Modern Etiquette: No gluten? No fat? Deal gracefully with that

Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:08am EST
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By Anna Post

BURLINGTON, Vermont (Reuters) - "If you would like to dine gluten-free, please ask to see our gluten-free menu."

Restaurants are printing notes like this in droves, and hosts are now googling phrases like "lacto-ovo" before dinner parties.

Dietary restrictions seem to grow more numerous every year, whether it's a rise of gluten intolerance or a new low-carb low-fat no-sugar raw food diet.

Good manners says to eat what you're served, and it also says to respect the beliefs of others, and especially when you're a host, to graciously accommodate them. Contradictory? Not if a little tact and understanding are applied.

For straight-up dislikes when among friends, it's fine to refuse a dish you don't care for with a polite "No, thank you." At a dinner party where the host has gone to a great deal of trouble, it's good manners to take at least a little of every dish being offered.

Teach the concept of the "no thank you helping" to children, even for family meals-it makes it easier for them when the spotlight is on them as a guest.

Allergies are another matter, and can't be avoided; your health and safety is a priority. A conscientious host will ask first-time guests if they have any particular allergies or dietary restriction. If the host doesn't ask, it's especially important for the guest to inform him of allergies, medical conditions, or religious prohibitions.

If the gathering is small, the dinner is in your honor, or you're going to be an overnight houseguest, however, or if you're severely allergic to certain foods (or pets), it's a good idea to let your host know up front when you first respond to the invitation and give him or her a chance to adjust the menu if necessary.   Continued...

<p>Co-owner Waylynn Lucas tops donuts with bacon at Fonuts bakery, which offers unfried, gluten-free and vegan donuts, in Los Angeles, California September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>