The most important rules and principles to planning a flexitarian-friendly menu. Follow flexitarian etiquette to prepare a menu that your guests will enjoy. Avoid embarrassment and be an ideal host.
What flexitarian etiquette is
Flexitarian etiquette is the set of rules to plan a menu that is appropriate for flexitarian guests. Such rules include:
- The allowed foods and ingredients.
- How to ask about dietary restrictions.
- How to deal with your guests’ diets.
If you are hosting, respect flexitarian etiquette to properly plan a menu that your guests will enjoy and to avoid any embarrassments.
If you are a guest, follow flexitarian etiquette to politely deal with your hosts and the other guests.
Flexitarian etiquette rules
1) Respect flexitarian dietary restrictions in your menu
In general, a flexitarian diet is a more flexible version of a vegetarian diet. The flexitarian diet includes all diets that are semi-vegetarian. In other words, diets that are plant-based and limit meat or fish. There are many individual interpretations. Some people may include or exclude some foods due to health, personal, or other concerns.
Meat is ok
Meat is allowed on a flexitarian diet. Beef or veal. Pork. Chicken or poultry. However, meat must be limited. People on a flexitarian diet eat meat or fish less than 3 times per week. Sometimes, even only a few times a month.
Fish and seafood are flexitarian
Flexitarian diets can include fish or seafood. Like meat, flexitarians eat fish or seafood less than 3 times per week. However, both fish and seafood are largely preferred over meat as sources of protein for a flexitarian diet.
Dairy products and cheese are flexitarian
Milk, dairy products, and cheese are allowed on a flexitarian menu.
Eggs and honey are allowed on a flexitarian diet
A flexitarian diet may limit eggs. They are a source of animal protein. Thus, some people may eat them only as an alternative to meat or fish. However, flexitarian diets tend to prefer eggs over meat.
Honey is widely allowed.
Vegetables and fruit are always allowed
The flexitarian diet is mostly based on plants. Most people on a flexitarian diet eat all types of vegetables and fruit.
Grains are ok
Condiments are almost always ok
Oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, and spices are flexitarian.
Sweets and desserts are flexitarian
In general, flexitarians can eat any type of sweets or dessert. However, some people may limit sweets or desserts if they include eggs.
Drinks and alcohol are usually allowed
A flexitarian menu allows most beverages. Coffee or tea. Soft drinks. Beer. Wine. Spirits. Cocktails are generally ok. However, flexitarians often limit the consumption of alcohol.
2) Etiquette for asking flexitarian guests about their diet
It is perfect etiquette to ask your guests about their dietary restrictions. Flexitarian diets largely depend on individual preferences and health. Thus, restrictions may vary.
In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to please inform the hosts about any dietary requirements.
In informal invitations, a simple “do you follow any diet or have any dietary restriction?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food.
It is against flexitarian etiquette to ask further questions. Such as why someone is flexitarian. Or why someone excludes or includes a certain food.
If you have a genuine curiosity, you may ask such questions. However, it is polite to justify your curiosity. In other words, state why you are curious about it. Be apologetic. Never judge or question the answers you get.
3) Flexitarian menu planning etiquette
Follow these key principles to deal with guests’ flexitarian dietary restrictions.
Serve each food on its dedicated plate
Do not serve multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, try to separate them. Assign a plate to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separated from food.
This way you allow flexitarian guests to pick the foods they can eat. Or to avoid the ones they cannot eat.
Include safe options
Many foods are allowed in almost every diet. Such as vegetables and fruit. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. As an example, only a few people say no to baked potatoes or salad.
Avoid risky foods
Many foods are not allowed in many diets. Pork meat. Alcohol. Beef. Crustaceans.
If you are unsure about your guests’ diet, play safe. Avoid cooking these foods altogether. Or, at least, plan one or two dishes without them.
4) Flexitarian guest etiquette
Flexitarian guests must follow etiquette too. Otherwise, they risk disrespecting or annoying their host and the other guests.
Do not expect the host to guess your diet
If you do not eat some foods, clearly state it with your host.
It is bad etiquette to expect a change in the menu based on your needs. Instead, you may ask if there may be some flexitarian options. Be apologetic in your requests. It is rude to do otherwise. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled.
Be accommodating. Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests.
Politely refuse food that you do not eat
If the host serves food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”.
Provide additional detail only if someone asks you. It is good etiquette to be brief. Otherwise, do not annoy others with your dietary restrictions. You do not want to look like you chose a diet only to be interesting.
Do not impose your diet on the other guests
Never expect others to adjust to your diet. Do not expect your hosts to change their menu to accommodate your needs. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order.
Flexitarian etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst flexitarian etiquette mistakes.
- 8/10. Not accommodating flexitarian dietary restrictions.
- 7/10. Imposing your diet on others.
- 7/10. Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.
- 6/10. Asking personal dietary questions.
- Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov