How to Respond When Someone Gives You Something You Can’t Eat

No eat cookie

It sucks, right? When someone gives you something that you can’t eat. What do you do in these situations?

Normally around the holidays, cookies start showing up at my place and people’s moms’ try to make me stuff. How do you inform them that you can’t eat that cookie or you’ll die (ok so maybe you won’t die, but being in pain is bad enough, am I right)?

I have a few suggestions for how to deal with these unfortunate circumstances, whether they happen with a family member, a neighbor, or someone’s mom. They could happen around holidays, birthdays, or times of woe. Here are my suggestions for how to respond when someone gives you something you can’t eat.

Tell Them the Truth

This works best when you’re dealing with family, friends, or neighbors who are unlikely to move anytime soon.

You don’t have to be mean about it. You can just politely say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I’m gluten and dairy intolerant.” To your surprise they may say, “Bitch, I made these with flaxseed and coconut flour!” or they may say, “Oh sorry! There’s definitely butter in there”.

Regardless of what they say, you’ll know you told the truth.

Benefits of this scenario:

  • Next year, they will (hopefully) remember that you can’t eat gluten or dairy and will not make you any more cookies, or attempt to make you special cookies (which are, admittedly, the best kind).
  • You won’t have to lie when they follow up with you: “How were the cookies?!”
  • You’ll feel good speaking up for yourself and informing your giver.
  • You won’t have any cookies to dispose of to the raccoons (who should really not be eating gluten anyway).

Cons of this scenario:

  • Your giver may not remember that you declined these cookies, and give them to you again.
  • Your giver may not remember that you didn’t eat their cookies, and still ask you how they were later.
  • Your giver may misunderstand the meaning of “intolerance” or “allergies”, and think that you’re just avoiding these things for other reasons such as weight loss and say, “But you’re so skinny!” prompting you to think that they secretly think you’re fat and are therefore trying to be reassuring about your slimness.
  • You may feel rude for declining them. And you’ll definitely feel left out when everyone is eating them and you’re not.

Politely Accept and Say Nothing

This is best when you’re working with an unfamiliar host or giver. It’s likely you’ll never see them again and who cares if you touch those cookies and then toss them in the trash?

There’s no follow-up, no thank-you cards (“Thanks so much for the plate of sickness you provided me. I was on the toilet all night and had extreme muscle pain for days. Happy Holidays”), and no confrontation.

Saying thank you and moving on is easy. Defending your honor is not.

Benefits of this scenario:

  • It’s easy!
  • You don’t have to explain your intolerance or allergy.
  • It means little to no extra attention for you and people looking at you like you’re crazy.

Cons of this scenario:

  • You’re a liar. You’re lying by omission. Shouldn’t that woman know she almost just sent you to the ER?
  • You may feel voiceless and unimportant. Why shouldn’t you speak up for yourself?
  • What the hell are you going to do with those cookies now????


This can work well with people you almost never see, but are not quite strangers. This can also work well with distant neighbors (at least two doors down) or relatives.

Now, I’m not about lying, so I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a hefty chance it will come back and bite you (like 100% chance). But damn it, sometimes it’s just so much easier! “Thank you so much for the wonderful milk chocolate covered pretzels. They were wonderful.” Barf.

Benefits of this scenario:

  • You won’t offend the wonderful people who tried to make an effort and give you this food (which may be partly vegan but is definitely NOT vegan).
  • You won’t have that bad feeling after you crush their hopes and dreams of giving you cookies.
  • You will not appear ungrateful in any way.

Cons of this scenario:

  • You obviously just told a huge lie about your body and your health. While you did not admit to eating them, you implied it, and your giver will probably make you the same thing next year and the year after that and the year after that. It’s a huge waste, not to mention you’re indirectly supporting animal torture: you may not be buying the milk that went into that milk chocolate, but this giver is buying it for you. Get it?
  • You may get found out, which will look really bad for you and all parties involved. Your neighbor may tell your mom, “Oh, Jenn just absolutely loved those milk chocolate covered pretzels” and your lovely mother will say, “Jenn doesn’t eat milk you ignorant fool!”
  • You’ll feel crappy for making your giver feel loved and appreciated when really you are flushing those pretzels down the toilet while sticking a finger in your mouth in a gagging impression

At the end of the day, you need to decide which one you can live with. I will always advocate for the truth-telling scenario, but will admit that sometimes I fall into the other scenarios. It just depends on who you’re dealing with, where you’re at, and what works for you. Whether you accept the desserts or not, make sure you don’t eat them!

Things That Just Make Me Really Mad Around the Holidays

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. I enjoyed mine with the exception of the occasional moment of suppressed rage, aka holiday anger management.

While I encourage everyone to speak out about things they see that are not right or things that bother them or traumatic events they have gone through that they no longer wish to be quiet about (or were never quiet about in the first place), I do acknowledge that there are moments when you must suppress your rage for the hope of something better.

Why must we do this? Why are there moments when we keep our mouths shut? I believe that there is a time for everything. Just as there are moments to scream, so are there moments to be still. Although I do really love this quote from Russian writer Nadezhda Mandelstam:

“I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.”

Sometimes silence isn’t a crime but a choice.

But here’s the part where I scream.

And here’s what makes me really mad around the holidays.

I Made Food and You Complained While You Ate It

Yesterday, Ian and I made gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free organic pumpkin spice doughnuts.

We used organic dates and hot water to make a puree which substituted the sugar. People really enjoyed our doughnuts, but upon eating them at dessert, one table member remarked that since they contained no sugar and weren’t fried, then they weren’t really doughnuts because they didn’t contain the staple ingredient of sugar nor did they go through a frying process.

Um… yeah. Is that not my doughnut that you are shoving into your mouth right now?

So I kept my mouth shut. Or rather stuffed with doughnut. Because I thought those things damn well looked like doughnuts and tasted like doughnuts. And frick if those things didn’t contain added sugar or weren’t fried.

These are other doughnuts we made that are GF/DF, but you get the idea.

Must we do these things to our food?

While I won’t apologize for attempting to bring something organic yet yummy to the table that everyone could eat, I also won’t be responsible for disputing relations between myself and my boyfriend’s family.

Cue in holiday anger management, because this was a moment of suppressed rage. Because I loved those doughnuts and was proud of them, and I hate being quiet, but I also love a good drama-free holiday.

There’s Literally Nothing I Can Eat

I’ve been gluten-free for years. I’ve been dairy-free for years. I’ve had a family for years.

My extended family does not understand my food allergies at all. They do not make one single dish that I can eat, therefore dictating that I bring my own food.

I have zero problems with bringing my own food, except for the fact that people usually make fun of whatever it is that I bring.

It’s like they forgot that I was in a wheelchair before I stopped eating gluten.

I don’t complain. It just makes me mad. Please don’t make fun of my food. I enjoy it. My boyfriend enjoys it. Stop judging my decision to eat healthier and not be in a wheelchair.

Families Can Just Be Super Annoying

This is my brother and I swear I love him, but sometimes he just makes me really mad.

Hint: he’s usually the one making fun of the food (this is us at Easter a few years ago).

Why is it that families can be the most offending of people? It doesn’t matter if it’s my family or my boyfriend’s family, it just doesn’t make sense. I’m like, shouldn’t you be a stranger or something?

Unfortunately no, these people and I are somehow all related.

Here are just of the few things that happened during the holiday that made me mad:

  • my grandmother tells me I need to grow my hair out yet again.
  • for “Secret Santa” I got my cousin’s name, the same one who blew past me on the road in his diesel truck while I was running and I choked on the fumes.
  • the fact that everyone is eating about five of the top allergens in the world all on one plate in one meal at one sitting.
  • the fact that most of those people don’t even know what the top allergens are.
  • when someone told me that my work at a homeless shelter is probably depressing (oh, yeah, because YOU have totally worked at a homeless shelter before).
  • when someone assumes that I am vegan.
  • when someone gives thanks for the turkey who “gave it up”. And then I say out loud, “unwillingly”.

That last one wasn’t suppressing rage or handling holiday anger management well. Or, only mildly. But you get the idea. Family!

Is It Time to Scream Yet?

You need to decide for yourself when to deal with holiday anger management. These moments will not be the same for everybody.

The same could happen if you are in a relationship. I am by no means advocating being quiet about things that bother you in a relationship, or in any other sector of your life for that matter, which is why these are called “moments” of suppressed rage rather than “lifetimes.”

But around the holidays, it could be argued that holiday anger management will become more relevant in your life.

So prepare yourself to do some peacekeeping after you label all the food on the table with little signs such as: “was tortured on the reg” next to the ham, “came from infected udders” next to the mashed potatoes with butter, and “contains up to 90% pesticides” next to the green beans.

Oh, and don’t forget to label the gifts that were tested on animals. Your relatives will want to know that for sure.