You can still socialize when you’re watching what you eat without offending your host.

Specialist diets have gone from niche to mainstream, but between the special diets and food allergies and sensitivities, you’d be hard-pressed to have a dinner party without at least one person needing accommodating. Today, slightly less than 1 in 25 Americans suffer from a food allergy according to research in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This does not include food sensitivities. And, according to the Boston Medical Center, 45 million Americans diet each year. Staying on a special diet can be challenging. It is tough enough when you are the one buying and preparing the food, but it can feel impossible to stay on track at social events. So, how do you live a life where you can socialize with friends at parties, share in a meal, or enjoy the holidays while sticking to your diet (and not offending the host)? Here are five essential tactics you need to keep your nutrition on track while becoming someone who gets invited to dinner more than once.

Level with your host

It might feel like you are going to bite the hand that feeds, but this works. Research in the Journal of Business Ethics demonstrated the people’s satisfaction is highest when communicated in a timely manner, the communication is complete and honest, and when empathy and equity are expressed. So, if you’re courteous enough to let your host know ahead of time – and you are open and honest – they may be more than willing to accommodate. Who knows, they may be one of the 45 million Americans who embark on a diet each year and they may completely understand where you are coming from.

Bring a share dish

Afraid there won’t be any food for you to eat? Bring your own, because this not only ensures you’ll have something available to eat (without whipping out a pre-packed individual meal and eating alone) it is also helpful to your host. Even better, research in the Journal of Consumer Psychology showed sharing and eating similar foods enhances trust and cooperation. So not only will you be helping the host and making sure there is something there for you to eat, but you’ll also be bolstering friendships. Just don’t forget to let them know you’ll be bringing something you’d love them to try.

Eat before you go

While this might seem counterintuitive, it makes sense to eat a small meal that meets your dietary  requirements so that you don’t have to worry about being hungry and being tempted by the foods you’re about to be surrounded by. Better yet, make it high in fiber. Eating certain types of fiber has been shown to decrease food intake, according to research in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition. If you eat a small meal ahead  of time, you can go to your event and just have a little bit of everything, or some select foods, without drawing attention. Obviously, if you have an actual food allergy you can just avoid that food altogether, but this trick works well if you just don’t want to eat a lot of the foods that are available, or you don’t want to eat too much. The vegetarians whose only option is to eat a side salad knows how important it is to eat ahead of time so you don’t starve at the party.

Explain yourself

Whether people are curious, confused, or empathetic, they will probably ask you why you are eating (or avoiding) certain foods. Be prepared to give a brief, simple explanation and avoid pitfalls like coming across as being self-righteous or judgmental. The worst thing you can do is to make everyone feel like you are judging every bite they put into their mouths. You can do this by making your explanation more personal, instead of general. For example, instead of saying “gluten is bad for you”, say something like, “gluten makes me feel terrible so I avoid it.”

Plan ahead

Maybe you just want to eat some of the foods at the gathering and you don’t want to use the above options. Well, then go ahead, but make sure you have a plan and can monitor what you eat. If the meal is carbohydrate-heavy (which often tends to be the case), then try limiting your intake of carbohydrates for the remainder of the day. Simply monitoring your food intake has been shown to improve the success of maintaining dietary changes, accordingly to a recent study in Behavioral Sciences. So, if you self-monitor and have a plan, you can still enjoy the foods and social events without sabotaging your diet plan. Special diets, food allergies/sensitivities, and strong dietary preferences seem to be more and more common. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t go out and enjoy yourself. Just like when you hit the gym, you go equipped with a plan and you execute it, and that’s exactly the same approach you need to take if you want to stick to your diet and still socialize.

Author: Zane Hadzick is a NASM- certified trainer, Bodybuilding. com and Nutrabio athlete.