How to Be a Good Vegetarian Guest

The lifestyles of vegetarians in all their varieties can be confusing to others. For a non-vegetarian host/hostess it may seem overwhelming to prepare an acceptable vegetarian meal. Like for any guest, there are do's and dont's that can help you be a positive part of the event, rather than the guest who'll never be invited again.


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    Remember that even for people who enjoy entertaining, it isn't effortless. Make it your goal to make things as easy as possible for your host/hostess, and that includes what you expect on the accommodation of dietary restrictions. Don't forget to thank them for the effort they're taking, for many people who aren't familiar with vegetarianism, main dishes consist of meat. They're learning something new for you and it's important to let them feel appreciated for it.
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    Offer to help prepare the meal. This way there will be no confusion.
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    As soon as possible after receiving the invitation, let your host know that you're a vegetarian and what that means for your diet. You may feel ungracious doing it the first few times, but it's better to speak up and allow her to plan for you, than to let her or him go through great troubles to make dishes you won't be able to eat! If you still feel awkward mentioning it, just ask something along the lines of, "I'm a vegetarian, is that alright?" It lets your host know, without feeling like you're being pushy or demanding.
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    Offer to bring a vegetarian main dish/entrée. If your offer is firmly declined and the host (or hostess) requests a recipe from you, make sure it's a simple one that doesn't require uncommon or expensive ingredients.
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    If someone asks about your vegetarianism (and they will), politely say that you'll be happy to talk with them one-on-one when the meal is finished. One thing to remember: you are not there to "convert" anyone! If someone is truly asking out of interest, you may want to discuss it. If you feel another guest is simply baiting you, try responding that you "just don't like meat". You can even liken it to how everyone has foods that just don't do it for them. This answer is not reactive, and only a hot-headed fool would argue with your taste preferences. Save your politics or ethics for those who really care to hear them.
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    Say, "I've made the decision that's right for me, but I'm not trying to say what's right or wrong for anyone else".
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    Try to be generous with criticism. If anyone should be so rude as to criticize your lifestyle in some way, let it go graciously. The rest will think highly of you for not letting the rudeness spoil the event.
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    Write a thank you note to your host within a couple of days.


  • Even if you end up not eating very well, focus on the other aspects of the gathering. You'll get to eat whatever you want when you leave.
  • Be aware how complicated vegetarianism can seem. Not only are there several categories of vegetarians, but vegetarians vary in their reasons for avoiding the foods they do not eat, ranging from health to ethical concerns. And like any other set of individuals, vegetarians may differ in how strictly they choose to adhere to their diets under varying circumstances.
  • Remember that an invitation to someone's home is a gift.
  • If the host/hostess sounds interested, bring a vegetarian cookbook as a hostess gift.
  • Know that being vegetarian can mean:

a.) The vegan or total/strict vegetarian diet includes only foods from plants: fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds, and nuts. b.) The lacto-vegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. c.) The ovo-lacto-vegetarian (or lacto-ovo-vegetarian) diet also includes eggs. d.) Semi-vegetarians do not eat red meat but include chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products, and eggs. This is not a correct term for many vegetarians as it includes a flesh product.


  • Offer to find ingredients. If there are certain ingredients not familiar with the host, offer to either purchase them, give them some of your ingredients that you already have, or let the host know where to get them.
  • Sometimes you have to eat in the homes of people who think your diet is silly--mother-in-laws, other relatives, etc. When you do eat with these people, they might try to subtly comment on your choices by fixing a huge meal for everyone else, then announcing at the table that they "don't have anything but salad for you". If this happens, you obviously are stuck for the evening. You can either speak up and ask for peanut butter and jelly, or you can smile, eat the salad and remember to eat next time before you arrive. You can also remember to bring a bagged lunch for yourself next time, so you don't wind up in the same predicament.
  • Keep it simple. When requesting a vegetarian dish, go for dishes that are easily made vegetarian, such as pastas, chili, etc.
  • If you bring meat substitutes, don't be surprised if other guests want to try your food. One woman took a 4-pack of vegetarian "chicken" to a cookout, and by the time she got her turn at the prepared food, all of her vegetarian "chicken" patties had been claimed!
  • Kindness first. Thank the person for inviting you into their home. Consider doing the same.

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Categories: Vegetarian Health | House Guests