonder what triggered it and, believe me, would love to be able to eat some freshly baked rolls without paying for it later on. Also, as the mother of a vegetarian, I have learned to respect other people's food choices and never ever impose any of my dishes on them. Potluck and varied dishes welcome!

  132. Exactly. I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance within the past year and never knew I was celiac until a blood test revealed it. And how I miss my family's delicious stuffing. You're absolutely right about not eating the same corn--not with GMO crops and pesticides constantly present. Not everyone who hosts me for dinner buys organic foods.

  133. Solution: The teenager starts cooking meals for everyone, every night. The paleo, gluten-free, vegan, or whatever meal for him/herself, and a regular meal for everyone else. When preparing for the holiday, the teenager makes two or three dishes to take along--his/her own very special food plus at least one thing the whole family can enjoy. During the meal, the rule is that no one can comment on anyone else's choices as to what's on their plates.

  134. Why does the teenager have to cook for everyone? Why can’t he or she just cook for themselves and the rest of the family do whatever they usually do? It would be better for the teen to learn cooking skills to support their chosen diet instead of punishing them for wanting to eat a different way, which is probably healthier than the way the rest of the family eats. Comment from a person who brings her own food to family functions . Luckily my family is relieved that I bring something for myself so they don’t have to be inconvenienced. And they respect my choice.

  135. Back when I was a working mom and the bus dropped the kids off from high school at 2:30, l trained each boy in turn to cook dinner. They could choose menus. ( we ate a lot of hamburger with one kid- meat loaf, chili, spaghetti, etc) It us interesting how the kids' viewpoint changed after taking on the job. We want others to appreciate our work. And of course they all lived a single life for a while as young men and needed cooking skills. One, living in Europe, for years did a thanksgiving for other Americans and local European friends. The hamburger kid, actually.

  136. Why should someone who follows a paleo diet and who doesn't consume dairy have a problem getting enough fiber? Nuts have fiber. Plants have fiber. And if people are worried about getting enough calcium, I follow a pareve diet and am allergic to animal milk products and have been taking Calcium citrate, magnesium and Vitamin D supplements for decades. Folks of any age who may not be getting enough calcium may wish to do that. In my family's tradition, we have the Thanksgiving (Chinook or sockeye) salmon and the entire meal is pareve. That solves the kashrut problem. Remember: Ain't no Nookie like Chinookie (thank you Ray Troll)

  137. So ok I realized this is last year redux. Or something. And thinking, this scenario just doesn't ring true. Who cries if a teen doesn't eat her special dish? Not me or anyone I know. The whole idea is mind boggling. Got me last year, NYT. You don't need to try again. If people don't want to eat something they shouldn't. And if they can't handle others eating in their presence, they should not be there. Kids should learn manners, too. How hard is this?

  138. Several years ago, a relative informed me on Tuesday that she was now a vegan. I looked over foods that had been prepared or were on my list. Nothing was vegan. I modified some vegetable recipes, using olive oil instead of butter and figured she’d be able to eat those. My daughter said, “I wouldn’t worry about it. She’ll everything.” And she did. Despite that, I now always ask and could easily include dishes that would be acceptable to most people requiring or choosing special diets. And sometimes I make those dishes just because they are good!

  139. Sheesh. Don't worry about what other people choose to put or not to put into their bodies or why. If you make specific choices about consuming foods or not, keep them and the reasons for them to yourself. Make no demands of others, either as cook or eater. What's there is there. Eat it or not, without comment, and enjoy the holiday gathering. Is it really so hard?

  140. Not hard at all. It is called old fashioned, good manners.

  141. We lived through five years of a college daughter’s vegetarianism. Her worst Thanksgiving experiment was vegetarian gravy for her herb-crusted tofu. We still made our traditional menu for the rest of us. Then, once in grad school, she decided to invite a bunch of friends for Thanksgiving, roast a turkey, and make the sides she grew up with. It’s just one holiday meal, young people like to exert their independence, and it’s not worth hurt feelings on anyone’s part. Lots of us have reasons to pass up dessert, no matter who made it.

  142. If you think you can’t eat what’s being served, bring your own food or eat before you come. At large family gatherings, the host and hostess are (a) usually not restaurateurs and (b) usually are exhausted. A good rule is to NEVER create a fuss at a holiday or other occasion (wedding, anniversary party, funeral). You will not starve even if you eat nothing. You WILL be remembered if you create a scene.

  143. The article's title mentions special diets in general, but the story itself focuses on children and teens. Yet, there are many of us older adults whose doctors are telling us we can no longer eat popular and beloved foods, or that we MUST change our diets to avoid heart disease, diabetes, etc. Such changes can also be stressful for other family members and friends who host adults who have medically-mandated food restrictions, especially at the holidays, and for the reasons stated in the article: preparing a holiday meal takes great work and devotion. And cooks DO have an emotional investment in the meals they create. I've been on both sides of that issue--both as a cook and as someone with a medically-mandated restriction.

  144. In our home one was taught to eat what was served and be thankful you have food to eat. Most American young people today have no idea what it is to be truly hungry.

  145. I think this a huge generalized statement. Actually there are many people in the U.S. who are extremely hungry and not able to eat adequate, nutritious food. Also, because food it over-processed compared to centuries ago, there are way more allergies and necessary dietary restrictions (our digestions are no longer the same since food it further from it's natural state). It might be worth pausing to consider all the various life circumstances and situations that people in this country are exposed to. Not everyone grew up where you did, with your life situation.

  146. As someone who is poor and in a restrictive diet, I refuse to be “thankful” for food that litterally makes me sick. I have a debilitating chronic illness that is made severely worse by eating gluten and dairy. When I can afford to buy food it is more expensive, and when I have to go to the food pantry I leave with less food because of the lack of available gluten and dairy free food. The attitude that poor people should be happy with scraps is disgraceful.

  147. As someone who is poor and in a restrictive diet, I refuse to be “thankful” for food that litterally makes me sick. I have a debilitating chronic illness that is made severely worse by eating gluten and dairy. When I can afford to buy food it is more expensive, and when I have to go to the food pantry I leave with less food because of the lack of available gluten and dairy free food. The attitude that poor people should be happy with scraps is disgrasful.

  148. Does crying over food not eaten sound healthy to anyone? Let everyone make their own choices, and just make those choices clear ahead of time. Let's move forward and share the love, not the judgement, on Thanksgiving. As for consulting with nutritionists, must we make everything clinical and a potentially pathology? There's so much information on how to eat healthfully out there that anyone of average intelligence can do it themselves, and people who are making conscious food choices are usually the last to worry about. It's the people who are eating everything our American diet has to offer that concern me. Right? Anyone for partially hydrogenated oils?

  149. I'm a vegetarian, so I'm biased, but ... are you kidding me? Get over yourself, people. It's challenging enough being a vegetarian or vegan, so you're just piling on by getting offended by someone's personal dietary choice (that has absolutely *nothing* to do with you). And the suggestion to "compromise" by eating a small piece of the dish in question is completely ridiculous. That's definitely NOT a compromise when you've chosen not to eat certain foods for your own reasons. A compromise would be a vegetarian bringing their own dish rather than expecting the family to make them one, which is what I do.

  150. Why is no one addressing the responsibility of the host/ess? "Welcoming" people into your home involves actually being welcoming. When I invite people over I always ask about food restrictions and ask again after I've made my menu so I know they will have options/they know what to expect. Mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, wild rice stuffing (with or without nuts) are all super easy to make vegan and gluten free and everyone will like them. People with dietary restrictions are constantly limited to what they can eat (if they can eat at all) when they are outside their own home, a small amount of effort to consider their needs is just common courtesy.

  151. Sounds awfully complicated to be required to chart everyone's restrictions. What happened to everybody that they cannot handle a standard menu? Honestly, this was unheard of a few years ago. It is highly unlikely that so many peopl are unable to.....eat. I will forget the fictional crying grandma and ask if people have lost the ability to eat communally, in New York, anyway. Or is this fictional,also?

  152. @nancy, this real for far too many of us. The agricultural "industry" has caused some of it by how our food is grown. Pesticides may have caused problems over the years. In my case, a prescription medicine ruined the lining of my small intestine. I cannot go near gluten. It not only makes me sick, it makes me sluggish (thyroid) and affects my brain and I get severely depressed. I can't even have a crumb or use contaminated wooden spoons or my old baking pans. (Heat doesn't kill it.) Yes, this is a thing, as they say now. It's a very real frightening thing. Please spread the word and honor the needs of others. I eat communally by carrying my own food almost everywhere. While I appreciate others' efforts to feed me, what gives me the most peace is when they don't try to push their good intentions on me without asking. I just wish that caterers would provide accommodations to larger crowds and offer something for people with allergies and sensitivities. Leave the croutons out of the salads. (Leave them on the side.) Inform the hostess/host that some allergy free food should be available. Note which foods are truly safe. I'm tired of going to paid business functions and finding nothing safe to eat (except possibly some potato chips. It depends upon the brand.)