my team excludes me from lunches because of my dietary restrictions

A reader writes:

I have Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease that causes my body to essentially attack itself whenever I eat gluten. It’s not super common, but common enough that I know several people who have it. Since I was diagnosed 10 years ago, gluten-free options have gotten much more common at restaurants and it’s way easier for me to find places to eat out these days.

Thankfully, I am not so sensitive to gluten the way that many people with CD are, but I do typically get an upset stomach for a day or two if I eat gluten, plus the occasional migraine/brain fog. It’s not life-ending, but it’s bad enough to keep me from giving 100% when I need to.

On four separate occasions since I started my job less than a year ago, I have been left out of my department’s lunches due to my dietary restrictions.

Once, for a lunch meeting, I was ordered a salad (JUST lettuce and dressing, without any protein or additional veggies) when everyone else got gourmet sandwiches. When I mentioned that I might have to go get a more substantial lunch, the person who ordered the lunch asked if I could just take the bread off a sandwich and eat what was inside. (No.) Another time, the caterer forgot to include my order, and the admin in charge of picking it up just shrugged about it without offering to go get a replacement, so I ended up just going out to buy myself lunch. (I paid for it myself.) A month ago, an email went to everyone EXCEPT me to order from a local burger place, and people talked about their orders around me in hushed tones. And today, a coworker ordered pizza for “everyone,” but didn’t order anything I could eat. This is not to mention the constant stream of bagels, donuts, cakes, and other treats that are brought in for the whole team (except me, apparently).

I know that Celiac disease is covered by the ADA, but I’m assuming this isn’t illegal because no one is technically depriving me of safe food. However, I feel like people are acting like huge jerks by excluding me like this! I’ve had a rough couple of months at work due to stress, and I contribute a lot to my team in very well-documented and significant ways. It feels like no one cares enough to make me feel included in these employee appreciation efforts, though. It’s not that hard to find gluten-free options — I do it all the time!

What should I do? My direct boss works remotely, so it seems silly and almost passive aggressive to bring it up to him to have him advocate for me. It feels super awkward to bring it up to anyone else, especially because different managers usually cover the costs and make the orders. I’m really hurt by the exclusion and I’m starting to build some resentment toward my coworkers because of it. Is there a polite way to bring it up in the moment? Am I overreacting by feeling excluded?

You’re not overreacting. If there’s a work event where the company is providing food, they should provide food you can eat. Giving you lettuce isn’t acceptable, and shrugging and doing nothing when your order doesn’t show up isn’t okay either.

Dietary restrictions are so incredibly common — whether it’s people who need vegetarian meals, or kosher or halal ones, or gluten-free, or a whole bunch of other things — that it’s a little ridiculous for a company not to have any plan in place for meeting a diversity of dietary needs. That’s especially true when you consider the reason why companies generally provide food in the first place: it’s to make people feel taken care of and appreciated … or at least to make sure they’re not driven to distraction by hunger at a working lunch.

And it’s just not that hard to do. If they’re having trouble finding options that will work for you, then at a minimum whoever orders food should talk to you and ask what solutions would work. It could be as simple as you suggesting a couple of places you can order from/dishes you can eat and they order those separately for you each time. Problem solved.

Casual food orders organized by coworkers on their own are a little different. It would be thoughtful and polite for them to include you if they can, but it’s not at the same level of problem as being overlooked during official stuff is. If a group of coworkers decide to order a pizza, it would be kind for them to say, “We’re getting pizza. Is there anything you want to order?” … but I suspect you wouldn’t be as bothered by them not thinking of that (or by the steady stream of treats people bring in) if you weren’t being so regularly excluded by more official food events too.

As for what to do … Ideally there would be one person handling food orders and you could just talk to that person, but it’s trickier since it’s different managers managing the orders for different events. You can still solve it though! Try the following:

* Talk to your boss (it doesn’t really matter that he works remotely; this is still a team thing that it makes sense to go through him for). Say this: “I’m finding I can never eat at team events where food is provided because whoever’s ordering just gets me lettuce with dressing instead of a full meal, or even nothing at all. I’d like to start ordering my own meals for those events so I’m not starving while everyone around me is eating, especially for meetings that are intended to take place over lunch. Can I just start managing my own food orders to ensure I can eat, and then submitting for reimbursement? Or is there another way I could handle it?”

* If there’s an office administrator type who’s involved with a lot of the food plans, even though they’re not organizing all of them, talk to that person too. You’re better off going in with a specific solution to propose (since you know better than they do what will work). For example, you could say, “Could we arrange to always do a separate order for me during catered events so I’m able to eat with everyone else? Restaurants A and B are easy for me to order from.” If they seem hesitant about that, you could suggest the reimbursement option instead, but ideally they’d just fold your order in with the rest of the food ordering.

* When you hear coworkers talking about ordering food, speak up! Say, “I’d love to order something to eat with you. Can you give me a minute to look at the menu? If they don’t have something I can eat, I’ll order from a separate place but still eat with you.” Or if you don’t find out until they’ve already ordered, try saying, “I’d love to know next time you’re ordering so I can get myself something and join you.” If you do that enough times, people are likely to start more automatically offering you that option (whereas right now their brains are probably stopping at “Jane can’t eat pizza”).

I’m going to close this out with an email a client of mine once sent out that solved this problem beautifully, as inspiration for anyone who wants their own team to handle this better (identifying details changed/removed):

You might not have noticed, but our team has grown by ELEVENTY BILLION people this year, and with that awesome growth, our food preferences now span a very wide spectrum: I’m talking paleo to vegan!

Within that spectrum, we’re finding it hard to find catering that can please everyone, so here’s our solution for meetings in the future:
We will still try really hard to select food options where everyone on our team can find something to eat;
We will provide you with the menu(s) ahead of time; and
If you will not get enough nutrition from those menus, you can feel free to order your own food (no judgment!) on us. We just ask that you let X know you’re doing so ahead of time so we can adjust numbers for our caterers.

We’re going to try this out for (meeting) next week! Below you will find the planned menus, and we’d love for you to look them over, see if the meals work for you, and, if not, give X a heads-up by Tuesday morning at the latest.

People in charge of food: Steal this idea.

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. I edit everything*

    This is so weird. Even in Podunk, Ohio, lots of people have gone GF, not just those with celiac, and people planning events are mindful of it when they plan. And it’s every age group, from teens to old church ladies. It’s just boggling that this isn’t on this office’s radar.

    1. Smithy*

      I’ve often found that the level of passive aggressiveness/rudeness/exclusionary behavior around ordering food at work increases exponentially the more the person ordering the food is doing it as a favor/ it’s not a core part of their work and/or the more constraints that person is under (i.e. you can only order from these places, using this medium, this level of funding, etc etc).

      It doesn’t make the reaction appropriate, but in those cases if it’s work the OP can remove from that person’s to-do list (i.e. order a meal themselves to be reimbursed), then it can at least help de-escalate constraints or burders the OP is not responsible for.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think this is a good insight. To that, I’d also add that there may be difficulty understanding what exactly LW might need (heck, even the dressing on that lettuce may have been a gamble for some folks), or how to go about inquiring for things like cross contamination at the local burger joint, with the attendant anxiety over potentially causing a medical problem in a co-worker if you do something wrong.

        Or these people could be thoughtless and inconsiderate.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Or both! There’s no reason they can’t say “we’re ordering lunch from this place, do you want to see if there’s something there you can eat?”

          1. BlueSwimmer*

            Right! Like, both of the pizza places near my work that we frequent have gluten free crusts available or things like Greek salad with chicken.

        2. yellow haired female*

          Yes, this is definitely a case where they should just ASK OP. I know people with Celiac’s that is so severe they won’t eat at a restaurant that serves gluten at all because of the possibility for cross-contamination. I also know people like OP for whom it isn’t so severe, and they can eat order, say, a gluten-free pizza crust with no problem, even if the restaurant also serves gluten.

          1. Smithy*

            While asking is definitely the correct move – I will just say that at one job there was some learning group I was part of where once a month a different person was responsible for coordinating a lunch order for the 10-12 of us. To my earlier point, participating in the group was part of our overall job duties – however the ordering lunch part…..

            At one point while trying to figure out our office’s system of how we were supposed to order lunch for that number of people, what our budget was, where people did or did not want food from, who was actually attending or not – I was ready to announce we were just dumpster diving.

            In no way does this excuse what is happening to the OP – and 100% there are people who are very passive aggressive about people who don’t just eat like they do. It’s just to give a bit of empathy that the person ordering the lunches may be finding this task already overwhelming, without a lot of support and with contradictory information. Before they even get to the OP’s needs.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              That’s a good point. Once you get past the old-style phone in of a pizza order for a group lunch, employers really need to have someone who does the ordering as part of their job, plan for it to take time, and put in the time and effort to build up an efficient and effective system. If it’s being dumped on random people, and not being counted as part of their work duties (or worse, is being dumped on random women), having to squeeze in a couple of hours out of your regular work to poll the meeting attendees, get a list of dietary requirements, research possible restaurants, send around a tentative order list, have people object, repeat a few times, put in a detailed order (possibly to more than one restaurant) and then guard and personally hand out the items so everyone gets the correct one can be a real pain.

              If the employer can’t designate the resources to do so properly, then not doing group meals is a perfectly acceptable option as well.

              1. Jessica*

                I agree, it is actual work to do this well! If you have a situation where it’s nobody’s real job and therefore rotates around to be fair to everybody, each new person will have to put in more effort for a worse result.

            2. Erica*

              and this is why corporate catering companies exist, specifically to handle all those details and offer a wide range for everyone beyond what any one local restaurant would typically provide.

      2. Veryanon*

        I used to have a direct report with CD. No problem, we were all aware of it and whenever anyone brought treats in for the group, we’d make sure there was a gluten-free alternative, and when we went out to lunch, I’d make sure the place we were going could accommodate us. My manager (her grandboss) thought this was ridiculous and would do passive-aggressive things like bring in donuts or bagels for everyone and not include something for her, or start arguing that CD wasn’t real and it was “all in her head.” And Grandboss was the HR Director! I finally had to take her aside and explain that this was a Real Thing and she was acting like a giant glassbowl. (She had a lot of other issues, not surprisingly, and I ended up leaving that job after a very short tenure.)
        People are surprisingly weird about food allergies for some reason.

        1. Juneybug*

          Thank you for being a great supervisor! My last two bosses were horrible about my celiac disease (bring something for everyone to eat but me, plan luncheons at resturants that I wouldn’t dare eat at, etc.). It really does a job (pun intended) on your morale.

      3. nobadcats*

        At former workplace, they would often order from Corner Bakery for a catered lunch, available in the cube adjacent to the admin’s cube. It was usually a standard selection of five different sandwiches, with only two (2!) of the caprese (lettuce, tomato, mozz, olive oil, herbs) for a vegetarian option. My co-irker was vegetarian, and oftentimes could not get to the food before other people did, because, hey, we were busy. Needless to say, but I will, the caprese sandwich is pretty popular, I like it myself and the two (2!) sammies were gone. When I mentioned this to the admin, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “It’s not my problem if she doesn’t get her preferred food.” So, made it my job to pop right the eff out of my seat, get my sandwich and nab a veg sandwich for my co-irker.

        In my next office, we had two co-irkers who had Celiac. On pizza days, we always ordered about 10 pizzas of various meat and veg combinations, but there were always one or two gluten-free personal-size pizzas for the gluten-impaired, placed in a space separate from the other pizzas, and a big, neon sticky note was on each box with a note in sharpie: “gluten-free, do NOT touch unless you are X or X!” Additionally, for other catered lunches, there was a note to NOT cross-contaminate by reusing utensils.

        Apparently this occurred because non-gluten-free co-irkers were like, “Oh, what’s this like?” and all the gluten-free pizza would be gone. As my co-irker said, “It sucks, okay? It sucks, it’s not the same, but it’s as good as it can be.” And don’t use the pasta spoon to get a good dig of salad.

        I mean, it’s not brain science. Just be considerate and kind!

        1. Juneybug*

          So why can’t half my family figure that out (not to use the same spoon, not touch gluten free food when you have plenty of other gluten food to pick from, etc.)?!?!?! Oh right, it’s all in my head. Mind you that one of them is a nurse.
          The other half of my family are wonderful. I have never got sick at their house. At the other relatives’ house, I no longer eat there. I bring my own safe food.

          1. nobadcats*

            Because sometimes people, especially relatives, are jerks. My own grandmother, also a nurse, didn’t believe I was allergic to tetracycline. So… I was projectile vomiting for *fun*, gran?

            When we were still in the office, in the Before Times, some of us would bring in baked goods. I always provided a print out of the recipe of mine for anyone food sensitivities. And I often made an entire batch of delicious chocolate cookies for my two gluten-free co-irkers, so they wouldn’t feel left out. (It’s a ridiculously simple recipe, basically just chocolate and powdered sugar.)

            1. Marion Ravenwood*

              I’m a baker, but I live alone and it always seems a bit pointless to bake for just me, so I only ever really do it for social events including office potlucks. I will always make a sign that says what it is and ‘contains gluten (flour)/eggs/dairy (milk/butter)/nuts etc’ to go on the plate/Tupperware box. That way I figure people can make their own judgement calls if they can/want to eat it for whatever reason.

              The chocolate cookie recipe sounds good though – definitely trying that one out in the future!

              1. nobadcats*

                I’ll try to dig up the recipe for it. It was SO simple.

                Looking online for the recipe right now, I know I didn’t use any recipe that had a gluten-free flour in it, nor chocolate chips.

                When I was in hospital 5 years ago, my boss (who is one of the “hey, I brought in cookies” random bakers) asked me what my favorite cookie is. I said oatmeal scotchies. She’d never heard of them, but there were two batches of oatmeal scotchies on the table in the kitchenette my first day back in office; one for the entire team and one for me to take home.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          I’ll never forget going to stuff lunch at an event where three of the 5 available dishes had pork, including a salad covered in bacon, and asking the banquet staff to bring out a bacon-free bowl of salad…and watching the coworker in front of me pick up the tongs in the bacon-covered salad and proceed to dig around in the bacon-free salad.

          To add insult to injury, the only dish I and the other non-pork, kosher/halal staff COULD eat on the buffet gave us all food poisoning.

        3. I'm not just closing my eyes this time*

          I’m going to steal “co-irkers” cause that is too perfect to describe some colleagues!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      This can be part of the problem. People have gone gluten free for a range of reasons spanning from absolute medical necessity to casual trendiness. This by itself is fine, but few people have the honesty or self-awareness to say “I don’t eat gluten because this is trendy.” Often they claim medical necessity as the more dramatic rationale. The inevitable eye-roll response then extends to people’s actual medical necessity being interpreted as clueless trendiness, not something to be taken seriously.

      1. June bug*

        Citation for the trendiness? Gluten intolerance isn’t so rare that it’s unreasonable to do a trial if you suspect some of your low-key but annoying stomach problems might be due to it. And yes, it’s accurate to claim medical reasons even if it just makes you bloated and gassy, and most people wouldn’t want to elaborate if that’s the case. It doesn’t have to put you in the hospital to be valid, like the LW. So please knock it off with assuming people are being dramatic and dishonest, when they’re just doing what’s best for them without sharing the gory details with you. Nobody owes you an explanation.

        1. Thursday Next*

          In the early 2010s there was a huge cultural moment of fad-chasers going gluten free because they thought it was healthy or because it was the thing-of-the-moment. There were tons of articles and jokes about it, and it definitely was a big driver behind people with actual medical restrictions getting the side eye. It was a very common point of conversation back then (mostly to talk about how annoying it was when those people would claim it was medical but didn’t actually have Celiac or anything similar.)

          I’m pretty sure the trend was actually a big driver behind how easy it is now to get gluten-free options for people who actually do need it. Unfortunately a lot of disability advances gain more traction from people using them as novelties (e.g. smart fridges, etc) than the people who actually need them.

          This is not to say that it’s all acceptable for anyone to doubt someone stated dietary needs. but it absolutely was a huge cultural moment to consider it a fad diet that people hopped on, as Richard Herschberger said. My friends with genuine medical restrictions on gluten have commenter about feeling like they have to preemptively say, “No but actually though.”

          1. Pickwick Picnic*

            Yeah my in-laws have a “gluten intolerance” which really means they’re trying to avoid bread/pasta/carbs. Which is fine, but it annoys me they try to put a medical reason on something that’s a preference, and they’ll still, say, drink beer. On the other hand, it makes hosting them easier because I can avoid making a pasta dish but I don’t worry about cross-contamination or thickening a sauce with flour.

            So yes, the whole “gluten intolerance is a fad” thing definitely exists completely separate from people with Celiac or actual gluten intolerance.

            1. Fishsticks*

              I think the idea of “gluten intolerance” being fad-ish came about after Atkins/low carb kind of lost its sheen, and people wanted a more “acceptable” reason to be low-carb. Unfortunately, this ended up putting people whose bodies genuinely do not tolerate gluten in a weird spot of being side-eyed for essential health choices because everyone knew someone who claimed to be not eating gluten but had no health problems.

              Which absolutely sucks. I make it a point to assume any stated allergy is real and treat the person seriously. People who need to eat gluten-free for medical reasons don’t deserve to be doubted and treated badly.

              I definitely feel like now there’s a shift to “eating Keto” or another faddy low-carb diet by the people I know who used to claim “gluten intolerance”. Meanwhile, my Celiac sister-in-law and my genuinely, medically gluten-intolerant older sister are able to get much better food options than they used to, so they’re taking it all as a win.

        2. Agatha*

          No, he’s right. I have celiac disease and because of the number of people going “gluten free” (but not really, because they tend to be just avoiding bread, not say, soy sauce, oatmeal and most gummy candies, which are all sources of gluten), the definition of GF has been diluted. I see it all the time in restaurants, there’s a “gluten free” menu but it’s all cross-contaminated and will make someone sick if they have celiac disease. So I just have to be that customer and ask a ton of questions because a lot of people don’t really even know what gluten is, let alone how ridiculously persistent it is on a shared surface.

          1. RNL*

            So my mom has very severe FODMAP-related IBS.

            The problem with FODMAPs is that there are basically in everything, and it’s all about amount. So she can have like three cherry tomatoes, but not more. So she can have a bit of soy sauce – but not bread.

            And so I can totally see the tension that arises. FODMAP sensitivity is not an allergy. It is not an all or nothing proposition, unlike Celiac disease. So my mom on one hand has to very carefully control what she eats in order to not literally shit herself on the regular, but she also can have small amounts in a way that people with allergies or Celiac disease cannot, so it makes her look like a super controlling liar to those with all or nothing food restrictions.

            Having people with Celiac, allergies, and food sensitivities in my inner circle has made me absolutely, 100% just accept people’s food restrictions without any comment or side-eye. It requires thought and planning. Once you get the hang of it it’s not hard, and to me accommodating food needs is absolutely central to being an inclusive home or workplace.

            1. Colette*

              Yeah, I have an intolerance to peppers. I can eat something cut on the same cutting board as a pepper, or spices that contain peppers. I will not eat pieces of peppers, because most often I will be sick for a day or two if I do. I’m not allergic, so trace amounts are not a problem – but it’s still a real restriction.

              1. Marna Nightingale*

                Are you a fellow member of Team What Do You MEAN Bell Peppers Aren’t Spicy?”

                The thing that discovering that I am, though not flat-out allergic, deeply and weirdly sensitive to peppers has taught me is:

                Actually even if the reason someone gives you for avoiding eating X is nonsense, there is a reasonable change that they still really shouldn’t eat X.

                Most of the peppers I’ve been served in the last decade have come from people who followed the logic train:

                1) She says she doesn’t eat them because they taste like burning kerosene.

                2) Peppers do not taste like burning kerosene*.

                3) Obviously she just hasn’t had them prepared properly.

                4) Really, they’re so mild, she won’t even know they’re in there.

                5) She’s turning pink, I guess it must be hot in here.

                1. Colette*

                  Now I hate the smell of peppers, but that wasn’t the case before I developed the intolerance. I don’t find them spicy – but I can’t eat them.

                2. Bryce*

                  I don’t have burning kerosine issues, but I do find them to have an overwhelmingly strong flavor that other folks don’t notice.

                3. GammaGirl1908*

                  I thankfully don’t have allergies, but I do have a lot of dislikes. I STRONGLY DISLIKE peppers. If you like them, you don’t notice them. If you don’t like them, they’re all you taste.

                  I had a coworker who thought somehow cutting them smaller would help? Whaaa? So there’s more surface area and they’re harder to pick out? No, Sheila, telling me “but they’re diced up really finely!” does not help, unless somehow that makes them taste different.

            2. Filosofickle*

              I have a true egg allergy that’s like this and i have a hard time articulating it — I’m pretty sure people think I’m making it up. It’s only the yolks and I can have a little just not a lot so most baked goods are okay but no custards or french toast. And it’s not life threatening, it causes stomach issues. As long as I can avoid breakfast / brunch it doesn’t come up much but when it does it’s a challenge.

              1. Silverose*

                My wife calls this level an egg intolerance. She can do baked goods but nothing that is mostly egg because “it finds the fastest way out of her body”. So no omelets, scrambled eggs, quiche, or even French toast (unless she’s staying home for the day on that last one…very rarely she finds that one worth it). And if I eat eggs, I have to brush my teeth before I kiss her because even that could trigger her reaction to eggs. She really misses omelets and French toast. We have fun explaining to restaurants that yes, she can eat the pancakes, just keep her pancakes away from my scrambled eggs with cheese. Some restaurants have failed that simple task too many times at multiple locations so we avoid them (looking at you, IHOP!).

          2. too many dogs*

            Exactly! I also have Celiac, and many people assume it’s just bread and pasta. A friend excitedly told me that a favorite Italian restaurant “now has gluten-free pasta!” When I asked, “Is the sauce also gluten free?” They were astonished. I suspect that the LW’s office-mates don’t understand how sneaky and pervasive gluten is. Hint guys: it’s in canned tuna, which I completely don’t understand.

            1. Lydia*

              My BFF has celiac, and I know from going out with her, a LOT of restaurants are not great, but a lot of them are getting more savvy about what might have gluten and what will not.

              1. Al*

                I’ve been told by friends with celiac that In-N-Out Burger is really good about avoiding cross contamination if you say you have a gluten allergy. Only helpful for folks who live where In-N-Out exists, but I was glad to hear it.

                1. Rach*

                  In and out is the only fast food place I can eat with my yeast allergy! They’re great for my SIL who has celiacs as well.

            2. Avril Ludgateaux*

              Hint guys: it’s in canned tuna, which I completely don’t understand.

              It’s also in a lot of spices, and even lipsticks, and often under obscure chemical names. I used to laugh at my shampoo being advertised as gluten free until I learned that some people get cutaneous manifestations of Celiac, and it’s not clear if gluten can get into these lesions and be absorbed. Some video was going around recently of somebody “discovering” that you can dust your grapes with flour and then wash them to make them look shiny. And it became something of a meme about how can’t even trust fresh fruit to be gluten free! Now I understand why one of my diagnosed-Celiac friends, who has extremely high levels of inflammation right now, prefers not to eat out at all.

            3. DJ Abbott*

              Many years ago when I first learned I’m allergic to soy, I found soy protein was also in canned tuna. I don’t know if it still is, but it’s ridiculously unnecessary.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            I went into a cafe that was tipped on the grapevine as being great for gluten free options, but when I went in it was just offering “low gluten” snacks. WTAF is that when it’s at home?

        3. cardigarden*

          This was actually a pretty big thing in the early 2000s. Right around the time my aunt got her diagnosis (very serious reactions, can’t use the same cutting board as bread and still call it gluten-free kind of serious), going gluten-free was the new diet fad. She had to deal with various combinations of people Just Not Getting It in terms of “oh, well we can sub in whole wheat pasta for regular pasta” and straight up just ignoring cross contamination, and reactions she got when she had to address it was “oh of course you’re just saying you’re gluten free because you want to lose weight, it’s no big deal.”

          1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

            I volunteer for Lasagna Love, where we make homemade lasagnas and deliver them to folks in need. There are volunteers who will accept gluten-free requests and make no other changes to their usual recipe except for replacing the regular noodles with GF noodles, but I won’t touch those requests. My home kitchen is not set up to guarantee there’s no cross-contamination, and I also would be paranoid that I might miss other substitutions that might need to be made. I would be horrified if I made someone sick from eating my food.

            1. Juneybug*

              OMG, as someone with celiac disease, I would be terrified about having a stranger make a gluten free lasagna for me.
              Did they thoroughly clean their kitchen before making the gluten free version?
              Are they making a regular gluten lasagna next to a gluten free lasagna? Are they using the same cutting board, dishes, etc., for both versions? Are they using the same washcloth/sponge, towel, or potholder? Are they baking the gluten free version next to the gluten version?
              Are the other ingredients, besides the pasta, gluten free? Such as tomato sauce, spices, cheese, ricotta cheese, etc.?
              During transportation, are the gluten free lasagna labeled and keep separate from other versions? Do the delivery folks wash their hands before touching the gluten free lasagna? Are the side dishes, if provided, also gluten free?
              No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst – thank you for taking care of others, including turning down offers of making something that could get another ill. You are the best!

              1. Ellen N.*

                Yep, if I had to avoid gluten, I wouldn’t trust anything made in a home kitchen unless the cook was on a gluten free diet.

                I’ve been cooking for decades and I only recently learned that wood utensils that have touched gluten can’t be used for gluten because gluten lodges in the grain of the wood.

                I also recently learned that a stand mixer that has been used to prepare food that contains gluten can’t be used to make gluten free food as there are too many nooks and crannies where gluten can lodge.

            2. Jenn*

              Did you just say there’s an entire charity dedicated to making lasagna for people in need?? Goodness I love people!

            1. yet_another_celiac*

              I don’t think that whole wheat vs white makes a difference for gluten content, in that the glutenin and gliadin aren’t in the germ/bran/brown part. I guess technically by volume whole wheat flour will have less gluten since there’s more other stuff in it, but it doesn’t make a big difference when a crumb in a peanut butter jar is enough to get you sick.

        4. HBJ*

          No, you shouldn’t automatically judge someone for just hopping on a trend train when you don’t know. But I think we’ve all known people who fall into this camp. I have a friend who sang the praises of going GF for curing all her stomach ills. A few years ago, she began posting all her baking adventures on social media. She makes tons of bread, rolls, etc., and yes, I am 100% sure none of this is GF baking. It was absolutely a trend for her that she stopped when she got tired of it. Another friend said she was GF, but then at restaurants would say, “oh, that bread looks so good,” and then would eat a little bit with an “I’m going to pay for that tomorrow” and a laugh. I certainly didn’t say anything to their face, but I absolutely rolled my eyes internally and didn’t take their GF status seriously.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Even that friend might not have been lying–just like many diabetics cheat and eat sugary sweets for comfort, even knowing they’ll “pay for it” with having wild blood sugar swings after.

            1. Smithy*

              FYI – this can also apply to dietary restrictions for religious reasons.

              There are lots of people who adhere to parts of the kosher dietary laws – but do not adhere to all tenants or even all tenants all the time. The whole “not eating pork, but every now and then I have to have some extra crispy bacon”.

              Whether someone normally drinks alcohol but isn’t this week due to medication, or someone normally avoids alcohol for religious purposes but every now and then….putting ourselves in positions to judge what they should be doing is a bad place to be.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                Tenets, not tenants. Not eating pork except for every now and then is not kosher.

                I keep kosher, as in, no pork and no non-kosher meat (which is reality means no meat), but that’s not kosher enough for my Orthodox relatives, so I can’t eat or cook in their kitchen or bring food unless I buy it from a kosher kitchen.

                1. Rach*

                  Right but some people try to adhere to religious restrictions and sometimes “cheat”. Like some Mormons with alcohol. Not my place to judge what anyone else does or does not put into their body. If someone endeavours to eat kosher 99% of the time but has a slice of cake after dinner, not my business. If my best friend decides to have a fancy coffee because she had a bad nights sleep despite being Mormon and not drinking coffee the other 364 days a year, that’s her choice and not my place to judge.

            2. Clisby*

              My grandmother had a close friend who *loved* oysters and was really allergic to them. Like, her throat would close up. Most of the time, she could make herself stay oyster-free, but at least once a year she’d feast on oysters, call the emergency room to expect her, and have her husband head over there so she could be treated. My grandmother thought she was crazy.

            3. Liz*

              Also, I was diagnosed with celiac intolerance (which some people say isn’t a thing, but my gastroentrologist and digestive system disagree), but have found I can tolerate home made bread and pasta without a problem, and even store bought products, if they don’t contain preservatives. Sometimes it’s not simply the gluten, but the way it interacts with other ingredients.

          2. Aikaterhn*

            Yes, I have felt this too. I have family members and friends who have different food allergies and food limitations for various medical reasons. I’ve gotten really good at adjusting and accommodating. However, a couple of them drive me nuts because they keep changing what their dietary restrictions are and are unable to articulate exactly what they can and cannot eat. And then go and break their “hard” rules because “they can’t resist.” It makes it frustrating because I try to accommodate, but then find the rules have changed. Right now one family member is gluten-free, dairy-free, pork-free, peanut-free, carb-free, sugar-free, rice-free, bean-free. And raw veggies may now be a problem. But she eats some cheeses and rice noodles? All of this is self-imposed and diagnosed. It’s exhausting. I think this may be some of people’s fatigue with trendy fads, because people jump on them, but are inconsistent in application, so people have a hard time taking them seriously. However, for me it’s specific people. Those I know who have legitimate dietary restrictions are usually good at explaining them and don’t change them all the time, even if they do break them occasionally.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              It might be that your family member is still figuring out what’s causing her symptoms. It can be very confusing and doctors are not much help because they have no training in food and nutrition. Not even G.I. doctors.
              It sounds like she is taking too many things out of her diet and is at risk of poor nutrition. She might do better working with a medical provider to help her with an elimination diet. Or another way would be for her to go back to eating what she wants and keep a food and symptom diary and then look for patterns.
              It can take a few years to identify all of the food issues.

              1. Fishsticks*

                Yeah, I have a friend who went through some pretty harrowing health experiences and came out of it with serious, severe reactions to a lot of different foods. Not allergies, exactly. She had to go on a series of increasingly restrictive diets to try and figure out exactly what she was reacting to and why. It made eating with her kind of complicated for a while – but really, we figured it out and we did a lot of asking to speak with the chef in certain restaurants so we could get an idea of what was in each dish she was interested in. One chef/owner of a Korean restaurant in Asheville was one of our best experiences, and it turned out his mother was undergoing something similar. He worked with us to more or less design a dish for my friend that she could eat in a restaurant where otherwise very little worked for her.

                She has been able to add almost everything back to her diet, but it took a couple of years of slowly reintroducing foods and letting her body get used to them before trying the next one.

          3. Media Monkey*

            Ah, like my lactose intolerant SIL who came to my house for xmas dinner, wouldn’t eat the veggies as there was a knob of butter in them (fair enough – she was only very recently diagnosed and i had forgotten and made sure there were other veggies she could eat) but then talked about going to mcdonalds for a cheeseburger the day before.

            1. Throwaway123*

              Some cheese like cheddar and Parma have no lactose in them, so cheese burgers can be okay with certain types of cheeses.

            2. Generic Name*

              I’m lactose intolerant and am still figuring out what I can and can’t eat. Parmesan is ok in small amounts. I can do sheep or goat cheeses, but butter, cream, milk, and lots of cheeses causes, ahem, problems.

          4. Lydia*

            The GF fad was connected (like so many diet trends) with gluten being the cause of EVERYTHING. Anxiety? Probably a gluten “sensitivity”. Trouble sleeping? Gluten. Feeling a bit bloated after lunch? That’s gluten. It was aggravating to watch while at the same time, someone I cared about was having to navigate a new, actual diagnosis that changed so much of her life. People should be able to eat and not eat what they want, and for people with dietary restrictions, they have a right to get the food that will feed them, but if you’re a health magician trying to sell people that removing X from their diet will solve a host of unrelated problems, keep it out of my face.

            It’s also frustrating because so many of these people feel legitimately fatigued or unwell and, in the desire to feel better, they get exploited by people who are looking to make a quick buck by selling them their gluten free, soy free, dairy free nutritional dust.

            1. Pickwick Picnic*

              oh my goodness, yes. I mentioned above that my in-laws are “gluten sensitive” and my MIL very seriously tried to explain to me that my eczema flare-up could be due to gluten (no, I’m pretty sure I had terrible eczema on my hands because I was immersing them in scalding hot water multiple times a day to clean the parts for my breast pump). They’re nice people but they firmly believe in a lot of crunchy/woo things and it can be tiring.

          5. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I know quite a few people who have decided that they and most of the world are gluten intolerant. I mean, they literally say things like “oh, you have x medical problem. You’re probably gluten intolerant like me. I had *completely different medical problem* and stopped eating gluten and it completely went away. A lot of medical problems today are caused by gluten and people just don’t know it. Even the doctors don’t know it.” And yeah, it doesn’t seem to affect their diet much. They maybe ate LESS bread or something like that, but they certainly didn’t have difficulty finding something to eat on nights out, etc.

            That said, it really doesn’t matter. Even if they think she is just self-diagnosing, they should still respect her choices (I know they are not just choices but even if her colleagues see them as such, it’s not an excuse to exclude her).

          6. FrivYeti*

            See, this is exactly why you shouldn’t do that.

            I have a very good friend with a gluten intolerance, and yes, sometimes they decide that bread looks great, eat some, and make a joke about ‘paying for it tomorrow’.

            And guess what? They’re telling the truth, not making a little joke for you to roll your eyes at. Eating one piece of bread means digestive problems the next day, and they can make a decision on the spot if it’s worth it. Eating a meal that’s entirely gluten means spending hours on the toilet. Eating a bit of gluten expecting a bit of digestive discomfort and then getting ambushed with more gluten later because someone decided they weren’t ‘really’ GF meant a surprise loss of a day’s work.

            Sometimes people eat things that will make them feel terrible later because it’s not later right now. Sometimes you should just accept that instead of rolling your eyes at them, because you don’t actually know what’s going on with them and it’s an incredibly assholish move to assume that they’re not actually dealing with things.

            1. Bibliothecarial*

              That’s my partner. They can eat about 2 pieces of regular wheat bread, 5-10 pieces of sourdough, and undisclosed amounts of soy sauce etc before the volcano starts to rumble. My roommate, on the other hand, took 1 swig of pop with caramel coloring and was violently ill for days. Everybody’s health journey is different and our colleagues should respect it as much as possible/practical.

            2. kt*

              And somehow we accept this with alcohol. We don’t think people are lying about hangovers because they make a choice now & then to get drunk or have more than usual. I’m not talking about alcoholism here, either — I am talking about “I’m deciding to have 3 cocktails tonight, or split this bottle of wine at a great restaurant”. For me, splitting a bottle of wine with one friend is enough to give me a headache and minor stomach issues the next day, so I certainly won’t have a beer before dinner on top of that.

              And I’m speaking as someone who is gluten intolerant and never “cheats”, except for a piece of croissant the size of a pencil eraser when I was in Paris 6 years ago. Nothing less than that is worth it.

          7. Ellis Bell*

            Honestly, if I could do that with my gluten intolerance, I would and I have tried to. Being intolerant doesn’t confer an iron will or do anything to my love of pastry and pasta. I have tried to tell myself “oh having a break was all I needed to heal my gut issues” or “maybe organic wheat is okay”, but my body isn’t having it and the price is too high. If my symptoms were less overt and immediate then I probably would be eating a pizza now.

            1. Eater of Hotdish*

              Yeah. My issue isn’t gluten, but dairy. I can get away with cheese and yogurt, but for other stuff, if I consume it, it’s not a question of whether I’ll pay the price, but when. And yet there are times when I cave in the moment and make a decision I’ll regret later, and also times when I stand in front of the dairy case and ask myself, “Do I really *need* to go to the big store 45 minutes away and buy oat milk to put in my coffee, or am I just being extra?”

              And, of course, there are lots of times when someone gives me food and it’s easier in the moment to eat it than to explain why I’m not eating it.

              Food is hard to navigate. I think more of us have issues with it than we’ll admit to ourselves. And you just have to keep eating it, every day.

          8. Jeebs*

            Yeah, this is exactly why we keep telling you all to stop assuming or judging someone as being part of a fad diet rather than having an actual dietary restriction. The second friend you’re describing sounds exactly like someone with a genuine intolerance. I have a diagnosed lactose intolerance and I do the same with dairy products. And I’m way more likely to do it when eating out, where my choices are more limited and I’m already paying extra for nice food anyway.

            Not every medical dietary restriction is ‘if I eat it, I die’, and those of us with restrictions less intense than that do not owe it to you to abstain, monk-like, from restricted foods so that you take us seriously.

          9. Ellen N.*

            The reason for judgement of people who state that they have a medical need for a diet when they don’t is their behavior in restaurants.

            When a diner states that they have an allergy, everything that touches their food must be deep cleaned. The person who prepares their food must ensure that there is no cross contamination. This is a lot of extra work.

          10. RNL*

            I posted above about how I accept people’s food restrictions without side-eye, but I’m lying a bit. The birthday when my mom served me sorbet she’d had in her freezer forever because my brother announced he couldn’t have gluten and so we didn’t have a cake and I had a six month old and longed for cake and then my brother drank like 4 of my husband’s expensive craft beers was an exception.

            1. Rach*

              Gluten free cake is a thing! I’m very sorry for your cake free birthday. My SIL is gluten free, tonight we are having dinner for my BIL’s b-day. They’re getting regular and gluten free cupcakes. It’s not difficult to accommodate both!

        5. Gato Blanco*

          Seriously, preach. I have a few intolerances that cause those sorts of symptoms, plus terrible stomach cramps and diarrhea. I do not want to talk about this with my colleagues, and many think I am faking it for attention when I don’t eat at the catered meetings. I *hate* going to breakfast meetings where literally every single thing is something I cannot eat or drink. Dairy isn’t even an uncommon thing to avoid. Would it kill you not to pre-spread the cream cheese on the bagels…

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I think what you mean is that people judge others and make unwarranted assumptions about why they have gone GF and feel free to judge others and make them justify their health choices.

      3. Yorick*

        But that doesn’t matter to LW’s case. It’s not that their coworkers don’t believe them. They believe them so much that they don’t involve them in group lunches.

      4. Everything Bagel*

        If people are trying a gluten-free diet for any reason whatsoever, why in the world are you judging them for it or even asking them why they’re doing it? Sometimes it’s suggested to go completely clean eating when you’re trying to diagnose an issue. Other times people just don’t like to feel bloated from eating certain foods. The fact that you would roll your eyes at someone because you suspect they don’t have a “good enough” reason to eat what they want is quite telling.

        1. Observer*

          You are right – people should not be asking questions or doubting people.

          But your phrasing explains why people do. “Clean eating” is not a medical thing. Nor is it actually useful as a diagnostic approach. Because “clean eating” is not going to help diagnose someone with Celiac, many allergies, IBS, reflux, etc. On the other hand it DOES clearly telegraph moral superiority.

          (And anyone who advises “clean eating” as a diagnostic tool is not someone to take seriously on the topic of diet because they don’t know what they are talking about.)

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            “Clean eating” is not a diagnostic tool, but elimination diets absolutely are a diagnostic tool.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Yes, but “clean” eating =/= elimination diet which was the point of the parenthetical statement.

              1. LlamaDuck*

                Eh, it’s a pretty common mistake. I really thought clean eating was, like, a trendy non-medical way to say “elimination diet,” until I actually looked some of them up and I realized it still included certain potential allergens.

                Elimination diet sounds depressing, so the idea that people would look for a nicer word for it isn’t outlandish.

                1. Fishsticks*

                  I watched someone who for a long time claimed they were following a ‘low-FODMAP’ diet for unspecified, uncertain health reasons as a cover for a pretty severe eating disorder. On the upside, it ended up with me doing a bunch of research into FODMAPs as a concept, which was really interesting.

          2. Lydia*

            I am pointing all the fingers at and saying THIS. This is precisely it. In addition, the people selling “clean eating” are hucksters trying to make some sort of money off someone.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              The wording was a red herring (not one you intended, I know) and the attention piled on it wasn’t fair. Ignore the naysayers!

              1. DisgruntledPelican*

                “Clean eating” is a really gross way to moralize food choices and is used as a fearmongering marketing ploy. It’s unfortunate that Everything Bagel used the wrong phrase, but people who promote clean eating absolutely should be called out.

      5. Clobberin' Time*

        All that passive-voice language, when you could just say “It’s OK to behave like this as a way to punish people who are Undeserving” and be both clearer and more honest.

        Nothing about people glomming onto diet fads excuses shutting the OP out of lunches, or of talking in hushed tones instead of just asking her what she’d like to order.

        1. Observer*

          Nothing about people glomming onto diet fads excuses shutting the OP out of lunches, or of talking in hushed tones instead of just asking her what she’d like to order.

          Agreed

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Thank you. As Spock pointed out in, um… The Enterprise Incident, I think?, to understand something is not to agree with it.

      6. Chirpy*

        I once worked in a kitchen where I overheard a guest’s conversation about how she couldn’t eat gluten /bread but could eat muffins – I happen to know a bit about the science of bread making and am guessing she’s probably actually reacting to industrial yeast, because our muffins were absolutely made of wheat. (Gluten free was the only food allergy we couldn’t really accommodate due to cross-contamination, but our head cook was very aware of it and would do his best).
        I know several people with actual gluten intolerance/ Celiac who range from “occasional gluten is uncomfortable and I’ll do it for special occasions” to “has had surgery and can’t use a shared toaster because the reaction is so bad” though, it’s no joke. And the increased awareness does mean it’s easier to find something for lunch to accommodate someone.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’m allergic to yeast and didn’t identify it till I was 51. Then my nagging sinus headaches went away.
          In hindsight that explains why I always got congested from drinking beer.
          Yes it’s definitely worth looking at all the ingredients of bread, not just the wheat and its gluten.

          1. Rach*

            It also explained why I’d vomit from drinking one beer or get a raging headache from one glass of wine! Yeast is such a difficult thing to cut out, I was diagnosed at 30 but didn’t successfully eliminate it from my diet until 40. I was shamed into thinking it wasn’t a real diagnosis, which sucks. Once I decided to give cutting it out another go, I lost 35 pounds and was able to take my dog for a walk without wanting to die from tiredness.

      7. louvella*

        As someone who has spent a lot of time doing various elimination diets (some fairly evidence-based, some pretty much grasping at straws because someone on the internet said it worked and I was desperate) in an attempt to resolve medical issues, I wish we could not judge folks because we think they are hopping on dietary bandwagons out of “trendiness.” People are often trying to resolve real medical issues that they are struggling with, and not everything has a cut and dry diagnosis and well-researched dietary advice like celiac.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          This. I probably would never have gotten a handle on my condition without the advice being so widely available. Sometimes things are trendy because a lot of people need something! My condition is only anecdotally linked to diet, doctors don’t really know why diet affects so many people with my condition (but not all) it so they don’t offer it as advice for some reason. The doctors were still pleased I found a way to manage it!

        2. kt*

          Agree, and same. I was able to fix skin and sinus problems I’d taken for granted for years by trying a couple elimination diets. Not perfect, but a tool I had available.

          1. Rach*

            Cutting out yeast (allergy test confirmed, tho those are only 50% accurate, an elimination diet is needed to confirm, this is true for all allergies and all allergy tests [including blood and skin prick]) cleared my skin up as well. I used to get painful cysts. It really isn’t surprising that food affects our bodies in so many ways but I was still surprised.

      8. Ana Gram*

        I see you’ve met my mom. Last time I saw her, we went out to eat and she ordered a GF app and made a point of letting the server know she can’t have gluten because she’s allergic to it. Then she ordered fried shrimp for lunch. I just roll my eyes and tip really well…

      9. JustaTech*

        I have a friend who went gluten free as a weight loss diet (specifically), and not because of any specific intolerance. He worked at a brewery, so it was just easier for him to say “I’m gluten free right now” than to have to constantly say “no” to the free beer.

        But he was also super open (at least with friends and at parties) about *why* he was gluten-free and always deferred to our friend with celiac over any of the specifically gluten-free food. (And it worked for him! He lost a bunch of weight and was able to take a hard look at his regular diet and see what was and what wasn’t helpful to maintaining the weight he needed to be for medications for other health conditions.)

      10. Flash Packet*

        If you tell me you can’t eat X because of the celestial ionic wavelengths emanating from it, I’m going to internally think that’s really freaking weird, but outwardly I’m just going to ask what, if anything, from the current menu you *can* eat.

        It’s really, really crappy for people to be all eye-roll-y at other folks’ choices, regardless of the reason given. Someone not eating gluten or eggs or meat or what-the-heck-ever has exactly zero impact on all the people around them.

      11. Kella*

        And the solution to that problem is to *default to taking people’s food restrictions seriously regardless of the reason for the restriction.* People get to choose what they are and aren’t willing to eat, regardless of the reason. Part of the reason people exaggerate the necessity of their dietary restrictions is *because* dismissing them is so common.

    3. Percysowner*

      The pizza one is really weird. Many pizza places here in Central Ohio have Cauliflower Crusts, which they tout as gluten free, BECAUSE people want that. The actual crust is pretty good, in fact.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, but that’s something a lot of people would not realize.

        Just asking the OP would be a good idea, though.

      2. MEH Squared*

        Funnily enough, cauliflower is one of my many food sensitivities (I am also GF/DF).

        As to the larger conversation about GF being ‘trendy’, eh. It’s also something that has vastly different effects on different people. For me, I will be on the toilet, off and on, for the next six hours if I eat more than, say, a teaspoon of soy sauce. I’m not exaggerating. The last time I accidentally ate a bowl of elbow macaroni, thinking it was GF, I was on the hour for forty-five minutes, off it for an hour, repeat, for the next six hours.

        I don’t eat gluten. I would maybe make the exception for a day of dim sum, but I know I will pay for it later. Take people at their word. Even if they’re doing it for ‘trendy’ reasons, so what?

        And, in the case of the OP, yeah, you’ll probably have to be proactive about being included. “Oh, you’re going to ____? Let me see what I can order from there!”, etc. It’s a pain for you, but no one is going to spontaneously include you, unfortunately.

        1. MEH Squared*

          To be clear, the asking is only for when the coworkers go out to eat/order in/etc. When it’s a company-sponsored event, then follow Alison’s advice about finding the person in charge and talking to them.

      3. too many dogs*

        The sneaky thing there is, some of the sauces used on pizza place pizzas are not gluten-free. I have Celiac, and I sometimes think all I do is read labels when grocery shopping.

      4. Celiac Cindy*

        Yes, but a lot of those are really bad about cross-contamination. I have Celiac, and there are plenty of pizza places near me that offer a gluten-free crust. However, they use the same equipment, workspaces, and toppings, so cross-contamination is guaranteed. That’s enough to make me sick for the next 2 days.

        Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just finding a gluten free crust. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t make an effort!

      5. fhqwhgads*

        If there’s flour floating around that kitchen, it’s probably not safe anyway. That’s the whole thing. You have to vet the place in advance. Sure people can look at the menu and see the GF next to an item, but you still have to talk to the kitchen and be like “cross contamination will send me to the hospital, can I eat this?” and they’ll answer truthfully if they’re set up for that or not.

    4. Yorick*

      Right?! Many pizza places have a GF pizza – sometimes a GF crust is available for every pizza. This is true for a variety of restaurants – sometimes you can get any burger/sandwich on a GF bun. Maybe it’s not as prevalent in LW’s area, but I bet there’s at least one or two restaurants they could be ordering from with little to no problems.

      1. Babbalou*

        The problem with regular pizza places serving GF crusts is that to people who are very sensitive (me) or celiac, the GF crust can be contaminated with gluten from all the wheat flour being used in making the regular crusts (some can be airborne) and also putting a GF crust in the oven in the same place that there’s been a regular crust can cause cross contamination.

        It’s just really tough.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          This. I can really only eat from places with gluten free crusts that actually put them on gluten free only pans and only use separate cutters as well. Otherwise, I get very ill.

        2. Erica*

          I have a similar issue with fast food places that offer to sub veggie burgers for meat. After being vegetarian long enough, your body loses the ability to easily digest beef, pork, etc. So a veggie patty that’s basically been simmered in the meat juice on the grill is going to cause me distress later on. No thanks unless I know the restaurant and know they’re conscientious.

    5. FrenchCusser*

      I went and spoke to our HR person after our last in service, because one of my coworkers is gluten intolerant, and the lunch provided had nothing they could eat (lasagna and salad with bread crumbs in it).

      I thought it was pretty unfair, since it’s something that’s been brought up before (by me!) and they’re still being left out of a benefit that the rest of us have.

      1. Juneybug*

        Thank you! Us with celiac disease need advocates. It gets so old having to be our own advocates against others who don’t understand, who don’t want to understand, or don’t care.

    6. Sundari*

      I’m vegetarian and work on a small college campus. I struggle to find enough to eat that doesn’t involve a salad. They have signs saying they can make veggie burgers, yet they cook them on the same grill as the meat, so that kind of negates those.

    7. Some Dude*

      Yeah, gluten free is pretty mainstream. I order food for events sometimes and I always make sure there is an a, vegan option and b, gluten free option. I also try to not order beef or pork for lunches, since people tend to avoid one of the two even if they aren’t strictly vegetarian.

      It can take work to find a place that has edible vegan/gluten free options, though.

  2. Michelle Smith*

    It’s awful that they are excluding you and particularly awful that it’s because of a medical condition. I know there is some resentment of gluten-free eating being a fad diet, but (1) it’s not always as you are living proof of and (2) they should include you anyway, even if they don’t understand or agree with the dietary choice/requirement.

    1. Sally*

      Yup! I don’t eat wheat, pork, or red meat, and I have several vegetarian colleagues, and there are probably others with other restrictions. We work it out so everyone can have lunch.

    2. anne of mean gables*

      Agreed – the “so many people are GF as a trend, so I must react by demonstrating that I think it’s stupid and not accommodate it” attitude drives me up a wall. First off, people should be able to eat (and not eat) what they choose. If I wake up one day and decide to eliminate gluten because I think it’ll help me lose weight, that’s entirely my right. Secondly, I have a close family member with Celiac, and let me tell you how much easier her life is now that gluten free is a “trendy” dietary restriction/choice. Dedicated menu sections! Labels on grocery store foods! A whole different world than when she was diagnosed twenty years ago.

      1. Mrs. Bond*

        Yes!! And regular grocery stores have gluten-free sections! And the products are *a lot* better than they were before. There are loads of recipes out there that are actually good! So the trendiness has been a blessing that way. Still, I get a lot of people, including restaurant servers, who are rude about it.

        1. Lydia*

          It’s another one on the list of X products helpful to people with disabilities but would not exist if people without disabilities didn’t use it. See: Grub Hub, Instacart, grabbers, gluten free food, etc.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. Even if I don’t have any allergies or restrictions, I still have the right to know what’s in the food I’m eating. I’m kosher, which means that if the breakfast buffet has chicken sausage on it, I also need to know what the casing is made of (a lot of sausage casings are made of pork or sheep products, neither of which I can eat) and I have the right to have that information.

      3. Fishsticks*

        We never lose anything by being kind to people who don’t need that kindness, but we lose a LOT when we choose not to be kind just in case someone “doesn’t deserve it”. I’ll always choose to take a stated food issue seriously, because it does me no harm! Just let people eat what they can eat!

    3. MsClaw*

      It’s just basic politeness to accommodate everyone coming to meeting. I *do* think there’s a difference between ordering for a group trapped in a room together and ‘hey, Todd picked up donuts on the way in, they’re in the kitchen, help yourselves’. It’s really bad form not to give you the ability to pick a lunch that you can actually eat!

    4. Ellis Bell*

      The salad thing I have come across before, and it usually just means people have very narrow mental food lists and trying to accommodate gluten free breaks their brains. For me, I know I’m in the company of this type when I’m offered soup (it’s not a meal, people!). Like, I think they actually think I eat nothing but soup and salad at home. Possibly an apple on my birthday. Some people literally just have toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner with pizza or fish and chips on a Friday and they never eat, or see more variety than that. I would feel sorry for their limited range except for the fact that they get to eat real pizza! Try mentioning potatoes or rice or tomato based sauces, or meringues, macaroons or just packeted gf wraps and protein to go with the damn salad and they think you’re some kind of worldly foodie genius. I think my favourite responsive comment was “But potatoes are a carb?!!”

      1. Juneybug*

        I had a friend for the longest time who thought those with celiac disease could not eat potatoes. Bread was fine. Pasta was fine. But not potatoes. It was strange.

  3. RIP Pillow Fort*

    OP- it’s not passive aggressive to expect a basic level of decency. Since a lot of these are team meals they should be ensuring that everyone gets their order or is provided something to eat. Excluding you is really demoralizing and negatively affects how you feel about your job. I would want to hear about it if one of my team wasn’t getting meals at team events.

    I’m really kind of frustrated that the response when you didn’t get a meal was to shrug and not solve the problem. That’s just flat out rude.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Right? If the caterer forgets a meal, the person in charge of the event calls the caterer back and tells them so the caterer can come back with the forgotten meal. Why would anyone just shrug that off? It’s no skin off the event planner to do this (it happened last year at one of my work events and the person whose meal was forgotten was our CEO, lol).

      I feel like Alison sort of brushed aside OP’s feelings about the coworkers arranging informal lunches, like the pizza, and totally not inviting her. That is downright rude. Who emails everyone except one coworker about ordering lunch? Seems mean.

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        I think the response about the catering was most galling to me for sure. We had that happen a few months back and like Slow Gin Lizz, one person whose order wasn’t included was the CEO’s. He was absolutely fantastic about it and even told me not to sweat it (I had to walk 3 blocks to get to the place we ordered from), but I definitely went and picked up what was missed… it was both the right thing to do as a human and we’d paid for it.

        If someone has a particular dietary plan, an allergy, whatever, you for sure accommodate them. It isn’t difficult to just check in with everyone to make sure they can find SOMETHING to eat. I myself don’t eat red meat and coworkers always check in to make sure I’m able to find something. It is just the most basic of human interactions.

      2. KHB*

        Yeah, that part stood out to me too. It seems to be coming from the same place as people who assume that vegetarians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, just because we don’t eat turkey. Just because somebody can’t eat the specific thing that’s being eaten on a particular occasion doesn’t mean they want to be left out of the group entirely.

        1. Gato Blanco*

          WHAT that’s insane!

          …Actually, maybe not that insane. My family heavily suggested I stay home for Thanksgiving so they didn’t have to make food I could eat after I developed some very painful intolerances in adulthood that I never had as a kid.

          1. Juneybug*

            I had friends that acted that way after my diagnosis. OK, so you don’t know how to feed me or don’t want to learn, but still invite me! I can bring my own food. I can’t eat gluten. I didn’t become a monk.

      3. RIP Pillow Fort*

        I just really don’t have good advice for how to deal with that aspect because it’s dependent on the coworkers being reasonable.

        I would personally want to say something to the workers about they shouldn’t exclude people on office-wide food invites. You should always ask and if it’s a delivery to the office, they can order their own food/bring their own. I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of snub and it hurts a lot.

        But I do worry that’s overstepping because I really feel strongly about it.

  4. vegetarianofficeworker*

    LW, you are not being silly! I am a vegetarian and until recently the only person in my 20+ person office with dietary restrictions. I remember my options at work lunches ranged from nothing to a plain bagel with butter (when everyone else got gourmet sandwiches) for over two years. At our holiday party everyone was eating steak and I had a plate of what I suspect to be microwaved, unseasoned vegetables. Finally, after a particularly stressful period at work, when I found I had been left out of a work lunch AGAIN I literally burst into tears lol. My supervisor talked to the administration team, who mostly handles the food, on my behalf (sweet) and it hasn’t happened again. This is a real issue! You deserve to have access to the same perks as everyone else!

    1. OyHiOh*

      As a public facing vegetarian (I keep kosher at home but communicate “vegetarian” for ordering purposes because it’s frankly easier) I’ve had some miserable experiences, ranging from unpleasant/unseasoned dishes, to those with no protein, to making do with salad and rolls because the caterer “forgot” the vegetarian entree. I’m currently in an organization that is placing a lot of weight on DEI and I keep pointing out that hospitality = inclusion, and not being able to meeting people’s food needs = lack of hospitality/inclusion. It is shockingly difficult to get into people’s brains.

      1. doreen*

        Is the problem no protein or is the problem that there is no entree? I ask because I’m wondering if something like cauliflower piccata (which as far as I know does not have protein) would be acceptable.

        1. Laney Boggs*

          Probably no entree. Salads at catered meals are almost always “side salads” and are all of 3 bites of iceberg and onion.

        2. louvella*

          I am vegan and I will eat smile while eating a cauliflower piccata and certainly not complain to anyone but I will be cranky and hungry an hour later because of the lack of protein.

        3. tired vegetarian*

          To me the problem is no protein. Vegetarians need protein too, I find it very frustrating to be served protein-less vegetables masquerading as a main dish. Then again, I also dislike cauliflower.

      2. OyHiOh*

        I’ve had both situations happen.

        I’ve had literally, no entree planned for the vegetarians in the group. I’ve also had “entrees” that were so minimal in fats and proteins that those who had it were stomachs growling hungry again an hour later – think grilled summer veggies in a wrap. If you have a smear of refried beans/bean pate in that wrap, the beans and grains compliment and you have a nice substantial wrap with decent protein requirements. When it’s just veggies, there’s no staying power.

        Your example of cauliflower piccata – I’ve had excellent entrees based on cauliflower and brassicas. The ones I’ve had usually come on a bed of quinoa or rice, which helps considerably.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          Ugh, the lack of protein thing is what kills me most. I’m a vegetarian and a powerlifter (but also just a human who is allowed to want protein at every meal), so no, I cannot just eat whatever everyone else is eating minus the protein. The stupid veggies in a wrap that is the default vegetarian lunch option, I cannot with. And the last work-provided meal was Caesar salads, but don’t worry they kept the chicken on a separate plate as a vegetarian solution? So I had… nothing, because the salad was already dressed with a not-veg option. But even in theory, their plan was for me to eat lettuce and some croutons?

          My favorite was when a past company catered in lunch for myself and a group of customers we were hosting. Well, 3/4 customers were vegetarian as well as myself, and my company ordered sandwiches with no vegetarian option. I had a pretty gleeful time treating the customers to a fancy lunch out on the company’s dime and submitting that expense report.

          To be honest, I’ve just started packing my own lunch anytime there is a work lunch planned. I know I shouldn’t *have* to, but its made me a much happier person. If there ends up being a satisfactory meal, great, I don’t have to break out the packed lunch. Or I can have the provided lame salad as a side to my protein-filled packed meal. But it takes away the power dynamic of desperately relying on someone who doesn’t understand (or care to understand) my dietary restrictions, especially when tis usually a critical situation, like necessary sustenance to get through all-day work events without crying or yelling at anyone. It just takes the emotional level from “omg I’ve just realized I’m going to starve and someone did this to me” to “its really annoying no one ever takes the time to get this right, but whatever.”

          1. Nack*

            Yes this is the approach I take as a gluten free person. I’ve just decided to provide my own meal most of the time. I agree that it removes the emotional element of “I’m starving because no one cared to try to understand/remember what I can eat.”

            I also think there’s a limit to how much mental work you can expect a random coworker to dedicate to your needs. In the case of a company ordered lunch, yes they should absolutely ask what you can eat and make sure there is something suitable. But personally I have caught myself forgetting that eating gluten free took a lot of work at first, and I can’t expect all my coworkers to do that same work. I can’t even get my family/in-laws to do that work! My parents are pretty good about it but I’ve frequently been served non-GF stuff from my in-laws (both intentionally and unintentionally). It’s a pain to have to bring my own meal but I’d rather not deal with my own frustration etc when people who know better don’t feel the need to accommodate and/or be truthful about ingredients.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            This has got to be surely down to the most basic nutritional ignorance. In what thought process would vegetarians be assumed to be protein haters?!

            1. doreen*

              I don’t think anyone believes vegans hate protein – but I’m not vegan , and I still eat the occasional protein-less meal (most commonly pasta and a meatless sauce with a salad) so I wasn’t sure if the issue was a lack of protein or the apparently pretty common idea that vegans can just eat the side dishes.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Oh I wasn’t talking about asking questions – that’s always good. I was talking about the folks with assumptions.

              2. Becca*

                Seconded. As a non-vegetarian that really doesn’t eat that much protein, certainly not for every meal or even every day, (for instance I will straight up eat roasted vegetables as a meal and I love pasta with meatless sauce) this is very strange to me. I’d have thought it was a quantity or filling quality issue. I mean I guess technically rice or quinoa or pasta has protein, but not on the level of beans or the meat that the meat eaters are eating. Cheese would be good as long as they aren’t vegan, but I don’t actually eat that much cheese either.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Since vegetarian food is naturally lower in protein, getting enough protein and/or fat to feel full at a meal can be more important.

                  It doesn’t have to be much, but I know very few people who can run all day on some lettuce & raw vegetables.

                  And too many people are completely unaware that Caesar dressing is not vegetarian.

                2. Not A Girl Boss*

                  Protein mostly matters on an absolute-intake scale (like how much you get per day total).
                  For a meat eater, its easy to get enough protein in 2 meals and then have a few protein-less snacks/meals in your day and still be ok. EG, 2x30g = 60g.
                  For vegetarians, we basically need every single meal we have to contain a little bit of protein, or else at the end of the day we are strapped. EG, 5x12g=60g.

                  Also, I don’t really know anyone who is full for more than 1-2 hours after eating a pure carb meal. Fat, fiber, and protein (or at least one of the above) really important for a satiating meal. So pasta with tomato sauce is basically just a carb bomb that might as well be cake. Pasta with pesto or alfredo sauce, or a higher-protein pasta like chickpea, is a different story. Also, sometimes you just need some calories. A dry salad does not a substantive calorie lunch make.
                  And some of this is relative. I used to totally be that vegetarian who lived off of pasta and rice. I also didn’t realize at the time that being absolutely emergency-levels of hangry at the drop of a dime wasn’t a personality trait, but rather a result of my high-carb low-fat low-protein diet. Now that I know how it feels to be able to sail past 3pm without a huge energy crash, I can’t go back.

          3. darcy*

            oh yeah I have absolutely burst into tears on finding out that the only veggie food at an event I’m trapped at all day is protein-and-carb-free salad

            1. NotBatman*

              Hard same. I’m lactose intolerant, but I tend to eat vegan at work because will-this-make-me-vomit roulette is not a game anyone wants on the job. Past work meals that have made me fight The Tears of the Impending Blood-Sugar Crash:
              – “salad” of dry lettuce and tomatoes
              – potato chips, an entire plate of them, in a desperate bid to fill up on *something*
              – pita-‘n-nothing (the hummus had parmesan)
              – the top half of a bread roll, ripped away from an inedible sandwich
              – the olives, peppers, and crackers off the cheese tray, cleaned one-by-one with a wet wipe to remove brie residue

        2. Frinkfrink*

          What I’ve seen in most places is a vegetarian lasagna provided and unless the vegetarians are first in line, all the meat-eaters say “Hey, that looks good!” and put it on their plates so the vegetarians at the end of the line are stuck with salad and rolls.

          I’m lactose intolerant, and usually order vegan for company meals because it’s easier than attempting to explain to the person ordering that no, mayonnaise doesn’t have dairy, eggs are not dairy despite their location in the supermarket, butter is OK, hard cheeses like Parm are okay, it’s that I don’t want to pick cheese off my pizza and lasagna.

          1. Gato Blanco*

            Solidarity. I am dairy-free too and the number of times I have had to argue that eggs do not come out of a mammary gland is too freakin’ high.

      3. Starbuck*

        It’s so annoying. There are lots of restaurants in my town that I’ve never been to because their only idea of a veggie option is a salad. Maybe with some sides like fries or whatever you can scrounge from the appetizer menu. It’s not a complete meal. And it’s not like these are steakhouses or BBQ places! Just your basic soup/salad/sandwich/blah American type place.

      4. TechWorker*

        We had a fancy Christmas dinner where all of the portions were small but the vegetarian ones were comically so, it was a square of potato and leeks, surrounded by leaves. Probably like 250-300 calories? Combined with a lot of wine that generally didn’t end well.

    2. Molly Grue*

      My office was the same until very recently. I’ve been a vegetarian for 28 years and at the same company for 12. The number of times I’ve just left the office to get a lunch I could actually eat on the days when team lunches were being provided for everyone is obscene. I finally just started yelling, “I CAN’T EAT ANY OF THIS.” Not the most professional reaction, but yeeeeesh. It finally started sinking in after about 10 years….

      1. Juneybug*

        I yelled* at my boss about bringing pastries every Friday for two years and not once did he grab me something that was gluten free. After I calmed down and asked him why, he said the bakery is next to the coffee stand inside the grocery store so it was easy to grab something for the office. Obviously it took much effort for him to cross the store to the freezer section and grab a box of gluten free pastries for me. I was his hardest working employee out of 12 folks. He also said gluten free items were too costly. Same guy who made 6 figures. Was married to someone who made 6 figures. Sigh…
        *yes, I know yelling was not the most professional reaction on my part but that was the cherry of top a horrible situation with a horrible boss.

    3. Frida*

      My workplace is also very hit-or-miss on vegetarian options. I’ve been at Special Lunch Meetings where not eating seems impossible and so I’ve just picked around the chicken, but also at more casual “everyone gets lunch!” meetings where there’s just no vegetarian food.

      It has gotten better but I always think: I’ve worked here for years! This comes up pretty regularly! Why is there meat in the pasta salad along with meat sandwiches?! How hard can it be?

      1. Fives*

        My workplace is generally pretty good about it but I’ve had to make do with vegetable sides (which, since we’re in the South, may or may not have meat in them), salads and/or rolls. I usually do what I can or pack my own lunch ahead. The team orders a lunch but the caterer seems to think that’s OK for a vegetarian.

    4. Cat Tree*

      And vegetarian is one of the most common food accommodations. Most places that do group catering automatically include something without meat.

      At one place I worked about 8 years ago, we rarely got visitors but once we had two vendors visit us so we had catered lunch. It was just a sandwich tray but oddly didn’t include any vegetarian options. Usually there is egg salad or portobello mushroom. One of the visitors was vegetarian and he just didn’t eat lunch. I cringed so hard, but it seemed like he dealt with it a lot unfortunately. One of my coworkers kept halal and she could at least have the tuna salad.

    5. Em*

      OMG that’s awful.

      It’s really not that hard to do things right, either. On my first day at my current job, I was asked if I had any dietary restrictions so they could be aware of them when ordering food. I said I’m a vegetarian. I was then asked to provide a few examples of lunches I would enjoy, which I did. Now whenever our office orders food there’s something (substantial! not just a few sad little lettuce leaves) that I can eat. All because someone took two minutes to just ASK.

    6. JustaTech*

      Maybe it’s because I live in a West Coast city, but it just boggles my mind that any company would just blithely order food that a team member can’t eat (for whatever reason).

      When my group was larger we had a vegetarian, a person with a soy intolerance who didn’t eat red meat, two people with peanut allergies and me, who can’t handle spicy food. And we still found plenty of places to go and things to eat! Indian buffet, Mexican, TexMex, Italian, pub, Korean, Japanese, all kinds of stuff. Yes, it helps a lot that the local pizza chain is really good about taking all the meat and cheese out of their salad when it’s catered (and the salad has a non-dairy dressing and chickpeas, so it’s more filling than the usual lettuce), and we’ve learned to order more of the vegetarian pizzas than just enough for the vegetarians, since not all omnivores want to eat spicy sausage.

      Yes, we’ve had some failures (the time I ordered food for a party and clearly said we needed vegetarian and gluten free and dairy free options and somehow everything had either meat or dairy or gluten, so there wasn’t anything for the one person who couldn’t have any of those things and I was mortified), but folks really try (even to having gluten-free options when we have happy-hour).

      It’s just not that hard to try to include folks! Especially when they’re very clear beforehand about what they can and can’t eat.

      1. irritable vowel*

        we’ve learned to order more of the vegetarian pizzas than just enough for the vegetarians, since not all omnivores want to eat spicy sausage

        Yes, exactly. My practice in ordering food for groups is to make meat the exception rather than the standard. Many more people can eat a cheese pizza than one with pepperoni on it, for example.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          My SO comes from a very large extended family. His take is that no matter what people say they want, you should always order extra cheese pizzas. Most people take some & it looks the most appetizing when people are going for seconds.

        2. UKDancer*

          Definitely. We always order twice the amount of cheese pizza as all the others because most people prefer it. I know I do, despite being a meat eater because pepperoni doesn’t agree with me and I prefer not to have digestive issues at work. It’s far and away the most popular so we usually have 2 cheese, 1 Hawaiian and 1 pepperoni. We have one colleague with coeliac and she always gets a small individual gf one.

  5. Prospect Gone Bad*

    This is in my wheelhouse. Personally I have found that reiterating that does not mean carb free clears up a lot. Loads of people earnestly get the two confused, which is understandable because some people do overlap with two (have celiac and then throw around the term “carb free”). Do they know you can eat most grains and potatoes and rice?

    Unfortunately this still doesn’t clear it all up since many cooks ad breadcrumbs to things to add flavors or add flour to gravies to thicken them

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I have celiac and don’t get the carb free mixup from folks, but the vegan mixup instead. They’re like, “It’s the same thing, right?”

      No. No, it’s not. Something can be vegan and still contain gluten.

      1. irene adler*

        Seitan comes to mind.
        That was the base of the suggested item to order for the “gluten-free gal” (me).

        1. many bells down*

          Ooof yeah my husband made that mistake with “mock duck” once. We thought it was tofu but it was pure wheat gluten. That was a fun couple of days.

          1. irene adler*

            Yikes!
            Yeah, I thought seitan was some form of soy bean. Fortunately I read the ingredients before indulging. Whew!

        2. Nack*

          Ooh yes. I’ve found seiten in the gluten free section of my grocery store. I didn’t actually know what it was at the time and thankfully checked the ingredients! I guess someone lumped together all the “food intolerance” foods.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Ugh it drives me nuts when supermarkets toss together the gluten free and vegan foods. Maddening!

        3. Avril Ludgateaux*

          I have a vegetarian friend who is also gluten free. Before I learned what it was, I was *so excited* to tell her about this “new” vegetarian protein that has this awesome texture and would be a great poultry substitute. The moment after I texted her about it, I googled what seitan is.

          It is LITERALLY WHEAT GLUTEN. NOTHING BUT WHEAT GLUTEN. You make it by making bread dough and then washing it and reducing it to just the gluten!

          Oh how I wished that iMessage had the ‘unsend text’ option back then. She took it in stride, at least.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, my sister can’t eat gluten or dairy (medical reasons) and so often, people will do the ‘You can have this! No eggs!’ thing. Or they do the ‘This is vegan, so that’s fine for you, right?’ thing and completely forget about the gluten issue. Which is fine, you know, if you don’t have experience looking out for these things every day of your life then I can understand how it might be tricky. But if you specifically need to find something for someone who can’t eat gluten/dairy/whatever, then you do need to make the effort to find out what that actually means in terms of ingredients.

        It’s pretty good now in the UK because all food labels have to list all allergens, and all food establishments have to have a menu available listing all the allergens, and staff have to say ‘Are there any allergies we need to be aware of’ when you order. Plus, most places know enough to ask ‘Are you coeliac?’ if you mention a gluten allergy, because they have to be aware of cross-contamination as well. Of course the person at work who’s ordering the food isn’t going to have (or need to have) that level of knowledge, but if someone tells them they have a dietary requirement then they definitely need to look into accommodating that (with more than just a plain salad!) and/or let anyone who can’t find a decent option order something separately.

        1. As Per Elaine*

          The level of confusion between gluten and dairy, and between dairy and eggs, is astounding. Gluten/vegan I assume is just “so-and-so has a food thing; maybe it’s gluten?” And I understand that mayonnaise is confusing because it’s white and creamy and not vegan. But eggs are not dairy. I’ve generally blamed the USDA food pyramid that was prevalent when I was a kid, where eggs and milk were in the same box, but you’re saying it’s a thing in the UK, too.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, totally a thing in the UK. And supermarkets don’t even keep eggs in the fridge here, so I can’t even think it’s people thinking ‘milk/cheese/butter/eggs all in the same place when I go shopping’ thing. It must be the food pyramid thing here as well.

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Also, you typically find eggs in the Dairy section at grocery stores. So you get the people who are like: “If eggs aren’t dairy why are they there”. Because Susan, it has similar temperature requirments as milk. show me a cow that lays an egg!

            1. londonedit*

              Not in the UK – eggs are sold on the shelves here rather than in the fridge, and you’ll typically find them in the aisle with the baking ingredients. Still, people can’t separate eggs from dairy in their minds!

          3. TechWorker*

            Do they not get lumped together just cos they’re in the category of ‘from an animal, not meat’? I’m vegetarian but not vegan and definitely group them for that reason.

          4. yellow haired female*

            And eggs are usually found in the dairy section at the grocery store, which has always confused me, lol. They’re not dairy!

          5. Elitist Semicolon*

            My problem remembering the mayo issue isn’t in thinking that eggs are dairy – it’s remembering that there are eggs in there at all. I honestly thought it was, like, cream and oil until fairly recently.

            1. londonedit*

              One of the weird things with mayonnaise is that the ordinary full-fat versions are dairy free, because they’re basically just eggs and oil, but the reduced fat ones usually aren’t, because they replace some of the oil with cream.

      3. whingedrinking*

        Right? I mean, my uncle was a pescetarian for years, and when he got diagnosed with celiac, he went back to eating meat because it was just too difficult to be both some form of veg *and* not eat wheat in his area.

        1. Bryce*

          I have nut allergies, and my mother has gluten issues. When I visit we mostly do home-cooked stuff we can control because enough GF stuff throws in nut flour that it’s not worth the trouble navigating it.

        2. yellow haired female*

          I have PCOS, so I have to eat low carb. I also have digestive issues, so I can’t eat a lot of leafy greens or other vegetables. I’ve considered going vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons, but I would basically only be able to eat nuts and seeds and throw in some avocados and veggies every now and then (but not too many!)

        3. Lydia*

          My friend did the same. She was vegetarian for years and when she was diagnosed with celiac, she tried staying vegetarian for a bit and just found it too difficult. Again, this was early 2000s and options were limited. I think if she wanted to stop eating meat again, she would have an easier time finding protein.

      4. louvella*

        As a vegan I get the same thing! “Is the bread vegan?” “No, but we have gluten-free bread.” Gluten-free bread is actually way more likely to contain eggs because it needs them to create structure!

      5. Minimal Pear*

        Lol I’ve had basically the inverse! At least once when I’ve said I’m allergic to dairy, I’ve had someone reply “Oh, so you’re gluten free?”
        Funnily enough, my doctor made me try going gluten free twice, and both times I just had MORE stomach issues.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I’m also lactose intolerant, so I get people making this mistake, too, only I actually am also gluten free, lol.

    2. kiki*

      I feel like all dietary restrictions get some confusing suggestions from well-meaning people, but GF definitely experiences the most, in my experience. There is just low awareness of what gluten is and it doesn’t always follow the categories people tend to group foods together in their head. For vegetarian, people generally get that meat is meat, even if they may miss some things (e.g. the collard greens are cooked with a ham hock). I think with gf, people think: “okay, no bread, no pasta, so probably no rice,” because people group all grains together. Or they’ll remember that chicken is okay, but forget that the chicken is likely breaded with something containing gluten.

      Even if people can’t wrap their heads around it, it’s not hard to ask and make sure there’s something for everyone.

      1. many bells down*

        I was checking a box of chocolates once to see if they were all gluten-free, and when I asked the clerk she angrily told me “they don’t have GLUE in them!!”

        1. DrivingDitalini*

          Ha! I tried to ask a butcher in Munich for sausage “without wheat barley or rye”, but I bungled the German words and asked him for sausage “without spices”. He was understandably perplexed.

      2. louvella*

        People get very confused about vegan too…I’ve been asked whether peanut butter is vegan, whether rice is vegan, I’ve had very confident sounding people tell me that all pasta contains eggs, I’ve been served bread that was gluten-free but contained eggs INSTEAD of regular bread that was already vegan…

        1. DisgruntledPelican*

          Vegan can get confusing because some people follow a vegan diet with more strictness than other vegans do, and the strictest definitions are sometimes things people would never even think about. People who don’t have a lot of experience with veganism usually know it means no milk, no honey, no gelatin. But they won’t necessarily know if someone is strict enough that they don’t eat specific fruits because they’re sometimes coated in beeswax during transportation.

          1. louvella*

            The people who don’t know that peanut butter is vegan (unless it’s weird peanut butter with honey or something) or that fish isn’t do not know about wax on fruits, I promise you.

    3. Fellow Celiac AAM Reader*

      I also have celiac! There’s also a “health food” mix-up…last time I went to a fully GF cafe with friends, they ordered extra desserts and drinks than I’ve known them to do (I’m not judging, the food was great and everyone deserves to treat themselves!) because I guess they thought gluten free = zero calorie.

      1. londonedit*

        Oh yeah – I don’t eat meat and I’ve definitely had the ‘health food’ thing many a time! Just because I don’t eat meat, doesn’t mean I just want a bowl of leaves and some tofu. The whole vegan thing is mildly irritating now, because pubs and restaurants have realised that they can get away with just having a vegan option because anyone who’s vegetarian can also eat that. If I’m going out for a pub meal I might want some cheese or an egg or two!

        1. SarahKay*

          My sister strongly agrees with you on the pubs / restaurants just having a vegan option. She’s a vegetarian who’s very fond of cheese, and very irked that now so many places don’t serve it.

          1. anne of mean gables*

            I am in such strong agreement! I’m no longer vegetarian but generally do love my veggies. That said, I’m really loathe to go to vegetarian restaurants, because in my experience they’re very centered around low-cal, cheese-free, “buddha bowl” type food, which is really not my thing. My preferred version of vegetarianism is like, a grilled cheese and tomato soup or pasta primavera.

            1. Bryce*

              Oh man now I want a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich so much. Haven’t had one since I “stole” them from my dad (stolen food tastes better). There’s my shopping list for tomorrow.

            2. Captain Swan*

              My husband is vegetarian but not vegan. If he sees grilled cheese and tomato soup combo on the menu, he will order it everytime we go to that restaurant. He wants to do his part to ensure it stays on the menu because veggie burgers everytime we go out gets old.

        2. Clobberin' Time*

          But some vegetarians don’t. It’s not ‘get away with’, it’s having a menu item that can be sold to a wider variety of customers. Vegan = all vegetarians can eat it, instead of tripping over “oh, I don’t eat eggs” or “yes but I only eat soy cheese”.

          1. kiki*

            For sure, but it can still be frustrating when restaurants consolidate so there is only one item that is vegetarian/vegan and you don’t particularly care for that item. Especially because sometimes the item the restaurant settles on to appeal to the common denominator isn’t particularly filling or tasty, like a salad with no personality. I *can* eat a bowl of spinach splashed with lemon juice and olive oil, I don’t particularly care to. I get that it’s hard for restaurants and having a lot of menu variety can be risky/expensive, but it can be unsatisfying to end up at a restaurant that has one dish for all the dietary restrictions (there are exceptions– sometimes it’s an amazing dish, but so often it ends up being bland salad)

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              I’ve been a little sad about the rise in popularity of plant-based hamburgers that mimic beef. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t care for meat, but I love a good veggie burger. As more places start stocking the Impossible burgers, it seems like it’s actually getting harder to find a good black bean burger or similar. Oh, well.

              1. Specialized Skillets*

                Same!! Morningstar garden veggie patties are my jam, but I’d go for black bean or portobello or similar before Impossible/Beyond. I don’t want something that’s greasy and granular like ground beef tyvm.

              2. tired vegetarian*

                Yes, so much this! I don’t want a burger that is trying to hard to act like beef, it’s really unpleasant to me.

            2. Agile Phalanges*

              Yes! Vegetarian here, who doesn’t like mushrooms (SO many places figure they can “bulk up” a vegetarian pasta or risotto or whatever by adding mushrooms, not to mention the places whose only veggie burger is a portabella burger) or bell peppers (usually the only veggie option at Mexican-type places). Ugh. But at least many places are trying! It’s not their fault I don’t like those things.

            3. Clobberin' Time*

              Sure, but isn’t there a difference between “they only have one bland salad” and “how dare they have only vegan choices instead of stuff with cheese in it”?

              1. londonedit*

                I mean, I never said ‘how dare they’. It’s just mildly – *mildly* – frustrating that where you used to go to a pub and there’d be a couple of veggie options plus a vegan one, now they just do the vegan. Because they have realised that they can cut costs and make things easier for themselves by just having one option that anyone who doesn’t/doesn’t want to eat meat can have. I’m not getting my knickers in a twist about it, but it does mean that my options for eating out have been cut back.

                1. Fishsticks*

                  If it’s a place that has a fried-egg option as a burger topper or something (I feel like that’s fairly common in pubs), it’s worth asking if you can have a fried egg on top of your Vegan Food Option. At least that’s a little something.

        3. metadata minion*

          Agree — I love that there are meat substitutes that actually contain fat now. Sausage is one of the easier things to do vegetarian effectively since the flavor is mostly whatever spice you put in and the texture is pretty homogenous, but most companies seem to assume they also need to be “healthy” and then they’re all dry and weird.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Everyone is staggered when I tell them my type of bread has more calories than theirs because it needs more oomph for structure from eggs etc. “But gluten free is supposed to be so healthy!”

      3. Lydia*

        That’s so funny. One of the very early vegetarian/vegan/GF restaurants where I live had some of the most decadent GF and vegan desserts. Coconut cream is rich, y’all!

        1. Fishsticks*

          I did Whole30 exactly once and the only thing that wasn’t miserable about it for me was putting coconut cream in my coffee. It made the coffee SO RICH and it tasted so so good…

    4. yellow haired female*

      Yep, people confuse them a lot. I have to eat low-carb due to PCOS, and I’ve had well-meaning friends get me gluten free treats. But they’re still high in carbs!

  6. kiki*

    At absolute minimum, LW’s company should let them order something for themselves from a venue of LW’s choosing and have the company pay for it.

    Being gluten free is so common these days. Where I live, so many menus explicitly call out GF options on the menu. Even when I go back to my small, rural hometown, places list GF options. It’s truly galling that folks at this company are fumbling the bag so much on this.

    1. kiki*

      One thing my company did that seems appreciated is having folks with dietary restrictions select a default order from some of the places the company gets catering from most often. They keep track of it on a spreadsheet. That way when somebody is, say, ordering pizza for a group last minute and can’t get in touch with everyone, there will at very least be something folks with dietary restrictions can eat and generally like.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I love this idea.

        I suspect a lot of the issue is that most people without restrictions have no idea how to work around restrictions and where is okay or not, and if I had dietary issues I wouldn’t trust anyone else to provide food for me without screwing it up anyway. I have friends with food allergies and they pretty much have to provide for themselves or ask a lot of questions that noobs like myself would not know.

        1. kiki*

          Right! There is genuinely more to a lot of dietary restrictions than it first seems and it can be overwhelming when there are multiple restrictions in the group or a person with multiple. I was really surprised to learn soy sauce isn’t gluten free (I genuinely had never thought about it) and it wouldn’t have come to mind when ordering at a restaurant where that’s a prevalent ingredient. I would have seen a rice-based dish without any breading on the protein and thought, “Oh, perfect!” and then realized later that it wasn’t actually gluten free. Same with things that may be cooked in peanut-oil. I’m happy more restaurants are putting their own labels on menu items to indicate what is or isn’t allergen free.

          1. AnonyChick*

            Part of why it took me so long to realize I had celiac was that I would react to things I THOUGHT I knew didn’t have any gluten…like sushi, which I figured was just fish, rice, and vinegar. It never dawned on me that the soy sauce I was dipping it into was full of wheat!

      2. MarsJenkar*

        I feel like my company does this. They also make sure that people with dietary restrictions get to fill their plates first. It means I have to wait, but as I can eat nearly anything available and these people can’t, it’s entirely fair.

  7. ThatGirl*

    The coworker who sits right next to me is going through something similar here – she was just diagnosed with celiac last year after years of stomach pain and other problems, and immediately started to feel better. She is (rightfully, understandably) very strict about what she eats now and wouldn’t even try some packaged granola I had that was labeled gluten-free because it wasn’t certified.

    Anyway – we get a lot of pizza and sandwiches and salads with croutons here and I would love for her to be able to enjoy lunches with the team as well, but it feels like whoever’s organizing is rarely thinking of ANY dietary restrictions beyond maybe vegetarian. I have encouraged her to speak up to organizers and at least ask for a gift card or something to make up for it, but I don’t know if she’s made much headway.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      You can speak up too! Hey so-and so, Im sure its not intentional but the way we order food excludes Coworker.Can we do (insert solution) next time so Coworker is provided a meal like the rest of us?

      1. ThatGirl*

        I do, but I want to respect her wishes and I know she doesn’t want people to make a big fuss over her.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          You can’t really care about including her more than she cares about it herself though? She doesn’t want to talk to the organizer and she doesn’t want you to do it either. If she chooses to go with wishing real hard that the meal organizer figures it out without any input, that’s on her.

          1. ThatGirl*

            She has talked to the organizer – or at least, one of them; part of the problem is that there’s a different organizer depending on who’s involved. And you’re right, I can’t care about including her more than she cares about it.

            *And, for the record, she usually brings her own food to eat and sits with the rest of the group; it’s more just the “this is a perk other people get but not me”.

        2. Lizcase*

          As someone with complicated food restrictions, I appreciate it when there isn’t a big fuss made.
          What I would love to be standard is a menu and ingredients to be provided ahead of time. I’m happy to figure out on my own what I can and can’t eat, I just need the information to do so.

        3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          So don’t make a fuss. Just talk quietly to whoever orders the food. Explain the recent change and ask them to (quietly) meet with your coworker to ask how to approach this.

          I’m one of many, many people who avoid wheat while not being celiac. I’m sensitive to *something* in the wheat, just not to the protein. (It’s probably the sugars, just like I’m sensitive to lactose, which is the sugar found in cow’s milk.) Your coworker is likely feeling very alone in all this right now, just because she doesn’t yet know how common this dietary shift is.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Who orders the food varies depending on the event, though. It’s not as easy as “just talk to the admin”.

            I don’t think she feels very alone; I think she feels annoyed that other people get perks that she isn’t right now.

            1. Juneybug*

              Oh trust me, we are annoyed (cause we love spending our money on food when everyone else gets to eat for free). Grrrr….

        4. Ellis Bell*

          Bringing your own food is great because a) you know it’s safe and b) you know it doesn’t taste like garbage because finding good gluten free brands are a bit of trial and error. You know what I would like in her shoes? Somewhere on site to stash her own choices of packaged crackers and cookies. Even packed gf bread can have a long shelf life.

  8. A BA PO*

    One thing our office does that helps (but of course may not solve the issue entirely) is select the place on an app like Door Dash, starts a group order that they can then share out, and allows everyone to create their own order. You can set a $$ limit in the app, but the entire menu is open to order from. Then, just like using a delivery app for your personal order, the individual can add notes or substitutions. We usually select a place that has a wide variety of options. However, they also send out Door Dash gift cards to people who can’t attend the meeting in person OR if you need to do your own order for in-person attendance (say for the same reason as the letter-writer here). This is usually arranged a few days in advance.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      As an admin, this is usually what I would do. It works best when people actually login and place their order on time so lunch gets delivered before 2PM. :)

  9. Mike S*

    At my last job, I worked with a practicing Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu and a couple of vegetarians of different stripes. Somehow we were able to find places to go to eat pretty often.

    1. ShortT*

      Because this is what you and other decent people do. You show them, at a bare minimum, basic respect, rather that treating them as if they were afterthoughts or inconveniences.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Let me guess: people communicating openly and respectfully without recoiling in horror at the idea of doing without X food type.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, it’s just not that hard or that big a deal – we ask everyone during onboarding if they have any food requirements or preferences to make sure they’re not excluded from team lunches. Our department admin keeps a spreadsheet and ensures anyone attending has something substantial to eat, even if we have to pick up a separate meal (of the attendee’s choosing).

  10. Weckar*

    I think some really good points are made here.
    However, if people (co-workers, not management) are bringing in treats (especially homemade ones) you can’t really expect them to go out of their way to provide multiple options. It should be a nice thing to do, but if it becomes a burden they may not do it at all!

    1. ThatGirl*

      Homemade treats, you’re right, but it wouldn’t kill someone to bring in say … fruit, or tortilla chips and salsa, or even a package of gluten-free cookies now and then. I mentioned my celiac coworker above – I brought her GF Oreos for her birthday.

    2. EPLawyer*

      And…… It’s really not a big deal to NOT have treats if it means regularly excluding one member.

      I hate to say it, but I think the pizza thing and other such casual food orders is part of the overall attitude towards dietary restrictions. Because management doesn’t care, the rest of them don’t see why they should either.

      I’m so sorry OP that your company and coworkers are jerks.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        This is true.

        So many pizza places have GF crust options these days, even Pizza shouldn’t be a big deal. That plus the “shrugging off” of a missing catered meal! It really feels like these people are just jerks. And I’m sorry OP.

        1. Huttj*

          GF pizza crusts are a tos up, depending on the person and the pizza place. I’ve seen a lot of asterisks “*not recommended for celiac” on menus.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Depends on the person. Many people with celiac can’t eat gluten-free crust pizza from many pizza places due to cross contamination. Flour gets everywhere in a pizza place, and not all are equipped to bake a gluten free crust in a separate oven or appropriately protected from the gluten pizza. Using the same pizza paddle or slicing it with the same cutter is enough to make some people sick.

        3. ee*

          just FYI, most pizza places that have a gluten free crust will work for people avoiding gluten for other reasons (eg. the low FODMAP diet that’s often recommended for people with IBS), but unless they have very, very separate preparation spaces, this will generally not work for people with celiac disease, as we are recommended to avoid anything prepared in a kitchen where there has been wheat flour in the air in the past 24 hours. Obviously not everyone with celiac sticks to the rules 100% of the time, I think even those of us who are rule followers have ended up in situations where we were super hungry and decided to eat something mildly risky and just cross our fingers, but that’s what my gastroenterologist told me.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I have celiac too and mostly ignore the donuts/treats that people bring in from time to time. Every once in a while someone will bring in small bags of chips or something I can eat, and then I will have one and think about it as a very good day. This is pretty easy at my company because people bring in treats for no discernible reason and leave them on a table for everyone to help themselves.

      It would bother me more if it’s a case of “I bought these donuts to celebrate Project X,” and I worked hard on Project X and there was no gluten-free substitute for me. If that’s how treats are done at the LW’s company, I understand why that chafes.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      It’s really not difficult to at least try to include something everyone can eat.

      I often bake around the holidays. One colleague was deathly allergic to chocolate. So if I was bringing in a chocolate treat for everyone, I made sure what I made for him was not going to kill him.

      I can’t imagine the mentality of knowing someone you work with has an allergy or other dietary restriction and just going oh well sucks for them, I’m already going out of my way to bring a treat in, but to heck with them!

      1. baker*

        There are many baked good options that don’t include chocolate. However, the vast majority of baked goods do include gluten.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          That’s not my point. My point is that when already going out of my way to bring treats, I considered my colleagues restrictions and it wasn’t difficult.

          Rice crispy treats? Gluten free. They can even be halal if you get the right marshmallows.
          Fruit tray? Gluten free.
          A package of gluten free oreos? A store bought gluten free bake mix?
          Simply asking “Im planning to bring in x, and I dont want to exclude you. Is there something I can bring that you will enjoy?”

          Its about consideration, not baking.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Brand-name rice krispies aren’t gluten free, sadly. They contain malt syrup that’s made from barley and has gluten in it.

            You can buy other brands that are gluten free, but it does show how difficult it can be to understand and accommodate others’ food restrictions.

              1. Ayla*

                We make a whole lot of Muddy Buddies in this GF house! We also use Chex for crumb coating on chicken. Basically Chex is my jam.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              The packet of gf biscuits isn’t difficult at all though and it’s easier than baking. My friend’s daughter is celiac and her teacher went shopping to buy biscuits for making smores in class and just said to her “oh the gluten free biscuits were too expensive so you can do something else”. It’s like a pound more, one time.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, that’s awful. I mean I can sympathize, because thanks to this blog I’ve learned that teachers in the US often have to buy school supplies themselves, when they’re already making a very low salary considering the education necessary for the job. But it’s still not fair to the kid with dietary restrictions to be excluded like that.

          2. Observer*

            My point is that when already going out of my way to bring treats, I considered my colleagues restrictions and it wasn’t difficult.

            Yes, but what people are telling you is that while it was not difficult in THIS case, it can be quite difficult in other cases. Celiac does tend to be one of the more difficult ones, tbh.

            Rice crispy treats? Gluten free. . . . Fruit tray? Gluten free.

            Not necessarily. Especially not the rice crispy treats, and even often the fruit because cross contamination is a rel issue.

            I really do appreciate that you are trying, but the fact that you simply do not get some of the issues means that with the best will in the world, people with high sensitivity would be best off not eating anything you make at home.

            And that’s why people with high sensitivity in general are very careful about eating anything from a place they haven’t checked into themselves. Because (as can be seen by a lot of other comments) your lack of understanding here is quite common.

            So thank you for trying. But please understand that it’s not always so simple and don’t get offended if someone won’t eat something that *you* think is free of whatever it is.

            1. metadata minion*

              Yeah, I would love to bake for gluten-free colleagues, but at this point my kitchen pretty much just has ambient flour (especially if I want to use the stand mixer) and I don’t trust myself to clean ruthlessly enough to guarantee that the food is going to be safe. I do try to get packaged stuff for potlucks, though.

          3. turquoisecow*

            However, some people with celiac can’t eat homemade goods even if they are gluten free because there is a risk of cross contamination. So you made a gluten free cake but you made it in the same pan you make regular cake and used the same tools to make it that you’ve used for everything else, there is a possibility of cross-contamination. OP says that’s not a concern for them, but for many people it is.

            Store bought gluten free stuff, sure, because those are made with completely separate equipment. But unless you also keep gluten free at home you can’t guarantee no cross contamination. I have a relative who is gluten free but her husband and one of her kids are not, and she makes sure to have separate serving utensils for the different foods, because she doesn’t want to risk cross contamination. The average person isn’t going to do that.

          4. c_c*

            But a gluten-free baking mix prepared in my kitchen becomes no longer gluten free. I don’t have the space or money to keep a dedicated set of kitchen equipment for baking for someone who can’t have gluten. And most of the time I bake something and bring it in to the office, it’s a last minute decision the night before because I just feel like baking. I don’t necessarily have the time to run to the store and purchase a separate item to bring in along with whatever I bake.

            I do my very best to accommodate people’s dietary restrictions, but it’s not as simple as you are suggesting here- multiple of your suggestions aren’t even gluten free. And having lived with people who are strictly gluten free, it’s far more dangerous for them when a well-intentioned person brings in something they say is gluten free but actually isn’t. As someone with dietary restrictions myself I definitely see it as nice when colleagues bringing extras to the office can accommodate that, but it’s not at all the same as work-provided food. I don’t expect that random things colleagues bring in just because they felt like it are going to suit everyone. But a work-provided meal absolutely should not leave anyone without food.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              But it is not difficult to TALK to people! If a home baker brings in a bunch of stuff that the gf person can’t eat, it lands a lot differently if you already said: “Hey I sometimes make rice crispy treats and meringues or floorless cakes. Is it safe for you to eat home baking?” Even if they can’t, they will feel considered. Or they may be inclined to bring their own stuff on your bake tray days. It’s also more preferable than bringing in something you haven’t cleared as safe with them “especially for you!” which must be both scary and awkward for the highly sensitive. I actually can eat wheat free home baking! Use the same bread board, even. I’m open about that, I mention that I cook wheat for my partner for dinner, and it doesn’t make anyone more inclusive because they don’t want to have to think about it.

              1. Another Celiac in the Office*

                This is the way. I have a friend who I met at a previous job who loves to bake (me too), so we often swapped treats. She was probably the ONLY person without a dedicated kitchen that I could actually trust because she understood cross contamination and how to read labels. She did accidentally gluten me once with a rice krispie treat because she had a brain fart about label reading because why wouldn’t they be safe? Fortunately, I mathed out how much I had and was a little sick but it was manageable. Otherwise, any time she made something that was gluten free, she made sure to use non-porous utensils, make sure none of her regular flour was floating free (if she was baking other stuff, it was after the gluten free stuff was sealed away), etc.

                I was not eating anyone else’s “gluten free” homemade treats though. Most people couldn’t tell me what utensils they used, much less the brand and fine print on every ingredient label.

    5. Justice*

      I didn’t get homemade treats from the letter.
      Donuts and bagels are usually bought, not made.
      And it’s not at all hard to get a GF version of either in even the smallest towns.
      Either these co-workers are truly dense, or they’re excluding the OP on purpose, in which case they’re jerks.

      1. doreen*

        I think that depends an awful lot on exactly where you are buying the donuts and bagels – neither Dunkin Donuts not Krispy Kreme have gluten-free donuts. The only bagel shop I’ve seen nearby with gluten-free bagels had a negative review saying they were pre-packaged supermarket bagels rather than freshly made on-site like the other bagels. And I’m in NYC ( although not Manhattan) , not a small town

      2. Ayla*

        I have Celiac and live in a small town, and I’m afraid this particular town isn’t as well-stocked as the ones you’re used to. I have to drive 45 minutes if I want to buy a bagel, and the nearest gf donut is at a Target over an hour away.

      3. Nack*

        I’m another small town gluten free person chiming in to say I have yet to see a gluten free donut outside of the ones I’ve made.

        Bagels are available at the grocery store, but if a coworker decides to swing through the Dunkin’ drive through, I wouldn’t also expect them to go into the grocery store to get me my own pack of bagels. Most people just wouldn’t think of that.

      4. Colette*

        I have no idea where to get donuts and bagels that are gluten free. I’m sure it’s possible – by if I’m hitting a drive thru on my way to work, I won’t find them there.

        Here’s the thing – if I bring something to work to share, it is usually because I felt like making something and wanted to share. It may not be something everyone wants to eat; it’s what I wanted to eat. And since they’re adults, they can make that choice.

        The company should accommodate everyone; however, general treats brought in by coworkers don’t have to.

    6. MigraineMonth*

      It’s not an obligation, but most of the people I know who voluntarily bring in food (especially homemade) do so to nurture their connections with the team, not because they had half a pan of brownies to get rid of. Quite a few will bend over backwards to make additional versions (e.g. nut-free or vegan) to include the entire team.

      There are plenty of gluten-free recipes and products. I will note that it is harder to cook for very strict dietary requirements (e.g. where dishes that came in contact with the restricted substance cannot be used), but in those situations I’d pick up a pre-packaged treat to be on the safe side.

      1. L*

        I’ve had gluten free coworkers in the past, and have definitely made separate versions for them when I brought in baked goods! My favourite so far has been a chocolate cupcake that somehow magically hid the weird texture of almond flour. I don’t do it every time, since a lot of time my office baked goods are literally “I felt like baking this and didn’t want it living at my house for me to eat”, but if it’s for a specific event or person I go through the extra effort.

        I just make sure to stress that my creations are gluten FRIENDLY, not gluten FREE when I bring them. The baked goods themselves don’t contain gluten, but the rest of my kitchen does so despite my best efforts there may be some cross contamination. From what I could gather that was the best way to convey that information, and my coworkers seemed happy!

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          You can tell people that your stuff is WHEAT-free, but not GLUTEN-free. Lots of folks avoid wheat for gut reasons but they don’t have celiac.

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              Thank you! It’s a Mike Doughty reference, although I never knew the artist’s name until right now, when I went looking up Soul Coughing. So I guess it’s really just a reference to that song. :-)

          1. DataSci*

            My niece is severely allergic to wheat. It’s not celiac. (Her allergist wanted to do a food challenge, but she had an anaphylactic reaction to the smallest dose, a quarter of a goldfish cracker.) If what you mean is “no wheat ingredients, but may be cross contamination” then “wheat free” is not how to communicate that.

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              You know, we’re talking about home bakers, here, who are giving baked goods to people they knows. We’re not talking packaging claims.

              My experience is that people who are severely allergic to something are very very careful and ask extra questions and the like. Anyone as allergic as your niece, I would expect to ask more questions after hearing me say “wheat free”, especially if I was talking about something I’d made at home in my own kitchen. And I would happily share all the information I have.

              I do think that saying “there’s no wheat in this” is very useful information. And if someone tells me that they’re severely allergic, I would of course go into a lot more detail.

    7. Observer*

      However, if people (co-workers, not management) are bringing in treats (especially homemade ones) you can’t really expect them to go out of their way to provide multiple options

      All good and fine. But that’s not what the OP asked about. So why are you bringing it up?

      I imagine that this is not what you had in mind, but the comment really reads like “don’t push too much on any of it, because if you do people might stop doing this other things that really isn’t relevant.”

  11. MorethanFruit*

    I sympathise I have CD and there are a lot of people who don’t understand that cross contamination has to be avoided as well as the food being gluten free. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be left out of the Christmas meal this year and at the last staff conference I could pretty much just eat fruit, I like fruit but need more! That said there is one manager who always brings gluten free biscuits for me to meetings.
    I’m working on it by trying to take more of a role in picking places but want to avoid becoming the organiser, which is a hard balance. So don’t have much advice but keen to hear what works!

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I have CD and there are a lot of people who don’t understand that cross contamination has to be avoided as well as the food being gluten free.

      Yup. I once had to educate a well-meaning manager about this when she almost purchased something “gluten free” that was made on the same surface as meals that contained gluten.

      1. Short List*

        I feel this! I tried ordering a dairy- free sandwich at a pizza place and wondered why I still got a reaction– until I watched them make the next one. On the same board they cut the pizza, and with the same cheesy knife! Now I ask if they prepare food on uncontaminated surfaces and request they use separate utensils.
        I now have had to add GF to the restrictions and have been reacting to the (very pricey!) gluten-free oats which may have been in a contaminated bin. Fortunately I’m not as sensitive as a fellow sufferer I know who can’t even walk down the flour aisle.

        1. Short List*

          My happy result of GF is that I can once again eat dark chocolate! Doesn’t make any sense (bodies, right?), but after decades of deprivation it’s almost worth it.

        2. The Real Fran Fine*

          There’s a fast food sushi place near me that does special requests for folks with dietary restrictions, and they literally have separate cutting boards and utensils for every allergen you can think of, lol. I’ve watched them make my rolls many times and never got ill. They even ended up just changing all of their ingredients and sauces to be gluten free. I was so happy when they made that change because most fast food spots won’t make that kind of accommodation (they believe it’s too time consuming and expensive among other things).

      2. Eater of Hotdish*

        I used to work in hiring/training at a co-op grocery store that prided itself on catering to all sorts of dietary needs. And we did: we had the biggest selection of GF, vegan, organic, etc. goods in town. But we also had a deli, and gluten products were handled there.

        I had to go ream the deli department out once for labeling some sandwiches “gluten free.” Because we couldn’t promise that for anything that came out of our kitchen, full stop. They were supposed to know better, and this was our job, and they did it anyway.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yeah, I’ve seen that A LOT where I am, so I just stopped eating pre-packaged “gluten free” foods from deli’s (which is so sad because hoagies were one of my favorite things to eat when I was a kid).

    2. Anonforthis*

      I think that’s the part people here are maybe missing. Cross contamination is a huge issue if you have CD (I don’t, I’m wheat intolerant (only, thankfully) but deadly allergic to other foods on top of the intolerance – it’s fun) and lots of places offer gluten free that may not actually be safe for someone with CD. BUT, OP probably has a pretty good idea where she can and cannot eat!

      That said, OP your workplace sucks. Everywhere I’ve worked in the last 10+ years has done their best to accommodate me. I know where I can eat and be safe and I get asked. You are not expecting too much.

      1. MorethanFruit*

        Yes, I’m developing my list of safe places near the office so if it’s casual lunch with co-workers I can suggest them.

        The OP workplace does suck, they really should do better for the company events.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Unfortunately, cross-contamination is definitely an issue and a lot of people who don’t have to worry about it don’t even think about that as an issue. Which is why I think it’s so hard for people who aren’t used to dealing with it to safely provide food for others in that situation.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yup. When I worked in an office, I didn’t eat anything coworkers made (partly) for that reason (the other being I don’t eat where I can’t see the kitchen, lol).

    3. BasketcaseNZ*

      I’ve had some great experiences at some work places – including my leaving morning tea when I was made redundant from one location, where all but one of the food items was GF, all clearly labelled, separate plates, from a catering firm I had trust in.

      Then there’s my current role – I’m a contractor, and so have to pay to attend the Christmas Do.
      It’s at a bar, and is not a sit-down meal with a menu.
      I don’t trust that I’m going to be able to get *any* safe food from the platters that will be shared out, so I’m not forking out $75 to go.

  12. lb*

    We order lunch every Friday for a team of 30, the restaurant selected by a different person each week. We have JUST ONE employee who is gluten-free and if by chance the restaurant selected doesn’t have any safe options, they are allowed to order their meal from another restaurant on our account. IT’S NOT HARD!!!!!!

  13. Chevron*

    Ugh, I have been here OP, and you’re absolutely not overreacting. Even if you don’t have too many symptoms from getting contaminated from gluten, it can still cause damage to your digestive tract that takes months to heal from. It’s a serious condition, and it’s awful being left out. The number of work things and conferences I’ve been to where they’ve said they’ve catered for me, and yes I’ve had a meal at lunchtime…but at every single break there’s been a beautiful display of pastries and little cakes and lots of little treats for everyone, none of which I can eat, so I reach into my bag for yet another cereal bar.

    I’m not sure I’d suggest what eventually worked for me being properly included (I had been having an awful day, was not catered for at a lovely lunch, had to go out and buy my own – which to be fair i expensed – then one of the admins responsible for ordering caught me all teary in the loos after. I said everything was fine and I had a headache and didn’t mention lunch at all, but they did get much better at catering for me after that). But regardless: you are not overreacting, and it’s really rubbish that they are disregarding your needs like this

  14. Gigi*

    This makes me so mad. The issue isn’t even the food – it’s the casual, entitled ableism. I’m the deputy in my office and have several members of my team with food allergies/sensitivities. I also love to bake and have enjoyed the challenge of making things that are both delicious and safe. There’s a reason so many offices share food together. The act of eating together is a foundational way that humans of all cultures bond and build trust. The unwillingness to even try to accommodate the OP is trust-breaking, and that will spill over into other aspects of the work. OP’s boss definitely needs to know. I would want to know.

    1. Anonforthis*

      This right here – this hits the nail on the head. Good faith efforts at inclusion go a long way in creating strong relationships.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Thanks! That’s where I’m at. Maybe not EVERYTHING I make will meet everyone’s needs, but it’s not hard to try some fairly easy swap-outs once in awhile. (Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 flour mix for the win!)

      1. Chirpy*

        Or even just new recipes. I found one for some nice Scandinavian almond/cardamom cookies that are delicious, and happen to be gluten free because they’re entirely almond flour. I was originally just looking for interesting Christmas cookies.

      2. LizB*

        Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 flour is SO helpful. Honestly, for recipes that don’t use very much flour (e.g. use it as a thickener in a sauce, or a binder in a fritter), I see absolutely no difference in the finished product when I use it. In baked goods that are mostly flour it can behave noticeably differently, but I still get very good results. My friend who needs GF food doesn’t have celiac, so cross contamination isn’t a huge problem for him, but I’ll still clean my whole kitchen and then make his thing first before I many any gluteny food I have planned.

        Also, pro tip, if anyone wants to make sweets that are gluten-free by design, search for recipes for Passover desserts. Some will call for matzo meal (contains gluten, will need to swap) but most will be entirely wheat-flour-free, using eggs or nuts in many cases as the substance of the dessert.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I’ve been talking about the bonding and trust in the language of our DEI initiatives. Hospitality = inclusion and not having appropriate food for team needs =/= inclusion. Same goes for external meetings we cater for.

      Fortunately, the catering companies we use the most often already have this built into their service programs and it’s easy to get meals that allow for decent vegetarian and GF options. Allergens are clearly marked on their label cards, and they do helpful things like put salad croutons in an entirely separate dish.

  15. Jennifer Strange*

    I’ve done work that involved ordering food for large numbers of folks with a wide range of food restrictions within each group. There are always options. So no, you’re not overreacting at all.

  16. Leah*

    We don’t have any GF folks in our office but we do have a few vegetarians and one vegan. We are always able to accommodate them when ordering for the office. Sometimes we all pick what we want, but if not, our receptionist is sure to include something for everyone.

  17. Optimistic Prime*

    Very much like the letter at the end, I would have ordered my own food and then given the receipt to (authority figure) and asked for a reimbursement for the company bought lunch. I would also tell them that I took the hassle out of it for them by taking care of it myself, so they don’t have to worry about it.

  18. Toadshouse*

    Eh – looks like I’m in the minority, but I feel this is kind of a childish thing to get upset about. If you’re picky or have restrictions, just bring your own food. My office is also loaded with a constant stream of treats/snacks/ lunches, but my policy is not to eat anything I didn’t bring myself. I’m vegetarian, but mainly just like to control what & when I eat. If I’m going to eat a bunch of junk, I want to do it when I can enjoy it, which is generally not at work ;)

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      It’s not childish to be upset when you’re being excluded from group activities that others could easily accommodate if they just put forth a modicum of effort.

    2. Managamber*

      They’re being excluded from meetings, or invited to restaurants and then given a pile of lettuce. I don’t think it’s childish to be upset about that.

    3. londonedit*

      This isn’t about their preference for what they eat, though – it’s a medical condition and they’re being purposely excluded from team events because of it. People were told to order burgers, OP was left out completely, and everyone then talked about their burger orders in whispers! That’s horrible. It really shouldn’t be hard for the company to find something decent for the OP to eat, or at least to say ‘Hey, if you want to nip out before the meeting and buy yourself something nice for lunch, go ahead – we’ll reimburse you up to £15’ or whatever. It’s not fair that the OP is always stuck with ‘Oh yeah, sorry, we forgot *shrug*’ or ‘Can’t you just eat the sandwich filling’ or ‘Here’s your plain salad’ while everyone else tucks into something delicious.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      I have celiac and was diagnosed around 20 years ago, when gluten free substitutes were few and far between in grocery stores and unheard of in restaurants, so I start from a baseline of “I am in charge of my food.” That often means I pack my own lunch even when there is a work lunch available/planned, just in case. So I very rarely run into the “I have no food and will be hungry until I go home at the end of the day” problem.

      Even though I almost always bring my own food, it’s still not childish for the LW (or me) to be upset about because I can tell you the times that my company did the bare minimum to order me a gluten-free lunch, I felt actively included. The gap between “pack your own food because your diet is too difficult for me” and “of course we’ll order a lunch you can eat, you’re part of the team” is real and significant.

    5. Juicebox Hero*

      No, the ones being childish are the ones who are making their unwillingless to cooperate into OP’s problem.

      There are gluten-free options at every restaurant I’ve been to in the past year. People organize banquets for hundreds of people with all sorts of dietary restrictions. The food she can eat is easily available. They’re just not bothering to work with her on it.

      If it’s a company event, her coworkers are getting free food. (The parade of treats and casual lunch orders are probably a different story) Why should OP be the only one who has to buy food on her own dime, prepare, pack, and reheat it? Not to mention the fact that if these events are held in a restaurant, some of them don’t permit outside food to be brought in.

      I don’t know if that amounts to capital-D discrimination, but it certainly isn’t fair.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      If your company is supplying food then it is not at all childish to expect they ensure everyone can eat what they provide. This is not some crazy difficult thing to do unless the company is located in a tiny town with 1 reatuarant.

      It’s also odd to group “picky” with “life threatening allergy”.

      1. Workin' for the Weekend*

        Agreed about picky vs. life threatening allergy. My husband is a picky eater. He also has ulcerative colitis. There are things he doesn’t like because he’s picky, there are things he can’t eat because it tears up his insides and causes at a minimum, severe abdominal pain and cramping for days. We’re so grateful for our friends and family who recognize the difference, yet are willing to accommodate both for him.

        1. Delta Delta*

          I had some married friends (not married anymore) and one spouse was lactose intolerant, allergic to peppers, and didn’t like something else I forget. We invited them over and made a nondairy, non spicy/nonpepper-containing dinner, that didn’t contain the offensive item. Had they not told me, I probably would have made vegetable lasagna, which would have had all the off-limits foods. And I was glad to know, because I’m not about to try to feed someone something they can’t eat.

      2. Observer*

        It’s also odd to group “picky” with “life threatening allergy”.

        Unfortunately, it’s not odd at all. It *IS* very telling, though.

    7. McThrill*

      Ordering food for some coworkers and not others is bad policy even if it’s not illegal or malicious, and you’re not childish if you feel hurt or excluded after being – well, excluded. Having to pay for your own lunch out of pocket when everyone else gets a meal on the company dime is a great way to build up resentment. It’s cool if you’re personally OK with that happening to you but not even having anyone acknowledge that you can’t eat anything is incredibly tone deaf and insensitive.

    8. ABCYaBYE*

      What is childish about not being included in work-sponsored activities? What is childish about some jerk shrugging off the fact that your order wasn’t included in a company lunch order? What is childish about feeling (understandably, reasonably and rationally) bad that there’s no thought given to inclusion? And it isn’t just once…it is happening regularly.

      I think your reaction would be vastly different if the situation wasn’t food specific. You’ve made your own food choices, and that’s cool. That works for you. But someone feeling excluded because no one gives their needs a second thought is not childish.

    9. Zap R.*

      I mean, it’s a legit medical condition and relatively common. If we can close-caption Zoom meetings and provide people with ergonomic equipment and ban strong perfumes, we can definitely make sure the person who can’t eat gluten can still have something for lunch.

      Office snacks that people bring in on a whim? Casually grabbing lunch? Different story. But if the company is going out of its way to feed everyone else, it’s crappy of them to not even try to accommodate OP.

    10. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I do not agree. Eating is fundamental and this company obviously thinks it’s important enough to include food in meetings and other events. Making it so OP doesn’t get that same perk is similar to only inviting certain people to networking events or only giving bonuses to right-handed people.

    11. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Here’s the thing – just because you don’t feel X, does *not* mean that someone who does feel X is wrong, or bad, or childish. Why can’t you just say you disagree? Why do you feel the need to insult the LW? Why do you have to invalidate their feelings?

      Honestly, it sounds more like you’re projecting your own issues here, because this letter is not about a choice or eating junk or being picky.

    12. Honestly, now?*

      Between you and OP, someone *is* being extremely childish, and it’s not OP. Because, seriously, the fact that you think your not-subtle digs at people with dietary restrictions are at all an okay thing to post in public doesn’t speak well to your maturity.

    13. Observer*

      but I feel this is kind of a childish thing to get upset about.

      Really? Being excluded is no big deal? Being stuck without a meal when everyone else gets one, s you either have to go hungry, or waste time that no one else needs to, is fine? I honestly hope you don’t manage anyone.

      If you’re picky or have restrictions, just bring your own food

      Do you REALLY not see the difference between “picky” and “restrictions that cause serious effects”?

    14. drinking Mello Yello*

      Yeah no, this is straight up ableism. It’s not childish for the OP to expect that their company provides a food option that doesn’t damage their guts, just like all of their other coworkers, when the company is providing catered lunches for everybody. They’re being excluded from meetings and straight up left out entirely and and on the occasion when their catered meal was forgotten, they only got an apathetic shrug. Their dietary accommodations are bizarrely discussed in hushed whispers by their coworkers. Is it childish to not expect to go hungry at a catered work event when everyone else is getting fed or to expect to not have one’s diet be gossiped about by their coworkers? It’s bizarre that you came to this conclusion.

      1. drinking Mello Yello*

        Also: I’m also vegetarian (have been for 25 years) and it’s So Damn Basic to accommodate for. It’s 2022 for shit’s sake; there’s no excuse for people to Not provide options for the basic/common dietary restrictions out there.

      2. Honestly, now?*

        Yeah no, this is straight up ableism.

        THANK you.

        Sit down and take a lesson about this and your uninformed biases, Toadshouse.

    15. Ellis Bell*

      Really, picky?! Lol. On a serious note, I also pack my own food every night, even if I’ve been promised a gf option for a specific lunch (it’s fallen through before) and it’s still exasperating when people forget you. It’s particularly exasperating when people order from the pizza place that has a good off-menu option for you, but they didn’t order it because they didn’t even ask. It’s exasperating when people whisper or hide their food because they think you survive on lettuce and hope. I don’t expect to be included each and every time, and I’m happy to do the heavy lifting for myself, but just speak to me like a human who’s been invited to eat food with everyone and maybe do something occasionally that’s in your power. Oh, and if you really can’t include me in doughnut hour, just give me a heads up so I can bring some cake from my freezer that day.

  19. I am just here for the free pizza*

    Jewish here, not strictly kosher but I don’t eat pork. Neither do most of my Muslim coworkers. And then there are my Hindu colleagues who don’t eat meat at all. So why does the company on pizza Fridays order lots of Hawaiian, pepperoni, meatlovers, etc. pizza and maybe one plain cheese pizza for the entire large department? Everyone else gets two or more slices of whatever they want while we are all trying to divvy up that one lonely pie so everyone gets at least something. And yes, I have actually mentioned this to our manager but was fluffed off. So I can somewhat imagine what OP goes through.

    On the other hand, before gluten free foods were so prevalent, I worked at a smaller company where one of the 10 employees had CD. Once a week we sent out for lunch at various restaurants and we were ALWAYS very careful to make sure our colleague could find something on the menu that he could not only eat but wanted to eat.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I once worked for a division of a major insurance company that would order me my own gluten free pizzas when we had pizza parties and I was the only one with celiac disease. That was great, lol. Everyone else was bitter they had to share though.

    2. What She Said*

      It’s always about adjusting. I have been ordering pizza for years at my company, think double digit years. I have been adjusting that order for years and it’s clear the majority here want the veggie pizzas. I stopped ordering plain cheese and doubled up on veggie. It’s not that hard to adjust. Especially if you are ordering every Friday. Add a veggie pizza people or double the cheese order. Your order person is not very observant.

    3. Clobberin' Time*

      I’m going to guess that whoever is ordering those pizzas is delivering a passive-aggressive FU to you and your other minority faith colleagues.

      It’s one thing for someone to be clueless and not understand dietary restrictions. But when numerous employees can’t eat a certain thing, and the VAST MAJORITY of the food order includes that certain thing, that’s not an error, that’s deliberate.

    4. whingedrinking*

      That one can get especially frustrating when there’s no effort to make sure the restricted diet people get the first crack at the food they can eat. I’ve definitely been to events where vegetarians arrived last, only to discover the cheese and veggie pizzas had all been scarfed by meat-eaters.

  20. ESCworksfromhomenow*

    Haha this is annoyingly familiar. At my job once or twice a year we have these full week events where everyone is crammed into one big conference room and all working on different aspects of a particular stressful project (VAGUENESS!) and as a result we get catered breakfasts and lunches (and sometimes dinner, if it comes to that) as well as a well stocked snacks counter. The catered meals are fine (usually relying too much on chick fila for breakfasts. Ugh. Soggy.) but the snacks are always problematic. I am allergic to tree nuts and peanuts, and the admin will helpfully stock the snack counter with a variety of indulgent and healthy snacks. But the healthy snacks are always nut based – mixed nuts, pb granola bars, etc. And then a big bowl of mixed “fun size” candy that is nut and non-nut based. So whenever I need a break I’m stuck poking through the candy bowl trying to find a little twix bar, and that’s what I’m stuck with. Not ideal – I don’t want to snack on sugar all day! I mentioned to the admin after a while that it would be nice to have some healthier options that were nut free, and so she went and got pretzels which, OK! I guess. Then the pandemic hit, the admin was let go, and I went full time remote and moved to a different city than my job is based in, so all my contributions to these events are done remotely and all snacks provided by MEEEE, so that’s how that ended! I’m still a little salty about the whole thing, though!

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      At a former job, a new manager (not directly in charge of me, peripherally so) decided that the project team were going to “lock in” for lunch and lunch would be catered. Literally tried to lock the conference room doors and prevent us from leaving; there was no notice that this was a working lunch, and the manager did not provide an attendee list to the person in charge of food.

      Me with life threatening food allergies: ” I’m going out to grab something I can eat that won’t kill me, I’ll be back within twenty minutes. Well, next time give me more than five minutes warning or let the admin in charge or ordering know that I’m on the attendee list and there won’t BE this issue. We can go talk to HR if you want ::shrug::”

      HR re-wrote a couple of policies due to this, and no, I was not in trouble.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Said manager was a bit of an edgelord bro type. He may have been attempting to make a point, but it failed badly.

  21. Interplanet Janet*

    This is related to a topic that just crossed my mind the other day on the other end of the spectrum of wanting to be the opposite of this OP’s team: I have a similar level of non-anaphylactic food allergy to OP and so accommodating restrictions (medical or not) is something that’s on my mind as a manager for a small department. The people already on my team very readily self-disclose pretty much anything, but I never want to set the expectation that people NEED to tell me anything, and I try to just assume nothing when it comes to other things (ex: Offer the elevator to everyone, not just people with mobility aids) but food allergies are a very specific thing. My plan is to, when I send the email about ‘here’s where to come on the first day, etc.’ I’m just going to include a line about “If there are any dietary restrictions or allergies that you would like I as your supervisor or the department to be aware of, please let me know. We sometimes have food provided in the office”

    1. Purrnest Hemingway*

      We made a form that we send out every so often asking people to anonymously (or not!) provide their dietary restrictions and allergies. Once we have those, we created a little checklist listing the allergies and more popular diets that lives in the break room. That way, when people bring in baked goods, they can mark off any allergens and people can make more informed choices. It doesn’t solve the cross contamination issues of homemade food, but we’re trying.

    2. As Per Elaine*

      Yeah, while technically food allergies or other restrictions are potentially someone’s medical info and I could imagine that they don’t want to share, one generally doesn’t have to share the underlying condition to say “I don’t/can’t eat X.” And it’s such a hassle generally, and typically obvious enough if food is bought for everyone and one person can’t partake, that while I wouldn’t force anyone to disclose, I think “any food restrictions you would like us to try to accommodate” is perfectly reasonable and the vast majority of people will appreciate it.

      1. Interplanet Janet*

        Totally agree. I didn’t think to mention but I have both the allergy above and a voluntary restriction, and although I might weight them differently when reading ingredients / cooking, I don’t specify which is which when explaining it in situations like work because to me, the reason I don’t eat X doesn’t matter, it should be respected regardless

    3. OyHiOh*

      In my role, I regularly plan venues/catering for clients coming in from out of town. We’ve created some standardized language that lives in our planning document and goes into an email about a week before one of these tours/visits that asks about food and other accommodations. Paraphrasing somewhat, we say that we want everyone to be able to take advantage of elements of the visit. Usually, the planners on the other end will come back saying well, we have one person who needs vegetarian meals, and one person who needs large print documents and off we go. We had a local disability access and advocacy organization work with us to vet the language

  22. Dust Bunny*

    At least one (admittedly non-gourmet) chain sandwich shop offers build-your-own catered kits, where everything comes separated and everyone can assemble their own sandwiches. I attend an annual event that does this and so far it’s worked well because people can take more fillings if they don’t eat bread, leave off the (meat, dairy, raw tomatoes, etc.). And I feel like a lot of burger places have a no-bun option if anyone thinks to ask? So many people avoid carbs these days that it’s pretty common.

  23. Doop*

    As someone who has done a LOT of admin work, I have to share a different perspective. A lot of what is suggested here operates on many incorrect assumptions the main one being that ordering food is a top priority for the admin. Often when food is brought in for work related events and meetings, the same person placing the order is responsible for presentations, AV needs, preparing printed materials, etc. Ordering food is usually an afterthought on or shortly before the event (oh, yeah, let’s bring in lunch!) then there are almost always constraints as to what restaurants can the company order from (have to have an account, or setup in the company system to pay), add to this the fact that most restaurants don’t do their own delivery anymore so add a layer of the DoorDash/Uber driver messing up the pickup often not bringing parts of an order because they are literally picking them off a shelf at the restaurant. While I understand the frustration of “everyone is getting something to eat and you’re not”, I think there’s a little bit of management of expectations needed here.

    1. Be Gneiss*

      Management of expectations is “they forgot me once” or “the restaurant messed up and the admin was juggling a bunch of stuff and didn’t have time to sort it out.” Getting left out every.single.time is not an issue of management of expectations, especially with lots of potential solutions available.

    2. Zap R.*

      That’s fair. In my experience, even the simplest lunch orders can be an admin nightmare. If someone with dietary restrictions gives us decent lead time and a couple of suggestions, it’s always greatly appreciated.

    3. As Per Elaine*

      I understand that the person ordering the food is often responsible for a lot, but I think it speaks to company priorities: is it important enough that no one on your team consistently feel left out of what is supposed to be a reward to prioritize this, or not?

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Yeah I’ve been an executive admin with a billion things to do including arrangements for meetings large and small.

      Ensuring there are no food allergies/restrictions for what you are ordering for the staff is not some crazy burden. It was part of my job, and if I wasn’t doing it then I wasn’t doing my job well. Why is it okay to drop the ball on that but not other parts of the job?

      Now, the company may be requiring only orders from this place – but I’d think OP would have mentioned that.

      People needing perfectly reasonable accommodations don’t need to manage their expectations. The company needs to meet them.

    5. Jenna*

      Yeah, as someone who also often has to handle office meal orders, this is a fair comment to the extent that OP should be proactive in communicating their dietary restrictions as much as they can ahead of time (per Alison’s advice). But there is a pattern here of OP being left out, and having the response be a shrug/indifference – and that should be addressed and fixed.

    6. Everything Bagel*

      This is funny because it doesn’t actually sound like you do understand the frustration of being forced to skip a meal or miss part of a meeting because you are having to go find food for yourself while everyone else already has theirs at every single lunch meeting you attend. And getting shrugged at by the person who was responsible for the food? That’s ridiculous.

    7. rosie in london*

      I’m an office manager and I totally understand this – we use Deliveroo and sometimes I feel like I’m spending all my time directing drivers to (redacted but VERY RECOGNISABLE DISTINCT LONDON BUILDING). But I also have a food allergy and in the past I would get excluded like OP. But no one would ever ask what worked for me! I could have told them all about nearby options I know worked for me (and I would tell them!) but it would get ignored or forgotten. Office managers often also need to know medical info for first aid purposes (like who needs fridge space for medication, accommodations for disabilities, who carries an inhaler/EpiPen), so there’s no reason they shouldn’t also know dietary restrictions.

    8. Bernice Clifton*

      Thank you for this! I’d also like to add sometimes Big Wig from Corporate hands you their credit card and says, “Order lunch from Panera/Jimmy Johns/Dominoes for everyone” and I have said, “Jane can’t eat anything from there” and Big Wig is not willing to change the restaurant or place a separate order.

      1. Observer*

        So then the problem is not the Admin. And in some ways, it is even worse. It’s worse because that is a decision maker actually DECIDING to exclude Jane.

    9. something about sharks*

      Admin assistant here, and I have to disagree! Food isn’t necessarily the top priority, but it is certainly *a* priority, and if I were missing an order regularly (especially something for the same person every time), I’d expect to hear about it from my boss. It’s part of our job to juggle a bunch of different things and get them all done. If the admin person, say, never printed enough handouts and said “well, can’t you just read it on your phone” when asked about it, we wouldn’t tell their coworkers to manage their expectations – we’d tell the admin to print more handouts.

      The salad issue on its own is one thing – some places aren’t always clear on what’s involved in their gluten-free options and the ordering person may not have realized it’d be so insubstantial. But if someone raised that issue to me, I’d apologize, make a note about what needed to be done differently next time, and check with my boss about reimbursing the lunch my coworker had to go buy if possible. And sure, sometimes delivery drivers will mess up the pickup – but the solution is to call the restaurant, explain the situation, and arrange to get the missing meal delivered or go pick it up, not just shrug. Do I enjoy doing it? No. Is it part of my job? Yup.

      Admin work sucks sometimes, yeah. Food being an afterthought is a thing, and a giant pain. But that’s not OP’s fault, and she’s not out of line to want her needs to be accommodated. Her expectations are reasonable.

    10. Observer*

      It doesn’t matter how many other jobs you have. When something goes wrong and someone does not get something they NEED, you don’t just “shrug if off” as the OP describes. When someone tells you “I need X” you don’t tell them “Well, I’m telling you that Y is just the same” unless you have some expertise.

      If ordering food is part of your job, then it applies to the food you order. Just like, in my job in IT, it applies to the equipment I get them, even when it’s “little” things that are a minute part of my job. It’s STILL *part of the job* and it NEEDS to be done *correctly*. And *correctly* in this case means making sure that everyone can actually eat a decent meal.

    11. Good+Enough+For+Government+Work*

      Yeah, no. I also run events for my organisation, and the number 1 decision and consideration is ‘are we serving food?’, *because it’s so important to get right*. I literally make sure we have catering menus lined up sometimes even before I confirm guest speakers.

      Food is absolutely critical to successfully running a good event:
      – Attendees/delegates who aren’t eating aren’t paying attention. If they’re not fed properly, they literally cannot concentrate or learn (which is also why all school children should be entitled to free school meals…)

      – Food is about inclusion. When we feed people, if we do it properly, we are saying ‘you belong here and we care about meeting your needs’. Feeding other people is as much a social activity as it is about meeting their physical needs.

      – On a purely self-serving note: if you decide you don’t have time to care about someone with X dietary restriction, it is the First Law of Sod that the most important person at that event will also be a person with that dietary restriction. If the CEO ain’t happy, nobody’s happy… and you can kiss goodbye to positive feedback for your event, or good reputational impact for you personally/your org.

    12. Gluten-Free OP*

      Hi, OP here! Before this job, I actually used to be an EA, and part of my job was ordering lunches for large groups at least twice a week, accommodating people with various dietary restrictions (health, religious, or just personal preferences). I get where you’re coming from from personal experience because these huge lunches can be stressful when you’re also doing a million other things, but I personally always felt that this sort of inclusion was a priority because everyone should be able to eat during company lunches/lunch meetings.

      That’s why I was so taken aback by the admin kind of shrugging at me and not offering an alternative solution. It’s part of an admin’s job to take care of that. If the lunch isn’t complete, the admin’s job isn’t complete.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        It’s part of an admin’s job to take care of that. If the lunch isn’t complete, the admin’s job isn’t complete.

        Yes to this! Some lunches will be easy to order, when everyone likes and can eat pepperoni pizza. Some lunches will be more complicated, when you have to order for a vegetarian and someone who has celiac. Just like many, many other work tasks that are sometimes easy and sometimes difficult depending on the inputs and project parameters.

    13. OyHiOh*

      No. There’s some combination of lazy, lack of standards and processes, and isolation.

      Lazy – the people making the decisions (frequently not the poor admin stuck with implementing the task) don’t ask questions and make choices that acknowledge their team/department as individuals.

      Lack of standards and processes – I mentioned in a different comment that in our planning document for events/tours/client visits, we include required language for asking about food and other accommodations. Everyone in our organization who ever plans an event (almost everyone, in any given year) is empowered to make decisions for events they lead, using the planning document’s language and processes.

      Isolation – when the people making the decisions are located far away from the people they are making decisions for, we get back to decision makers not seeing their teams/departments as distinct individuals.

    14. Ellis Bell*

      You can’t ask people to work through without food anymore than you can ask them to work without bathrooms (those are complicated too!) It’s only “last minute” because when people’s bodies work they can be lazy about planning. If food truly isn’t important, then why not skip the food entirely? Thought not. I’m not saying it’s the admin’s job to think about this more than the person above them, but the very least an admin can do is relay messages like “sorry, you should speak to Bob, he only asks for food last minute” or “Hey Bob, we need more notice on food if we want everyone to get something”.

  24. WillowSunstar*

    This is why I’m glad my team is now almost entirely remote. No more team lunches, no more stress.

    1. allathian*

      We do have team lunches, but never catered ones on site. We always go to a restaurant and everybody pays for their own lunch. Even those who normally eat leftover dinner for lunch will make an exception once or twice a year for our team lunches. On my team we have two vegetarians and a vegan, at least two who are on a low-FODMAP diet, three who are lactose intolerant, and one person who’s so severely allergic to peanuts that you can’t open a bag of them in her presence because she might die if you do, and she carries an epipen at all times. Yet we manage to find something for everyone to eat every time.

  25. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    If the office-sponsored lunches continue to not meet your needs, I’d be so tempted to have a lunch order queued up on my phone, and casually stand at the end of the buffet line and hit the send button, while saying — just a moment, I’ll need to tell the front desk that I’ll be getting a delivery of a lunch I can actually eat. And make sure that my lunch is way more delicious and fragrant than there’s is.

    1. Juneybug*

      When asked about your meal, announce loudly that it’s from ____ resturant that you purchased because the company did not get you a gluten free option.

  26. Zap R.*

    That sucks, OP. I’m sorry.

    Pro tip: it’s a cultural thing that would take to long to get into, but authentic Italian places often have pretty decent gluten-free options.

  27. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    I get the complaints about office provided meals – absolutely the office should be trying to offer options, or plan a work around that works for everyone.

    But I don’t think anyone can complain too much about the treats people bring in – Most of the office bakers I have known bake a thing that interests them and/or that they like to eat, and which they have decided they want to share with others (due to the scale of effort in the baking, usually). A considerate baker will provide at least the ingredient listing, so that folks can watch out for allergens or other dietary restrictions, but a lot of hobbyists don’t have the skills, knowledge, patience, or inclination to be able to change a recipe to match the requirements for everyone in the office.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      And that’s the line I take. If its a meal that is provided for a working lunch where I have no other options and cannot skip, it best be something I can eat. And if I’ve had no warning that its going on and am stuck? It will be something I can safely eat or me skipping just became an option.

      Granted, the folks who constantly remind me about the treats, including the (*charming person*) who once and only once dropped a donut on my desk so I wouldn’t forget to grab one, when my automatic response is “I can’t eat that, food allergies, nope, not even a little bit thanks” get a little annoying. Its the same group, week in and week out. Company isn’t THAT big.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Yep, this is me. I’m baking pumpkin bread and bring an extra loaf into the office. I list out the warning ingredients — gluten, egg, dairy, nuts, chocolate

      Occasionally someone will ask — does this have X in it? then I know to add that to the warnings list.

      If I got pushback on being thoughtless for never bringing in gluten free or vegan or whatever, I’d just nope right out of that and give my extras to my neighbors rather than bringing them to the office.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Just to add — if someone had an allergy where being in the vicinity of the food would be a problem, of course I would not bring in such foods! If it wasn’t a necessary ingredient (pumpkin bread doesn’t have to have nuts), I’ll leave it out. If it’s integral to the recipe, I just won’t bring it to share.

    3. Super Duper Anon*

      This is where I am at too. Planning an office working lunch or inviting a group of people to a meal (out of office or ordering in)? Then yes, ask in advance for dietary restrictions and accommodate everyone. Treats that I bring in (non-manager) just because, then no. I brought in a bag of Halloween candy the other day that my kids can’t eat because they got braces this year. I didn’t ask about dietary restrictions, I just left it in the kitchen for people to help themselves to.

  28. OlympiasEpiriot*

    There should be one job title who does the ordering.

    I’ll bet this office is managed poorly in other ways, too.

  29. Jenna*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on here. For casual, personal office meals, the kind thing to do would be to say “I’m/We’re ordering pizza from [pizza place] for lunch, would anyone like anything else from there?” But they’re not obligated to change ordering locations to accommodate anyone’s needs (like OP’s CD) or preferences – if it’s where they want to eat that day, everyone is free to either join or pass. Official company meals are different, and the admin staff/organizers should be making every effort to ensure that everyone can be included and well-fed. Baffling.

    1. Jenna*

      I’ll add – as someone who is regularly put in charge of placing office catering orders for events, admittedly it can be a bit overwhelming to find good options to fit dietary restrictions if you are trying to accommodate multiple people and a large group (though certainly not impossible and not something that should be ignored!). I have a colleague who is GF and after regularly ordering her a wrap or a salad (large, with a protein) for lunch and breakfast tacos with fruit for morning events with the best of intentions, she came to me and explained that she was kind of tired of getting the same things and was there any way to mix it up for her? We decided that I would forward her the menu ahead of time and she could let me know what she wanted, so I didn’t have to figure it out for her every time and she could get what she wanted and would enjoy. It’s worked out great for both of us.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        That’s what my employers started doing with me as well, and I greatly appreciated being able to choose my own food.

  30. Fellow Celiac AAM Reader*

    I have celiac too! I really like the phrase “nothing about us without us” in situations like this. Basically, let the person who needs the accommodation decide what works best for them. I am very strict with my gluten free diet and don’t eat at restaurants unless I can talk to the server/manager in person. So catering doesn’t work for me, and I am 100% happy bringing my own food. My problem is that nobody believes me when I say this! Then I’m left to awkwardly explain why I can’t eat what they earnestly tried to provide for me, or lie about saving it for later, etc. Just believe what people tell you about their own situation.

    I hope OP’s coworkers will listen to them about what will work and do better to accommodate.

  31. Thursday Next*

    I’d like to acknowledge the crime against language of your work calling lettuce with dressing a “salad”. That’s not a salad, that’s a slightly tangy lettuce.

    These people are being jerks in a weirdly retro way. I hope they get over it once you pick back!

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I went to a Bubba Gump restaurant once and a salad was half a head of lettuce (not pulled apart–literal chunk of lettuce) with dressing poured on top of it. I’m still baffled as to what the heck that was. Is this a thing in the South?

      1. KatEnigma*

        It’s called a Wedge Salad and it’s not particularly Southern. It’s also not new- a quick google to make sure I was right about it not being Southern dates it officially to a cookbook from 1916 and it became widespread in the 1920’s thanks to railway transportation making iceberg lettuce available everywhere year round.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          A wedge salad should have bacon, tomatoes, and blue cheese along with your dressing, I would hope. Most of our green salads growing up were whatever was in the garden. (I say “green” salads because Southerners are real fond of mayo-based salads and, at least in recent past, jello salads – though I understand the Midwest really elevated the jello salad game. We just put fruit in them, but I hear that pretzels and all sorts of stuff makes in out there.)

          Closest I’ve seen to that having spent nearly my whole life in the South is that my father-in-law eats iceberg with a mixture of ketchup and mayo as “dressing”… but I would not call his eating habits entirely representative of Southern cuisine.

  32. anne of mean gables*

    Agreed – the “so many people are GF as a trend, so I must react by demonstrating that I think it’s stupid and not accommodate it” attitude drives me up a wall. First off, people should be able to eat (and not eat) what they choose. If I wake up one day and decide to eliminate gluten because I think it’ll help me lose weight, that’s entirely my right. Secondly, I have a close family member with Celiac, and let me tell you how much easier her life is now that gluten free is a “trendy” dietary restriction/choice. Dedicated menu sections! Labels on grocery store foods! A whole different world than when she was diagnosed twenty years ago.

  33. Melanie Cavill*

    I know it’s not the point but I am digging the all-caps ELEVENTY BILLION! I’m imagining, like, someone shouting it from the middle of a cornfield as the camera zooms away from them.

  34. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    I just love the wording of “If you will not get enough nutrition from these menus…” It very nicely and efficiently circles the difference between a satisfying meal and a food item you can technically eat, so that (for example) vegans are no longer stuck with the weak side salad for lunch while the omnivores are getting all their macros addressed.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I liked that wording also, because it conveys “we want to meet your needs” without also falling into “please tell us your every whim and preference so we can get a chef to custom-make your lunch”.

    2. Gluten-Free OP*

      I agree, I love this wording–and I’m probably going to use it when I talk to someone about the issue! Because seriously, I love a good salad, but leaves with dressing =/= a salad.

  35. CatMomofTwo*

    As someone who plans logistics for large meetings, ordering food is probably one of the most stressful aspects of my job. Food is SO personal, and it can be hard to get it right when both needs and requests can be so varied. My advice is when you know you are apart of something where food is being provided, reach out personally and early. Just today I had someone ask if there are gluten free options. Nope! Because it was not requested on the form I send out when requesting details. It puts me in a tight spot, and I’m running down the road to find something for the person who can’t eat.
    I always ask meeting organizers for any dietary restrictions in the group and rarely do I get anything back. A lot of people just don’t think or prioritize it when it doesn’t affect them.
    Reach out and specify exactly what you need. Is it a preference, or a life threatening allergy? A lot of big caterers can’t be trusted with things like cross-contamination, so we need to work together to make sure you are actually getting what you need. And reach out early since we’re typically ordering stuff multiple days before the day of the event. Don’t feel bad telling people what you need. Most people want to help and make you comfortable.

  36. Everything Bagel*

    If people are trying a gluten-free diet for any reason whatsoever, why in the world are you judging them for it or even asking them why they’re doing it? Sometimes it’s suggested to go completely clean eating when you’re trying to diagnose an issue. Other times people just don’t like to feel bloated from eating certain foods. The fact that you would roll your eyes at someone because you suspect they don’t have a “good enough” reason to eat what they want is quite telling.

  37. Cranjis McBasketball*

    OP wouldn’t even have to order a separate meal. They mentioned how easy it is to find gluten-free options at restaurants – surely there must be some such place where they can just get lunch for everyone. OP can suggest a few of those. Problem solved!

  38. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Companies might be surprised when people who don’t have medical reasons prefer the “medical” option. For example, a friend of mine went low carb when he got a prediabetes diagnosis. The company started ordering Caesar salad for him when they got pizza for everybody else. And 50% of everybody else asked if they could get Caesar salad too. (They do now.)

  39. RT*

    I have celiac, and I agree that meals and treats provided by management should take special dietary needs into account, in communication with the individuals with the special needs. One thing I don’t love is feeling like I have to choose the restaurant, and if it turns out to be something other people don’t like it feels like my fault. So it is nice if this can be handled discreetly so people with dietary needs don’t feel on the spot.

    But when it comes to coworkers bringing in treats, I have found that having celiac is just a good way to avoid eating unnecessary junk at the office. I actually hate it when people bring in something specifically gluten-free for me. I’m not comfortable eating some thing homemade unless I really really trust that person to understand the concepts of gluten and cross-contamination. And even with packaged foods, sometimes it’s just not some thing I prefer or want to eat, but then I still feel obligated to eat it because they brought it in specially for me.

  40. BlueSwimmer*

    Just here to say that I am a high school teacher and club sponsor. The students in my club have no problem dealing with one another’s food needs when they do group pot lucks. They are really thoughtful about it and even bring different versions of things with labels to accommodate different dietary needs.

    If a bunch of high school kids can do it, so can professionals.

    1. Juneybug*

      You would think but one of my jobs, we had quarterly potlucks, which I helped organized, set up, and clean up. I would beg people to list the ingredients on an index card (which I provided). But no, it was too much effort. Some got offended like I was judging their food. Others would list a few items like meat but not state what kind of meat (beef, pork, roadkill?). It was pitiful.

  41. online millenial*

    I think what’s standing out to me is that the company isn’t acting out of ignorance or forgetfulness. People *know* OP has this need, and they are deliberately choosing to leave her out. The thing about the burger place email is the worst for me: it was sent to everyone except OP and all her coworkers tried to keep it a secret that they were getting food (presumably paid for by the office). There’s deliberate exclusion happening here. Ordering your own food and getting reimbursed will help with the issue of not having anything to eat; it won’t solve the fact that apparently your coworkers are a bunch of jerks.

    1. Meep*

      I ~sorta~ get it. We had a problem employee who liked to talk about how she was gluten-free because she was gluten and then would be the first to shovel gluten into her mouth despite giving her adequate gluten-free options. As a person who bakes as her love-language, I kind of gave up providing her gluten-free options for everything I made. So I could see just assuming OP is not interested due to the gluten that comes with pizza and burgers.

      The sneaking around crosses the line.

  42. Meep*

    I worked with someone who was Celiac and a person who claim to be gluten intolerant. I had a lot of sympathy until he used his CD to get out of work (he would literally eat the food he knew was going to make him sick to avoid presenting – which is a separate issue, but when you go out of your way to cater to him and he still grabs the bad food…) and she brought it up for everything as she took the third slice of cake, because it looked so good.

    I think the main problem is people like this. Sorry for the uphill battle, OP.

  43. Leela*

    Solidarity to you from a fellow Celiac Disease experiencer. In my experience, it’s been a very double-edged sword that gluten-free has become a big thing because I have options now, and waiters actually know what I’m talking about when I ask what has gluten (when I first found out gluten is what was getting me hospitalized, no one really knew what it was or what foods it was in), however since it’s become a trend people have decided it’s okay to roll their eyes at me when I mention a serious medical issue, interrogate me like I’m lying, and justify it talking about “fakers” , whoever they are. In my experience fakers don’t cause nearly the issues for my health and safety that people who think they can act terribly because someone might be a faker. I’ve even had people lie about something being gluten-free, watch me eat it to see my reaction, and decide that since I didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction (which isn’t how it works) that I was lying. I wound up in the hospital for two days after that one!

    1. Another Celiac in the Office (not LW)*

      Oh. My. God.

      I have no idea how you would even press charges for something like that, but you should be able to!

      1. Honestly, now?*

        I think this falls under deliberate poisoning, which is definitely something you can report someone over, at least where I live. And if it doesn’t fall under that, it should, because the poisoner is deliberately doing something they know causes harm to the other person (whether they “believe” it will or not is irrelevant in the eyes of good law).

        1. Juneybug*

          I had an (ex)friend invite a bunch of us to a buffet style restaurant. She said already spoke to the restaurant and I would be safe. Since I know buffet restaurants are never safe, I knew she was lying. I called myself and confirm that they did not have gluten free food on the buffet line. Nor could the chef make me a special meal. The manager said they tell celiac persons to not attend their restaurant because of the risk.
          Why the lying? Because it was more important to (ex)friend that we were all there to celebrate her birthday than my safety.
          Funny thing – if she had invited me and being celiac for two decades, I would have known to bring my own meal and celebrate with her without any issues.

  44. SamIAM*

    I am going to be somewhat the odd person out here, but it is possible the LW is being excluded because they are either not liked, or constantly touting their dietary restrictions.

    I know someone that worked on a smaller team of 7 people and there was one vegetarian. He made such a big deal about being a vegetarian that he found ways to work it into conversation often. “I’m vegetarian, did you know I’m vegetarian?”, ad nauseum. They ALL knew because he said it all the time. He also didn’t drink and was just as vocal about that.

    For company related lunches, a vegetarian meal was always ordered. But that did not stop him from reminding everyone each time an order was placed that he was…you guessed it…vegetarian. There was a small group of restaurants they couldn’t order from as a result but they were accommodating.

    When it came to non-work-sponsored happy hours, he was left out. If the group was going to a sports bar for dinner and or drinks, all 6 went without him. Yes, the bar would have water, soda, salads, etc. but he was left out mainly because they wouldn’t have to hear for the umpteenth time that he was a vegetarian.

    He would tell the bartender “I don’t drink, but I’ll have a soda”, which resulted in eye rolling from the group. Just order your soda! “I’ll have a salad, but I’m a vegetarian”. If it doesn’t have meat/chicken on it, just order your salad!

    It was so incredibly annoying and over repetitive that he was ostracized to avoid having to hear it one more time. In addition to that, we wasn’t well liked when it came to work. He didn’t fit in well with the team and he didn’t make it easier on himself by constantly repeating the obvious.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Whole lot of telling on themselves in that tale….I agree w/ Wow.

        Its annoying AF to have to constantly check that food I’m not preparing won’t cause me bodily injury.

    1. Covered in Bees*

      Yeah I’m 99.9% sure they wouldn’t be bothered by his repetition if they didn’t already look down on vegetarians and people who don’t drink. As you clearly do.

      People with dietary restrictions have to repeat it because we don’t expect others to remember, and because of treatment just like what the LW is describing.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        It’s also possible that this guy was also annoying when not discussing food and drink preferences and this just all looped into that, though. Like, when he wasn’t talking about food and drink, were you fine with him, or was he just a “bitch eating crackers” person in general?

    2. pierrot*

      Well, in this case, the LW might be “constantly touting her dietary restrictions” because everyone keeps forgetting them. I understand leaving an annoying colleague out of after work happy hours, but they are excluding the LW *during the day at her actual job*. Even if it is because they think she’s annoying, it is not okay- it’s immature and unprofessional. As an adult, you use your words- you don’t just leave someone out of a workplace catered lunch because you don’t like them or find their medical condition annoying. There are so many examples on this website of legitimately annoying coworkers and part of existing in the working world is learning how to cope with annoying people without reverting to middle school behavior.

      Your comparison with the vegetarian former coworker is also kind of a false equivalence here. The LW has an autoimmune disease that significantly restricts her diet. There’s nothing holier-than-thou about someone with celiac’s reminding people who are ordering food for them that they cannot eat gluten.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Yes! I feel like I’m CONSTANTLY telling everyone in my life that I’m allergic to dairy… but that’s because no one ever remembers and I have to mention it every. single. time. food comes up just to get it to stick for them. Hell, even some of my preference stuff that isn’t a medical need in the same way that an allergy is (and said allergy isn’t deadly–I can have a bit of dairy) I still have to do this with.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Same. I even have to constantly remind my own MOTHER! Lol. Most people just don’t remember stuff like this unless it effects them.

          1. Minimal Pear*

            My mother is the one I get the allergy from, and while she does remember I also have it, she CANNOT remember to read the back of packages. No, neither of us can eat that naan you bought, unless we both want to spend the day with a nasty rash.

    3. Good+Enough+For+Government+Work*

      Speaking as a very enthusiastic carnivore and alcohol drinker: You are not making the impression that you think you are with this comment.

    4. Observer*

      I am going to be somewhat the odd person out here, but it is possible the LW is being excluded because they are either not liked, or constantly touting their dietary restrictions.

      So you are suggesting that it’s reasonable to act on “I don’t like you” or “You’re being annoying about your restriction” by making someone go hungry.

      It seems to me that this is a a waaaaaay bigger problem than the eye-rolly and annoying coworker. At least he wasn’t harming anyone!

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      It sounds like you heard this all second-hand, and likely the person telling it would want to portray themselves in a better light. That’s not to say that there aren’t vegetarians and non-drinkers who are jerks about it – there are, just as there are jerks in any group of folks – but there are also people who automatically get annoyed by folks who are vegetarian or teetotalers (or gluten-free, or paleo, or [insert dietary restriction here].

      It’s very possible this guy had previously had a bad experience with food being ordered and so now wanted to make sure to remind the person ordering food so that it didn’t happen again (even if he’s ordering a salad he may want to restaurant to know so they take extra care to not cross-contaminate). In terms of telling the bartender about not drinking, society has (unfortunately) made it so that non-drinkers do have to feel defensive about it, so I don’t blame him for preempting his order. All this to say, he doesn’t sound like the jerk here.

      (for the record, I’m neither vegetarian nor a teetotaler so it’s not a matter of me taking his side because I agree with him)

    6. Irish Teacher*

      If they are being excluded because they are not liked, then it’s straight up bullying. I guess that IS a possibility, but if anything I’d say deliberately not accommodating the LW because they don’t like her is a good deal worse than it just being thoughtlessness and lack of consideration. Not that the latter is OK either.

  45. Media Monkey*

    this is rubbish on behalf of your company. we regularly order in food for our team which in the past has consisted of someone with a serious nut allergy, 2 vegans, 1 vegetarian hindu, 1 practicing muslim, 2 gluten intolerant/ coeliac people and 1 lactose intolerant person. i asked the nut allergy person who was able to call up the 3 potential pizza places and discuss their precautions and choose the one she felt comfortable with (if she hasn’t been reassured by any of them we would have looked further). then we were able to order a combo of “normal”/gluten free bases and meat/ vegan cheese/ toppings that suited everyone – it might take 15 mins more to make sure everyone is covered but that’s nothing. admittedly this is in london but from chains like dominos and papa johns. IT’S NOT THAT HARD

  46. AngelicGamer, the Legally Blind Peep*

    This is going to seem over the top but, for me, as someone who’s been excluded from a lot in the past due to my disability, I’m worried this might be the symptom of a bigger problem. I would ask the OP to double check she’s been heard in meetings or by co-workers. Bring it up to the boss. And, if things don’t get better, I’d put out feelers for other jobs. To be excluded on something so simple as meeting lunch orders? It feels like there’s a bigger problem brewing.

  47. Essentially Cheesy*

    Whoever is ordering the food at LW’s workplace is being rotten. One of my biggest stressors is ordering food and including people that have any issues, whether it’s sensitivities or religious dietary observations or allergies or whatever. I always want to include these people!

  48. KatEnigma*

    This is 2022. Places from Subway to Pizza Hut and restaurants at all price points offer GF/Paleo “bowls” or similar even if they don’t offer GF substitutes for bread/crusts, which many ALSO do. This is such an easy accommodation if they even gave it 2 seconds of thought.

    If I’m being charitable, I might suggest that her colleagues don’t necessarily know that LW is not so sensitive that she can’t even manage with trace gluten, that you can’t guarantee to be protected from (so say the warnings at said restaurants) but I am having a hard time believing everyone thinks that.

  49. Nancy*

    My dept just sends menus out ahead of time and tells people to choose what they want by X date if they want something. For catering they send the menu and a list of what is already being ordered and ask people with dietary restrictions to choose the best option for them if it’s not already on the list (which already covers the more common restrictions). Simple and effective. The example email is overly wordy to me, personally.

  50. Jess*

    I relate to this so much. I have multiple food allergies (including wheat and dairy’s). I work in healthcare and for the past three years managements default “moral booster” is food. From donuts to pizza to ice cream. Feedback to my management goes nowhere. Last month, it was “XYZ week” and we had a catered lunch from a Mexican restaurant. Except management ordered all the meals. So when I clocked out for lunch I went to the management office and asked if there was a meal that I could eat. And my manager shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know the restaurant didn’t mark the boxes.” And then turned around and kept working on her computer.

  51. Just pick it off... your face*

    Just a note to all you meat eaters out there, please don’t eat the veggie option “because it looks nice.” Because then I have to make do with one slice of veggie pizza while the rest of the staff gets to chow down. Believe it or not, being told to “just pick the pepperoni off” is not a satisfactory answer. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

    1. Coco.*

      The clear solution is for meat eaters speak up and say “We like veggie pizza a lot. Please order extra”. Or for the food organizer to notice this happening. “People sure seem to like veggie pizza. I think next time we will get extra.”

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I’m someone guilty of doing this, because while I generally prefer meat, that doesn’t mean I can eat a particular type of meat. Pepperoni/salami is actually a great example of that (and really, who decided that was an acceptable default for pizzas?) – the preservative load of some of the more processed brands will induce migraines if I eat them, so while I am an outspoken carnivore, I will eat a vegetarian pizza over a pepperoni one, unless I know the brand of the pepperoni used on it.

      I’ve always hesitated to push back with food organizers to actually let us discuss the toppings for pizzas rather than just define X plain cheese, Y veggie, and Z pepperoni as an order – I will try fighting for that more going forward.

      1. UKDancer*

        Same, pepperoni doesn’t agree with me, I don’t like having gastric issues so I almost always go for cheese pizza. Fortunately my workplace monitors what gets eaten most so we always have significantly more cheese than anything else.

    3. Media Monkey*

      we always overorder on the veggie ones – with an order of about 7 or 8 pizzas, we will have maybe 2 or 3 with meat and the rest veggie/ vegan. everyone wants a slice of the cheese and veggies ones even if they eat meat.

    4. Dragonfly7*

      OMG, this too. I’ve had someone take my special gluten free meal WITH MY NAME ON IT because it “looked better.”

  52. Delta Delta*

    I feel like there are 2 different things going on here. 1 – the office-sponsored meals where the people in charge can’t get it together to order you the right food; and 2 – the coworkers who are being jerks. I’ll take them in reverse order:

    The coworkers being jerks are being jerks. No idea why they’re not inviting you, but they’re being jerks. It could be as misplaced as, gee, Jane has celiac and can’t eat burger buns so I won’t invite her since she can’t go (like, they could ask and not assume). Or it could be as nasty as, ugh, Jane and her celiac drama, let’s not even tell her.

    The office is being a jerk but in a different way. They should at least let you see a menu and choose what you know you can eat. And the admin not contacting the caterer is the admin being lazy. I’ll also note that in some states if food is provided by the employer and causes a medical reaction or injury, the employer may be on the hook for a workers’ compensation claim. I don’t get the sense this company is at all with it enough to know this, but I have known of employers who only do brown-bag socializing for this very reason.

    tl;dr – these people are jerks.

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      The office people feel like they’re doing high school level social behavior. Like they’re all weirdly bonding by having a secret email go out to everyone but OP and then sh-sh-sh “Let’s all have our burger day but don’t let OP catch on cuz we might get in trouble.” What might actually be helpful to OP is nowhere in their priorities.

  53. didinicole*

    People are not trying at all. I’ve been an EA at several companies with diverse populations and have had to order meals to accommodate, pescatarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, and kosher eaters. This isn’t difficult at all, if you are creative.

    We have a pizza chain in Chicago that does gluten free pizza with a sausage crust. I also went to a super popular burger restaurant in my city that a close friend of my with Celiac’s desperately wanted to try that subbed out hash brown patties for burger buns. So many restaurants are accommodating the needs of people with gluten sensitivities.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Whoawhoawhoa. Tell us more about this sausage crust situation. I’m originally from the Midwest and I have to say this sounds like the most Chicago invention ever.

      1. KatEnigma*

        I did a quick Google of “Chicago sausage crust” and got the answer in the top results.

        Now off to search down that hash brown bun place…

      2. didinicole*

        Lou Malnatti’s does the sausage crust. Au Cheval has the gluten free cheeseburger with the hash brown “bun.”

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Thank you for sharing this! They are now on my list of places to check out next time I am in Chicago.

  54. Covered in Bees*

    I think this is why I’ve defaulted to taking over planning meeting logistics… so that I can make sure that me and everyone else with restrictions can get safe food.
    Probably not the healthiest response to the problem.

  55. Qwerty*

    OP, the best way of handling this is compartmentalizing the different buckets and being proactive.

    1. Work Provided Lunches – The company definitely needs to provide you food here! You’ll have to be your own advocate – reach out beforehand, offer up suggestions, if you pick up your own lunch then submit the receipt for reimbursement (act like *of course* they will cover it since the caterer messed up)

    2. Unofficial coworker lunches – I’m guessing your coworkers think they are being nice by not saying “Hey OP, we’re getting food you can’t eat!” The celiac people I know would prefer to be left off these discussions because they only trust food from gluten free kitchens – everyone with dietary restrictions is different! Just speaking up and joining in will help here

    3. Treats – Tread with caution here. If you make a fuss over donuts, the end result can easily be and end to the treats. However, I’m guessing this would bother you less if 1&2 were resolved. Are these treats company sponsored or are people paying themselves / baking at home? Usually these are something where a manager or coworker spends a few dollars on a box of donuts or tray of cookies. They aren’t excluding you here, just grabbing something that’s convenient. Do you ever bring in gluten free treats to share?
    3b – If its company sponsored like bagels for breakfast because you all have to get there early, that’s another matter. Probably best addressed after resolving 1 so they start getting the muscle memory

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I think this is spot on. There’s actually several issues happening here and they overlap. So, identifying each of them is critical. OP should absolutely get something they can eat at work sponsored lunches- 100%. When things like the combine, it can be really hard to psychologically separate them.

    2. one boring hapa*

      As a celiac, I prefer people to just ask. Literally. I love going with my coworkers to wherever they go so I can at minimum get a soft drink and sit with them, or get some chips, or other snack. It’s so simple yet so difficult for people for some reason.

  56. Irish Teacher*

    As somebody who is an EXTREMELY picky eater (and probably has some sensory issues with food, I suspect due to either sensory processing disorder or possibly autism, though I have not been officially diagnosed with anything), I LOVE your client’s letter. I would be so appreciative of an employer like that.

    It’s not only inclusive; it also avoids making a big deal of it. I’ve worked a few places where people have gone to the opposite extreme to the LW’s company and has done the “oh, can you eat anything from this? What about this? Do you like this? Do you want us to order you something different? What do you want?” to the point that, while they were genuinely trying to be inclusive and kind, it really made me feel I was putting them out and put the spotlight very much on me as “the picky eater.”

  57. Another Celiac in the Office (not LW)*

    Oh, LW, I could have written this letter myself a couple years ago. My favorite instance was a department breakfast where I had two cold hard boiled eggs, some wilted lettuce, and a little bit of fruit while the rest of the group had pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage (not gluten free because the caterer chose to use slices of bread to soak up the grease in the chafing dishes). It sucks, and you’re not being dramatic.

    What helped for me with those larger group meetings (our team admin was amazing and always made sure I had lunch when she ordered) was showing up with my own lunch and having half the group look at it and ask me where I got it. Yes, I was absolutely scared to do it because it felt way over the top. But honestly after getting the email about lunch that time and the only gluten free items on the menu were sauces, it was time to make a move. After that, they started making a real effort, asking me to look at the menu and asking me what I wanted – because no one should have to make a meal out of salad dressing and pesto. It became extra work for me, particularly around off site events, but it was a lot easier being able to feel included, and my team and manager were able to understand that if I was going to ask an annoying number of questions, they’d rather I be involved in picking the place. It was a win for everyone – I got to eat, no one had to watch me sit quietly on the side starving to death, and I didn’t end up glutened.

    I recently changed jobs, and while I’m expected to be remote for the next year, my manager wants to take me to lunch next week. Let me tell you how fast the celiac anxiety kicked back in! Talk to your manager – if they’re reasonable, they should be able to hear you and help out. If not, bring better food to the next meeting where they have food and avoid accommodating you, and if that doesn’t shame them…might be time to look for a better team.

  58. nm*

    During the pandemic/wfh I saw friends whose companies did things like, let everyone expense 1 doordash lunch during big office-occasions. I wonder if it’s reasonable just do that very same thing but at the office…

  59. one boring hapa*

    I’m sorry that you deal with this my fellow celiac sufferer. One of the things that really helped is getting closer to my coworkers and really putting out there how important it is to my health that I don’t have any gluten — so there’s also a personal interest on their end. Why would we want to poison our work friends?

    I know it really shouldn’t be this way because we have ADA-recognized disabilities. I’ve had instances where my coworkers brought me certified GF goodies (yay!), ask me where is safe for me to eat at (yay x 2!), admin bought “gluten free” pizza that’s not celiac safe because duh shared kitchen (boo!), and had to bring my own food to a fancy upscale club because they couldn’t accommodate me (boox2!).

    At this point, I’ve honestly started using public compliments and shaming in our disability workgroups and departmental meetings because it works. I don’t name names. However, after so many years, I’m also not pulling punches because being treated equally shouldn’t be like pulling teeth. :)

  60. Coco.*

    I couldn’t tell from the letter. But have you explicitly told people this is a problem and you feel excluded? Especially for the company sponsored food. Your request is very reasonable. It’s ok to be firm. Use the scripts Alison provided and speak up both early and in the moment.

    I realize this sounds backwards, but for the coworker lunches, do you ever initiate them? Maybe if you initiate a lunch or two, people will put two and two together to realize that GF options do exist at many restaurants. And they may be more likely to think “Jane organized our lunch last week. Let’s invite her this week too.”

    1. Another Celiac in the Office (not LW)*

      It’s going to sound equally crazy/backwards, but it’s fully possible OP has anxiety around speaking up because they already feel excluded. I know I did and still do. CD can be incredibly isolating, especially once you’ve started to feel like the people around you don’t care enough to include you or that they see your health as “too complicated/hard to accommodate.”

  61. Observer*

    For the (fortunately few) people who are saying that the OP is wrong, “childish” or “asking too much” of the company and how HAAAARD it is to accommodate it, I have a question. Why is it that you are having soooo much more trouble with the concept than 5 (admittedly bright and empathetic) 5 year old.

    When my kids were young, they had a LOT of friends who they wanted to send Shalach Manot (Purim packages) and they also needed to have packages available for friends who came by who weren’t on their list. I had a very set package that I made for them because otherwise it was going to be a lot of work, and turn out fairly expensive (at the time, I would generally prepare 3 dozen packages and all would be gone by the end of the day.) One year, my preschooler came to me and said that he wanted to make a package for his friend, but the friend has serious allergies. Would I be willing to make an exception and make a special package for him. I was happy to do so. I asked him to get the list of things the kid was allergic to and when he came by with his mother, I gave her the package and told her what was in there.

    Think about it – my *5 year old child* was able to understand the issue and get me an apparently accurate list of what the kid couldn’t have (and it was a lot of really common stuff). How does a functioning adult claim that they can’t understand what a young child manages?!

    1. KatEnigma*

      Not that this excuses it at all, but the reason your 5 yr old thought of it is the same reason my 5 yr old does – they have been in school/daycare for 3+ years where food allergies are just treated as the normal thing they are and where they are reminded every day to keep each other safe from food allergens.

      Many adults, even younger ones, haven’t had it part of their every day lives like that.

  62. Quinalla*

    Ugh, OP you are not overreacting at all, I think Alison’s answer is spot on. For company/team meals, they should include you period! If the caterer or restaurant doesn’t have anything you want (lettuce plus dressing is not a meal FYI meals planners), they should order something separate or let you order and get reimbursed. I’m WFH full time now, but when in the office I usually ended up ordering food for lunches and we had someone who was Vegan and a Muslim who could not eat pork and we always made sure to accommodate them. We are lucky that there were 4 close restaurants and tons of others a little further out that had food both of them liked and the rest of the office liked too, so we just ordered from one of those. But if you aren’t as lucky as us, then ordering from a separate place is fine too.

    I also always, always ask about food allergies/sensitivities, dietary restrictions, etc. any time I’m organizing food for a group. I have a kid and a brother with food allergies, a SIL with religious dietary restrictions and friends that have Celiac, are vegan/vegetarian, etc. Maybe others just don’t know (or don’t realize/care) that people they are friends/family with are affected by something but jeez, I’m surprised so many are so unaware of this stuff. Like an industry event on a Friday during Lent they were serving pork. I’m like, you are alienating Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Vegetarians/Vegans – like woah, put some thought into this folks!

  63. Vermont Green*

    I think you ought to make a point of letting people know what you *can* eat. If there is a go-to favorite that people who know you can order…tacos? a Cobb salad? rice bowls? Whatever it is, it will help people get a concrete idea of what you’d like, rather than a hazy, and negative-sounding imaginary option (not this, not this) etc.

  64. Paige*

    I would have LOVED that email when i was a lowly admin tasked with catering for the holiday party c. 2010. I got zero advice other than vaguely knowing some folks were gluten-free but not how badly nor what alternatives worked specifically for them. It was NOT a success. Things are way better now but it can still be a minefield. OP deserves to be mad and their coworkers are obtuse, but that email gives a good option that saves face AND gives everyone more options.

  65. Katherine*

    At my old job we had monthly shared lunches. Half the office would bring something in, and every 3rd month the boss would get something catered. It didnt always go well. One time the catered lunch was sushi with no other options. One of my coworkers was pregnant and was NOT inpressed (the recommendation is not to eat cold food, esp rice). I can’t stand the smell/taste of nori so i had to actually leave the lunchroom instead of just eating my regular lunch with my work friends.

    Another time the half of the office decided their theme would be ‘vegetarian’, which would be great except Every Single Dish had mushrooms in, which I don’t like (I did try one dish which they though might not have mushrooms in, it did but they were a type that didnt have a strong flavour).

  66. SelinaKyle*

    I had a work colleague with the same dietary requirement. All of us in the dept, ensured that the place we ordered from or ate at had something she could enjoy. When we brought in birthday treats etc we also purchased something for her. How hard is it to be inclusive.

  67. Cherry*

    Wow, I thought from the title that you were going to have some kind of really rare complex mix of intolerances or something… it’s coeliac?! I don’t mean that that’s easy or anything, but Jesus it’s something that everybody’s heard of and everyone probably knows at least one or two people with.

    Your colleagues are rude and mean and you deserve to be served food you can eat at all work events.

  68. Chickaletta*

    I order for groups all the time and it’s not that freaking hard to accommodate dietary restrictions. Just last week, I sent an email to the group that I was going to order a variety of sandwiches, soups, and salads from a popular chain restaurant and to please let me know if they had any dietary restrictions. The answers came back everything from gluten-free to can’t eat bell-peppers, I kept a post-it next to my desk with the restrictions so it’s not like it took me any effort to track responses either. A quick look at the ingredients on the restaurant website when I ordered let me know I had at least a few options for everyone. Easy peasy. It’s not like I had to go to some weird new-age vegan restaurant either, the meat, cheese, and bread lovers had a nice selection too. I think sometimes people make this more complicated than it is.

  69. My 2 cents*

    You need to speak up about the exclusion and how you want them to handle it. “Hey peeps, I know I can’t eat all the same things you do, and I don’t expect you to know/remember what I can and can’t have. But it would be nice if you would let me take a look at the menu to see if there’s something I can safely eat when you order out. For instance, I love me a burger when it hasn’t been sandwiched by a bun or a salad with lots of veggies but no crutons. When you order from a place with no suitable options, I’ll just bring my lunch. Just because I have restrictions doesn’t mean I expect you’ll never eat at Gluten, Gluten, Gluten again – it would just be nice if it wasn’t the only place you ordered from”

    Obviously you have to know your audience, but sometimes people need a little more explanation or need you to put words into what is happening. For me personally, “I’d love to eat those ribs, but if I did, I’d end up in a world of hurt! Maybe can you call the caterer and ask about my missing meal or would you like me to do that?”

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I think OP pretty much has to take the lead on what she eats, though. Like I speak as an idiot numbnuts who doesn’t like cooking and has been known to fail at reading ingredients to know the secret code words meaning “animal product is in this” and the like. It’s probably not a great idea to trust that her coworkers can figure out what is safe for her to eat.

      OP’s best options are probably to read menus herself and say, “I can eat at X, Y, and Z restaurants safely, especially if I call ahead to make sure they can clean their cooking stuff beforehand.” Again, I’m going off what I’ve seen allergic friends do while eating out–they say what restaurants they CAN eat at and then we pick from there.

  70. DJ*

    That’s outrageous. And LW shouldn’t have to go to so much trouble to speak to key organiser, admin etc etc. They are aware of it given they leave her out so it’s not a matter of not knowing but not caring.
    I once was involved with lunch catering where the cater left out the gluten free order so I called around local sandwich shops, found one, went up there and purchased it.
    I once worked with someone who had to eat gluten, egg and nut free food. We would always run past them any suggested restaurants asking them to also suggest a place, discuss what they could eat when bringing in food/ensure rice crackers, fruit etc.
    And at the same time we had others with other food restrictions in the team to manage as well.
    Gluten free is one of the more common ones ppl are aware of and many pizza and other places will make up food that was gluten free including sandwiches and bread bases.
    There was a cake catering who made cakes that eliminated all these items (this staff member was thrilled to be able to take the leftovers home as it’s rare they could eat cake).

  71. Dawn*

    I am neither a lawyer nor American, but I have to mention – and maybe someone already has and I missed it – that if you’re actually or essentially being excluded from company-sponsored events, this feels like it might rise to the level of discrimination, and if it looks like that to me, it might not hurt terribly to drop that word or some form of it into your conversation with your supervisor.

    1. Dawn*

      For the record, I’m type 1 diabetic myself, and I’ve had to fall back on this one at least once when people decided they knew my requirements better than I do and literally snatched food away from me.

  72. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    This is so mean and unnecessary, I wonder if there isn’t some ringleader office gossip who’s been talking about OP behind their back and convincing everyone that their dietary restrictions are petty and onerous, like for drama or something. A whole office behaving this way is so odd to me. (Especially the admin just shrugging!!!!)

  73. TomatoesRuleTheWorld*

    Try being allergic to tomatoes. It’s almost impossible to find something to eat in any type of catered or group meal. Most places I’ve worked accomodate gluten free and vegetarian, but everything for all of the options has tomatoes.

  74. DJ Abbott*

    OP, I have so many food allergies, along with a very sensitive stomach, I have to make all my food. I bring my lunch to work every day. This is convenient for social lunches because I can just heat up my lunch and join the party or meeting. Sometimes people offer to bring me something I can eat but it’s so much easier to bring my own. So maybe bringing your lunch would work for you too. If you want restaurant food, you could buy it ahead of time and bring it.

  75. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    OP is right to be upset by this. It’s not okay.
    These kinds of situations are actually something I’ve used as an example in interviews before when I’m laying out the difference between an Administrative Assistant, a good admin, and a great admin. An admin does their job and orders the food, a good admin asks people what food restrictions people have before ordering food, and a great admin already knows those restrictions and orders with them in mind. In general there’s a huge lack of respect for admin work, we know this. We know it stems from a lot of sexism and other things. But what I’ve also found is that a lot of people don’t know the huge difference a good or great admin can make in an office until they actually have one. At a previous job, I kept a running list of food restrictions and allergies in my department. Yeah, it sometimes made ordering a little difficult, but you know that saying about “People always remember how you made them feel”? It’s 100% true. Imagine how my co-worker who was allergic to strawberries, bananas & pineapple felt everytime we had smoothies catered in. How do you think she felt about that? Not great I bet. The first time we ordered smoothies after she told me about her allergy, I made sure that 2 of the 5 flavors we ordered were safe for her. I sent her an e-mail ahead of time to let her know which two flavors were safe and pinged her when they arrived so that she could come and grab one before the hordes descended. She got to enjoy a smoothie like everyone else, she didn’t have her allergy called out in front of everyone, and everybody liked that we had two new flavors to add to the rotation.

  76. WorkerBee*

    I’m on a gluten-free diet and have either sensitivity or celiac disease (not officially diagnosed but have major symptoms). I’ve been on it for 4 years and only worked at one office since then. It’s often too much for people even though I work in healthcare, although a few people were very nice about it but they left. I always bring lunch and don’t expect especially official events to have gf food, they never do. My business manager is definitely not good about this and is usually ordering.

    Everyday orders I get invites and pick my own food, usually there are gf options but I was overwhelmed for a while every time there’s a new place. I don’t order anything when there’s Chinese food. I’m also a lower title part-time person and don’t feel it’s worth complaining or will be taken seriously and again I’m included in orders, just not catering for meetings, more official type things. I would also worry about participating in group orders like sandwiches, even if they have gf options I would worry they would make a mistake. Some of the bread is so good you can’t tell. Also I can’t really the office. If I order myself food, I have to have it delivered, which is expensive. Buying my own food once in a while (like once a week) helps me a lot mentally. Also I’m crazy busy, pack my own lunches but not very filling/satisfying. I cook but have to cook for multiple people.

  77. Dragonfly7*

    Fellow celiac feeling this one very hard today, OP. My company is putting on an event tomorrow for several hundred people but declared that they can’t provide food that will be safe for me to eat. Venue security supposedly knows to allow me to bring in outside food, but I’ll have to see.

    1. Dragonfly7*

      We also have an on-site cafeteria. There are packaged snacks and drinks I can buy, but the staff absolutely will not attempt to prevent cross contact between the freshly prepared GF and glutinous food.

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