How to Turn Away Dishes You Can’t Eat, Politely

We’ve asked this question several times to people from several cultures. How do you say, “No thank you” to dishes consisting of meat or dairy that aren’t part of your diet?


Turning away food can seem not only ungrateful but be taken as privileged and downright rude in some cultures. Unfortunately, we can’t help how others feel about us being plant-based/vegan. We can only try to do our best; to be respectful and loving of their culture and celebrations.


Don’t Speak for Yourself (?)


First things first. Try to have some of the younger generations of their family speak for you ahead of time, before the celebration. Younger generations tend to be more understanding, while elders may take it personally. Try to have the younger folks explain your diet and lifestyle in their own words so that no one is caught off guard. That way, you can avoid moments like Ian Miller has in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when he meets his (Greek) in-laws who have a hard time understanding that he doesn’t eat meat. Never seen it? Their reaction is hilarious but at the same time, gives you a deeper understanding about the differences within traditional cultures. (We recommend you watch it; but mostly because it’s funny movie.)


Make It and They Will be Just Fine


If you can’t have someone forewarn of your dietary needs, bring a dish or even a few. That way, you have something to eat and can have a full plate of it at the dinner party. Plus, this helps you to not feel so excluded. Also, we like to try and get an idea of the menu beforehand so we can see if there will be anything we can enjoy.


Stick Around After Dinner


While having young people explain your needs and bringing your own dishes is cool and all, sticking around to really celebrate and appreciate them opening their home is important too. Be sure to engage, make eye contact, smile and offer some of your dishes you brought. Always say thank you no matter what you’re offered and show appreciation in general.Bring this and we know you’ll be a hit.


Words Sometimes Speak Louder


We asked about 6 people, each from different cultures, about turning away food politely. They are from homes that are very traditional with very traditional parents and strong ties to their culture. Each answered that sometimes, it is simply best to be honest and say, “No, thank you.” Or ,”I’m sure it’s great, I just can’t eat it.” Regardless of the culture, we should always be gracious for what we are given out of respect. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean you need to eat it.


Being vegan is not something one should be ashamed of but we can certainly run into some socially awkward situations that make us feel that way sometimes. What are some of your favorite responses to someone who is offering you food you just can’t eat?


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