The Healthy Potluck

by admin on March 28, 2013

So this post is about work potlucks. Our potlucks here at my job tend to be more junk food fests with people bringing varieties of chips and dip, candy, brownies, bagels, soda, etc. I tend to follow a diet of veggies, fruits, and whole grains—eating high-sugar and high-fat foods makes me feel bad—so there’s nothing I’d really want to eat at these events. I simply choose not to participate by not eating and not bringing anything. I figure that’s logical because if I’m not going to participate, then I shouldn’t eat and if I’m not going to eat, I should be able to opt out of participating.

The question came up between me and a friend at work: she asked if I should I just bring something small to show camaraderie and team building. She brings an item to participate even though she doesn’t eat anything either (her and I have similar diets). She wasn’t trying to call me out, she gently asked if I thought about participating. I don’t know…I didn’t think it was a big deal at all. I’m not being rude by being “that person” that eats a bunch of food when I didn’t bring a dish myself. I’m simply not participating. It’s even become a “thing” at potluck time, which we have one pretty much once a month: “What’s everyone bringing…well, all except Ruthie…hahahaha?”

Am I being rude in not participating? Or cold? Should I just suck it up and go buy pita and hummus once a month? I mean I’ve tried explaining why I don’t participate and I got this retort: “Oh stop lecturing…you KNOW you TOTALLY eat junk food when you’re at home alone!!” 0327-13

Unless it is a company mandated potluck, there is no obligation on your part to participate.   However, if I were in your shoes, I would view it as my personal challenge to bring something to each potluck that fit within my dietary choices but fooled everyone else with its tastiness.   For example, black bean brownies.   I made those for a potluck a few months ago and the women loved them.  The guys, however, suspected something healthy about them and turned their noses up.  More for us!   Muhahahaha!   German chocolate fudge balls (sweetened only with dried dates) was another successful potluck offering.   There are so many cool recipes online these days that are gluten free, paleo, low sugar, etc that its easy to find something to tempt the staunchest of junk food eaters.

And you have a compatriot to help you in this.   I would collude with your co-worker friend to try new recipes for each potluck so that you both get to try something new.   You have an opportunity to sway less informed co-workers to the benefits of healthy eating by providing an alternative that may convince them that a healthy diet doesn’t have to be so draconian.  Other potluck offerings you could bring:   Roasted garbanzo/chick peas,  fruit salsa with whole grain baked cinnamon “chips”,  Cookie Dough Dip, and on and on.

 

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Bint March 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

“An employee’s performance should NEVER be tied to whether or not s/he participates in a non-work-related activity, even at work”

Absolutely.

I do know people who’ve had the ‘team player’ issue brought up because they didn’t enjoy this kind of stuff and took the ‘voluntary’ at face value. Some of those people then complained to HR when they were criticized and HR backed them up every single time. If your boss takes you as less for not taking part in a ‘voluntary’ pot luck, you have grounds for complaint.

I prefer workmates who get team spirit going *in the office* by all pulling together, not by eating crap at lunchtime. Fortunately, my boss agrees with me.

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schnickelfritz March 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

In all my years of office working, and pot luck luncheons – it seems the younger the staff, the more junk food. Those gals back in the day, ate so many fattening desserts, etc., in one sitting. They are all obese 50 something year olds now. Seriously. I love a good dessert, but you can’t have one of each, and expect to keep your weight down. A large department of ladies, we worked together soooooo many years ago, and those cute little 20 something milkshake cheesecake swap recipe cream cheese cheeto spend your paycheck on fast food lunch everyday girls, have serious health problem now. We have a reunion every two years, and it is so sad what happens when self / portion control never kicked in.
I am a meat eater, but I always take vegeterian dishes to pot lucks. When in a “pickle” my favorite go-to… Cuties! Those little oranges or tangerines or whatever they are. 3lb. bag or 5 lb. little crates. Everyone loves CUTIES! The funny thing is, everyone grabs one (or two) – but they may save them for the next day. The next morning, passing by their desks, several people have a Cutie they saved from the party. Cracks me up! They disappear the day of the event, but everyone loves Cuties, or oranges, if Cuties are not available. I have a couple of best work buddies, that are vegetarian. I bring healthy dishes to work / family or outside functions – always vegetarian. There are so many awesome meatless, healthy dishes, I don’t understand why the OP can’t find something to share. Also, when I first hired to my present job, one lady, she is actually a dear “work” friend now, refused to participate. I was new, and the other staff would say “Missy” never participates – and, this lady, does not really eat so healthy. She eats junk every day. I don’t understand, why you can’t spend 10 minutes, and pretend to enjoy the festivity / people / food – just fake it for a bit.

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doodlemor March 28, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I agree with those that think you should participate, OP. It’s always good to be **one of the gang.**

Being the contrary person that I am, I’d look for some really spectacular, delicious vegan/healthy recipes to bring, as suggested by admin. Make the presentation beautiful, too. It doesn’t take much to get that professional look with many dishes, just look online to see how items are gussied up.

Here is an example. I had a piece of this cake in a restaurant, and it was quite delicious:

http://www.theveganversion.com/2012/01/not-so-depressing-depression-era.html

The restaurant cake I had was made in several layers, and the vegan ganache was piped attractively around the top and sides. Not that hard to do, and with a little patience it would look like a fancy bakery cake.

If you put a bit of thought into bringing some lovely healthy foods I think that others would, too. And I bet that people would be looking forward to your offerings every month.

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The Elf March 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I agree too, Bint. But that’s not corporate culture. I’ve learned over the years that going to a few events a year, not every single one, does wonders for getting along in the office.

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Barbarian March 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I think OP has a golden opportunity to introduce coworkers to well-prepared and tasty healthy food. They need to eat anyway-why not bring a little extra along and see what happens? People could ask for recipes or be inspired to eat other healthy dishes. Potlucks are nothing more than a collection of everyone’s favorite foods.

I think the issue is when workplaces schedule too many team events and pressure employees to participate in all of them. Employers want employees to combine work and social life under one huge umbrella and force everybody to be family because of the many hours their employees spend there. I think they also want to create a culture of “Groupthink” where everyone is too busy to look at what life outside the office has to offer.

I felt so stressed out at a company athletic tournament because I have no coordination and my coworkers teased me that I quit going to it every year thereafter even thoough our office manager kept trying to get me to go every year to “support the team”. Well, making fun of someone is defintely not very supportive so I decided they could do without my support that day. I supported myself by going to the spa, the pool, or other local resorts and enjoying a peaceful day without them.

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acr March 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm

The co-workers that are calling you out are rude.

That being said…it appears that your non-participation is drawing negative attention to you. It might be worth it, professionally, to participate. In your position, I would.

BTW, homemade hummus freezes beautifully. I think 1 bag of dried chickpeas makes about 2 quarts of hummus. So you could make 1 batch of hummus, freeze it in smaller batches, then take a container of hummus and a box of whole grain crackers to the potluck.

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Kate March 28, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I don’t think it’s rude of you not to contribute. However, would you and your friend enjoy the experiences more if you were to bring something that you could eat? I think some of your other co-workers would also enjoy a healthy alternative – I don’t have any specific dietary requirements and I do love sweets, but I often find myself gravitating towards the celery and carrots/dip/pita bread when they are available. Skewers of pineapple and strawberry always go down well – maybe some with marshmallows to satisfy those with a very sweet tooth!

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Marozia March 29, 2013 at 12:18 am

It seems nowadays ‘potluck’ or as us Australians say ‘bring a plate’ is the thing for workplaces. To me, it reflects that the company is too cheap to put up a small catered spread for its workers. Personally, I believe if the company puts up a spread, there is more team bonding, than with a ‘BYO’. However, I digress….
The previous comments about bringing healthy vegie plates, dips, breads are great ideas. I like making oatbran muffins and cookies and have brought them to work for all to try. People tend to like sweet potato/beetroot/tapioca chips, all readily available at health food stores and surprisingly inexpensive. Quark (continental smooth cottage cheese) mixed with my own recipe of cherry tomato/spring onion/capsicum also makes a tasty dip. I blend it all together in the food processor and it comes out lovely. Everybody ate it at my workplace, and that lot loves junk food!
Please do go to these potlucks. You might even have some fun.

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 29, 2013 at 2:02 am

@Morgana- I don’t know who would turn up their nose at such delicacies in favor of plastic food, but it does happen. Made from scratch has more flavor, more character, and sometimes slightly different texture compared to the same product from the grocer’s bakery, shelf or freezer. Sometimes it is even far better, someone’s personal preference for the boxed version notwithstanding.

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June First March 29, 2013 at 7:01 am

I mildly disagree with Admin. You shouldn’t bring healthful food disguised as junk food. It’s an option, but that feels like you’re trying to trick them into eating something healthful. You know, like mashing cauliflower to trick kids into thinking it’s mashed potatoes.

I’d bring fresh veggies, pico de gallo, or Texas caviar. You know, the kind of party food that includes fresh veggies, but otherwise only involves opening cans and a little chopping.
Strawberries and watermelon are also always popular.

Your coworkers are being disrespectful, but I agree with other posts that it could help your career to bring something healthful and just socialize with them.

Over a decade ago, when I was fresh out of college, I remember some salespeople at my job started smoking with the boss outside in order to “score points” with her. My, how times have changed.

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delislice March 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

Wow, Schnickelfritz, I’d be afraid to be your friend. Your post scolds, lectures, and disapproves of anyone who hasn’t spent her entire adult life making rigorously healthy choices.

I’m overweight, and I take responsibility for that. Your concern comes across as smugly worded insults instead. “It’s such a shame these gals have so many health problems now.”

Regardless of what you *said*, what I heard in your post was that you think less of me as a person because my eating habits don’t measure up.

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schnickelfritz March 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

“Delislice”

You have a valid point there – it has been studied, that friends mimic each other’s eating habits.

“The latest Dutch study builds on a body of previous research which found that friends could make each other fat. For instance, a US study out of Arizona last year found that factors like eating and exercising together may play a large role in causing friends to gain and lose weight together.

A 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine also found that both obesity and thinness were socially contagious and influenced the social network’s body weight: if one person is obese, odds that his or her friends will also become obese increases by 50 percent, the study found”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/fat-friends-eating-pals-lead-weight-gain-article-1.1017848#ixzz2OwJ5ugGR

I observed the ladies I wrote about, over the past 38 years. We are all growing old together. There are about 40 women in this particular group. The larger women have been “besties” throughout the time, meeting on a regular basis, sharing family picnics, vacations, etc; and the thinner women have been “besties” throughout this time, sharing the same. We all acquired our habits as young women; we met when we were around 18-20 year olds. Worked together up to 10-17 years (until our company relocated out of state). The larger woman, have many, many more health problems than the slimmer group. There are many articles out on this very subject. Google friends and eating habits, or something on that line, you will see the information.

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badkitty March 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

@ WildIrishRose (et al.) regarding the “An employee’s performance should NEVER be tied to whether or not s/he participates in a non-work-related activity….If your boss’s opinion of you is ‘colored’ by whether or not you choose to take part in a food fest, then it’s time to look for another job.” comment:

In an ideal world, sure. But the world we actually live in requires people to make decisions based solely on the information they actually have, which means that when it comes time to consider who can fill this new management spot that just opened up, people with whom the boss has had the most contact are the ones who will leap to mind. If they’ve had social opportunities to impress, so much the better. Decision-makers are rarely in a position to see how well you support the team in the minutia, so participating in all events is a good way to be sure you’re noticed. Besides, they can always find someone who works just as efficiently AND gets along with the other employees. Unless you’ve got a unique skill set and are the top expert at whatever it is you do, you are replaceable.

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Dust Bunny March 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

I say this as a lifelong non-joiner. I couldn’t even hack it in Girl Scouts because there were just too many people (nice people, even people I liked, but too many of them).

I think you’re being a stick-in-the-mud. Bring a healthy, tasty, dish and eat some of it. Food is not just about eating; it’s about eating together. Not participating shouldn’t affect your job reviews, etc., but it’s never bad to be on friendly terms with coworkers, and if you were more openminded you’d see that you don’t have to choose between the two extremes of grossly-unhealthy and total nonparticipation. If your coworkers are making jokes about it, there is at least the start of a divide.

Our office does potlucks at Thanksgiving, so we’re not swamped with them. The food is typically Southern, typically potluck-y, and typically Thanksgiving: Green beans with bacon, sweet potato bake, pecan pie, etc. We also have 50+ employees so there is a lot of everything. We’re assigned a class of food by department (our department brings desserts, another brings vegetables, another breads, etc. It rotates every year). A lot of it is stuff I just plain don’t like, whether it’s healthy or not, but my coworkers are nice people and this is supposed to be a fun event and letting my revulsion at the idea of marshmallows on sweet potatoes get between me and having fun with them is just cutting off my nose to spite my face.

So I bring whatever we’re assigned to bring, but I’m always asked, also, to bring Texas caviar. That’s marinated black-eyed peas. There are a zillion recipes for it but you can eat it with chips or as a salad. When I make it, it also happens to be very healthy (but I don’t tell anyone that). No joke: I bring a big batch and people fight over the leftovers. If you choose the right recipes, you can provide something healthy and win over your coworkers.

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schnickelfritz March 29, 2013 at 11:50 am

“Delislice” – please note, I wrote: “… have serious health problems now. We have a reunion every two years, and it is so sad what happens when self / portion control never kicked in.”

You wrote: “I’m overweight, and I take responsibility for that. Your concern comes across as smugly worded insults instead. “It’s such a shame these gals have so many health problems now.” Regardless of what you *said*, what I heard in your post was that you think less of me as a person because my eating habits don’t measure up.”

What???
You misquoted me – I said “sad” you used the word “shame”… Regardless of what you “heard” – I am not responsible for how you translate what you read. I don’t “think” of you at all, as I do not know you; all I know is that you refer to yourself as “Delislice”.

My boyfriend is about 100 lbs overweight! He actually eats a lot of healthy food – tons of veggies, awesome everything, he doesn’t eat fast food, but eats way too much pasta and cream sauces. He is a chef, and he struggles with portion control.

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ACR March 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

“I’ve seen recipes for black bean brownies on the Internet, but do they really taste like chocolate instead of beans?”

Here’s a recipe for black bean cake that I have made. It is very good.

http://healthyindulgences.net/2009/05/healthy-chocolate-cake-with-a-secret/

The texture is slightly difference from a flour cake. Not really sure how to describe it. The best description would be that it is very slightly less soft. The taste is excellent, though. Very chocolaty, not at all beany. It helps to add a small amount of instant coffee granuals, b/c that really boosts the chocolate flavor.

I will say, though, that the frosting recipe is terrible. I use a block of cream cheese and add cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla, then I add sugar or non-sugar sweetener in teeny tiny amounts until it tastes right to me.

However, be advised that people who don’t regularly eat sugar subtitutes like xylitol can have serious digestive distress if they eat a lot of something like this. My preference in a potluck situation is to use regular sugar.

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Angel March 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I agree with wildirishrose and bint. But the reality is, it does help to participate in social events held inside the office once in a while. I think bringing a healthy choice is a great idea. But personally I would bring cut up veggies and some ranch dip, rather than putting in a lot of effort cooking and/or baking something that is healthy food disguised as junk food. Why not just bring healthy food? At any party I have ever gone to veggies and fruits are usually the first things to go :)

The times you choose not to bring anything, at least take your lunch in there and eat with the rest of your coworkers. I can’t see that being an issue unless the people you work with are really petty. It would be great if people didn’t have to participate in these kinds of things, and no one says a word about it or thinks anything different of the person not participating. That’s the way it SHOULD be, but that’s not reality.

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Silvia March 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

It’s unfortunate however depending on the office and the manager, non-participation will be noticed even if it’s not commented upon. Not all offices have an HR dept to complain to & if nothing is said, it will be denied. I suggest bringing a little something at least sometimes, even if it’s something you wouldn’t eat. As someone said earlier, it’s better to claim medical reasons for not being able to partake because people understand that better. You’ve said that high sugar, high fat makes you feel bad. That’s medical to me, and you may want to emphasize that saying I want to participate & I wish I could sample however as I’ve said before, I’ll be suffering the consequences later.

I’m surprised at the “healthy” options which people here are suggesting. First, we don’t know exactly what type of diet this person is following and everyone is entitled to their own plan, including folks who eat non-organic white sugar, white flour and lard. Some people are watching carbs, some do this in order to lose weight, others, like my husband, are diabetic. Vegetarians and vegans can eat a variety of junk food while following their diets. Some people eat anything as long as it is organic. Personally, I have been following the Weight Watcher diet now for 4 years and I lost 50 lbs and I’ve kept it off. (It’s not for everyone and again, I’m not knocking other diets.)

The universal solution listed here again & again is hummus & pita chips. Many, if not most commercially made hummus and pita chips are very high in fat which our OP said that she can’t eat. While olive oil is considered a “healthy” fat, too much still counts again your daily calorie intake. I make my own low fat hummus and eat it with carrot sticks but most people who are not watching their calories want the regular option.

Black bean brownies & cake? Did anyone read the recipes? That depression cake had 6 tablespoons of organic butter or coconut oil,no white sugar but
3/4 cup erythritol + 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
OR 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons honey + 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
OR 1 1/4 cup Splenda (using Splenda is not recommended)
I would imagine that this also counts as high fat and while I don’t the OP’s reason for no high sugar (no white sugar only?, low carb only?) honey has just as many calories as sugar. Personally, I don’t trust sugar substitutes, even “pure stevia” however, this recipe may be perfect for someone on an organic diet or someone who doesn’t mind sugar substitutes.

Those Costco veggie platters are pretty expensive. Does she have the time to wash, cut and arrange her own platter? They also usually include dip which again is not a for everyone.

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NostalgicGal March 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Oh, ACR, you mentioned one of the hidden allergies…

We all know about aspartame and their ilk (I get very deathly ill from even a small amount of aspartame)… and I also have issues with most of the other sweet things out there.

Honey and malt sugar, even tiny amounts make me very ill and you would not believe how much of our food, ‘health’ and otherwise, is full of that. Malt sugar (Maltose) gives flavor, and honey, I swear most health foods think it’s better for you so they put it in there. Xylitol, mannitol, sucralose, and splenda; I also have issues with. Xylitol and Mannitol, I would rather die than go through the gastric distress….

Another allergy I must deal with is grapes and anything grape including Annato extract (made from grape skins for coloring) and how many things including juices that are a blend and have white or red grape juice in them!

When you bring stuff for your coworkers do beware there are hidden things that can spring on others not in the way you intended. Yes I reach for the plain white sugar, but as little of that as possible, when I must. All the other stuff is worse…

A friend of mine, her quilt group is full of those allergic to one or more of the sweeteners, one is no gluten, and most of them are on cholesterol or diabetic diet; so she has to be very careful in what she brings to potluck.

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Lady Elea March 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm

My company does the same thing, often with the same type of foods. We have several vegetarians in my department, and while I myself am not one, I also bring a healthy vegetarian dish. I try to cook “clean” as well. My dishes aren’t always a big hit (though the grape leaf rolls this last time certainly were), but I am happy to know that I give some of my coworkers a healthy option that isn’t just a store bought veggie tray.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to opt out, but don’t be afraid to show people how delicious healthy food can be!

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Anonymous March 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm

@ACR–That recipe does look good, but I forgot to mention that I’m vegan, so I don’t eat milk or eggs. When I bake a cake, I usually just use Duncan Hines cake mix and Diet Coke in place of eggs and oil, and then frost it with Duncan Hines frosting, because the Duncan Hines brand is “accidentally vegan.” I know that that’s not the healthiest way to do it, but I don’t bake very often.

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petty-chia March 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Silvia: THANK YOU for saying what I was thinking but didn’t put into words. MOST of the suggestions people have put out here would not be on my diet. Yes, that includes fruit. And “black bean brownies” (ew!). Some people are forced to or choose to have extremely restrictive diets for health, compassionate, or political reasons (I’m a combo of all three). I never make a big deal out of it in big eating situations like this. All you need to say is “No thank you.” I don’t elaborate unless asked. And I never make people feel bad about what they’re having. If OP’s having confrontations with coworkers over what s/he does or doesn’t eat, s/he is saying too much. Keep it simple. Bring your own lunch. But hang out and have a conversation in the meantime.

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Jocelyn March 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I think the unfortunate thing about this potluck is that if the OP DOES bring something healthy, then she is limited to eating her own offering, because there’s no guarantee that anyone else will bring anything that she can eat! There’s an expense associated with potlucks. I’m not willing to spend $10 to bring a tray of healthy food, knowing that no one else will be bringing anything I can eat, so that I might get some of my own contribution, or perhaps other people will take it all before I get through the line, and I’ll be left with having given $10 away to my coworkers while being left with nothing to eat at all. That doesn’t strike me as a good bargain, and if being unwilling to donate food to my coworkers is being a poor team player, so be it. If there’s not going to be anything prepared by anyone else that I can eat, then they have a lot of gall saying I’m a bad sport for not being willing to give them food.

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Joanne M March 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I have an unusual food allergy (onions), which are in EVERYTHING- red sauces, salads, pizza, you name it. I’m a teacher, and every month we have a potluck, with certain teams assigned to certain months, and each month has a theme- soup, southern, Italian, etc. On those days, I simply bring my own lunch, eat it in my classroom, and then sit with my colleagues and enjoy a glass of iced tea, a cookie, anything I can eat. I then know I am safe from getting dangerously ill, and they can eat whatever they want- plus I get to chat with everyone! A win-win situation!

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Library Diva March 31, 2013 at 1:19 am

Count me in with the others who say that you should at least bring your own lunch and sit and eat with everyone. And I want to thank admin for turning me on to Chocolate Covered Katie! I’ve been trying to eat healthier and am eager to attempt some of the stuff on there.

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missminute March 31, 2013 at 11:39 pm

As we speak I am enjoying a work pot luck lunch. We work Easter Monday every year and it’s a way to inject some fun into a very busy and otherwise miserable day. Yes, most of the offerings are junk – many workers find this easier than making something. However I brought pop corn, one worker brought fresh fruit and another carrots and celery sticks – each of these healthy options went FIRST and everyone was so glad to have them! I bet if you brought a nicely chopped fruit salad you’d have plenty of takers. Stop being a grinch!

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Mer April 1, 2013 at 4:05 am

In addition to bosses/managers, these team spirit building situations affect also coworkers opinion about you. Most probably not like “oh, s/he is boring, s/he never attends” but in more subtle ways. Let us say that new coworker joins the team and attends this potluck gathering soon after joining, chats up with other participants and so on. Now, next day this new worker needs to ask something. Will s/he go to somebody who was absent yesterday or will s/he choose someone s/he chatted previously. Most probably someone s/he talked to as it feels more natural to go someone more familiar and known to be friendly. And this will happen again. Next time s/he remembers that “oh, that one guy helped me, I’ll ask him again”. And when s/he is assigned to give next new guy hints, s/he’ll say that “oh, guy helped me a lot when I was new sometime ago. He’ll be sure to help you too if you need something.”

And when the peer reviews come around, they tell boss that guy has been very helpful and really works well with the team. There is nothing mean spirited in this or grudge against the non-attendant, this is just something very easily happens and can affect negatively, even if no-one feels or says anything negative about this person. They just have more positive things to say about others.

Also, I would think that office potlucks are so junk filled as many of these junk food options are so easy to pick up or make, won’t need to be kept cool etc. Many of the healthier and fresher food needs more work, naturally. So I would guess that rest of the office is not deliberately aiming for junk food but rather everyone takes the easy solution. Bag of chips or brownies can sit on the table next to you and can be picked from the store on the way to work, no need for fridge or ice bricks. And easy options are not maybe familiar or wont spring in mind when thinking what to bring. I do think many people know lot of healthy basic foods to make and eat these at home, but healthy snacks are harder, and usually not even that necessary, if snacks are something one eats rarely.

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delislice April 1, 2013 at 7:51 am

It’s true, hidden allergies are a minefield. I have an allergic reaction to cayenne. Once at a potluck, I took a spoonful of what I thought was ordinary macaroni. It turned out to be “Mexican mac” laced with cayenne. One bite told my lips and throat all I needed to know.

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Moonlight April 1, 2013 at 9:36 am

After 25 years in corporate life, my advice is to participate. Your job will be easier and yes, you are most likely to retain your job if you do. That being said, I have to agree with the content of company potlucks. All desserts, no food. So fix that. Look up some simple recipes that contain mostly fruit or veggies or both. Some of my favorites: Black Bean and Corn Salad, Pinapple and strawberries, apple slices in lemon juice and peanutbutter. Simple, tasty, reasonably healthy snacks are an art and believe me, will stand out. I know because the black bean and corn salad is one I often bring to a potluck and it is my most requested recipe.

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The Elf April 1, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Jocelyn “I think the unfortunate thing about this potluck is that if the OP DOES bring something healthy, then she is limited to eating her own offering, because there’s no guarantee that anyone else will bring anything that she can eat!”

Unfortunate, yes, but that’s the price you pay for having a limited (for whatever reason) diet. As for the monetary expense, that’s something the OP will have to balance for herself. At what point is it not worth it? Perhaps the OP can bring something that isn’t very expensive and is still on her diet. I can’t determine that for OP or for you, but I can say that a few times a year investment would pay off in the long run.

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JeanLouiseFinch April 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm

All of you are so polite! OP, if you truly, truly don’t want to be pressured into contributing, just make something healthy but nasty and insist that everyone try some of your cherished recipe! I would bet that they won’t even tell you when the next potluck is scheduled. Otherwise, the posters’ suggestions have been good ones, especially the suggestion that you bring Cuties (I have done that myself.) Otherwise, cut up pieces of fruit are great.

I agree that cooking something awful and making someone else eat is is pure evil, but I have been tempted to try this with my cousin, who always seems to have the latest food allergy “du jour” (it’s never the same one twice.) The last time I was with her, I mentioned her so-called problem with gluten and she yelled “I’m on vacation!” as if I could not possibly understand about food allergies or problems with food. If they were real allergies, or if she had a health reason to be on a restricted diet, I would do anything to ensure that she got what she needed. However, in her case, this is the way she creates drama as everyone scrambles to get her food she can eat. The reason I know this is that I am an insulin dependent diabetic and for me, there is no “vacation.” If she truly had the allergies she has claimed, she would avoid her problem foods like the plague, since they would cause nasty reactions! So I might just be whipping up that bean cake and “forget” to put the sweetener in!

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Anonymous April 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm

@The Elf–Are you sure that the OP will still be seen as “participating” if she brings a healthy dish to the potluck, and only eats what she brought? That could still be interpreted as turning up her nose at everyone else’s offerings, even if their offerings consist of Twinkies and potato chips. I think there should be a line drawn somewhere with this whole “team player” deal, and I don’t think it’s quite fair for employers to constantly threaten people’s jobs with, “If you don’t participate in this ‘voluntary’ special event, then you’re not a team player, and I’m going to replace you!!!” That kind of attitude doesn’t promote community, because people aren’t participating because they want to, but because they’re afraid that they’ll be fired if they don’t dance like puppets on strings.

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Jo April 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

My building has these sorts of things from time to time — the last time, it was Salad Day, where everyone brought some kind of salad ingredient and there was a huge salad bar. I did not choose to participate. Nonetheless, when the day came, I joined the group — they sat with salad plates in front of them, while I enjoyed my Subway grinder. I didn’t eat what they ate, but I joined in the camaraderie. It was a total non-issue.

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The Elf April 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm

@ 82 Anonymous: I think odds are good she’ll be seen as participating even if she only brings and eats her dish. The key is that 1) she brought something and 2) she’s eating something. The way it wouldn’t is if you either have a really strange and controlling office group (not unheard of!), she makes disparaging comments about the other food or praises her own (not recommended), or she’s so thoroughly burned her bridges here that they’re just looking for reasons to discredit her.

In my experience, it’s pretty rare for an employer to outright threaten someone for not participating. The “team player” thing is usually subtle. Nor am I saying that OP has to go to each and every event no matter what. It’s okay to pick and choose. The key is not to stand apart. You want to stand out for your work performance, not because you don’t participate in the little potlucks that come around.

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Rebecca April 3, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Bring something healthy and delicious, and only eat that. Something that could, in itself, be considered a complete meal (some kind of salad with multiple ingredients). If nobody else eats it, you have it to yourself. If anyone asks you why you aren’t eating the other stuff, “I’m afraid that doesn’t agree with me thanks, so I’ll leave it for others to enjoy.”

As for the silly comment, ““Oh stop lecturing…you KNOW you TOTALLY eat junk food when you’re at home alone!!” well we know it’s just wishful thinking on that person’s part. They would like to think that absolutely everyone else eats the way they do. I don’t see how the OP is “lecturing” by simply declining a type of food. It’s their own guilt talking. Ignore it.

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Din April 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

I have a few food allergies that make most common potlucks such that I *can’t* eat at them, not just that I choose not to. I bring one or two things that I *can* eat and I go. OP: not to put to fine a point on it, but you’re being the office snob. The potlucks aren’t about the food, they’re about the shmoozing and the chit-chat. They’re about getting to know your co-workers and getting away from your desk for an hour and putting a smile on your face. Try it, you might like it.

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