How to handle meals with colleagues from work

A.C. Decker, MSW, LICSW

I work with a lot of high-level associates for my job and we are always having working meetings over meals. I do my best to be inconspicuous when I order my food, but it's gotten really hard and I've gotten sick a couple of times. My colleagues just don't understand. Do you have any thoughts?


It is not clear if your associates are aware of your celiac disease or if you have just tried to handle it on your own without explanation. With celiac disease, it is important to be open and transparent around your food needs. Although it may be more difficult to inform higher level associates, it sounds like you see them regularly and can carefully choose who to talk to.

If you have talked with them and they just don’t understand, perhaps try giving them some more information that they can read on their own time, not when it is time to eat. Perhaps you can find the person who picks the restaurant or takeout food and speak to them about your situation directly. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but you may find that they are much more understanding than you expected. You can also try calling the restaurant ahead of time to see if they can do anything to help you so you don’t have to attract attention once you arrive.

If your associates continue to not accommodate you, you could use a couple of approaches. You could pack a small meal that day to carry with you and eat at the restaurant, or you could eat ahead of time. While both these options may be awkward, it is worse to be sick! This also shows that you cannot eat safely at that restaurant. When people ask, you could just nicely say, “Oh I already ate. I have celiac disease and there are no safe gluten-free options for me here.” Or, “I have to bring my food due to severe allergies and this restaurant does not have safe options for me to ensure I don’t get sick.” Be ready to share restaurants you can eat at, if anyone asks.

Published November 1, 2023

Note: This information is provided by NCA and A.C. Decker, MSW, LICSW. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or A.C. Decker, MSW, LICSW by providing this information.

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