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The Healthy Potluck

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… add one }
  • admin March 28, 2013, 7:23 am
  • Twik March 28, 2013, 7:26 am

    I think that, while you are within the bounds of etiquette to follow a no eat/no contribute rule, the potlucks are seen by the other participants as a means of bonding. Therefore, not taking part is a small rejection of your position as a group member. You don’t have to do so, but contributing something that you want to eat, and eating only that, would make you seem more of a team player.

  • Ally March 28, 2013, 7:35 am

    I don’t think you are being rude, but I think not participating isolates you from the group on these particular days. I agree with the admin that participating creatively is far better than just sitting it out. I assume the whole point of these potlucks is for people at work to get to know each other better, and so the spirit is really about community and not food.

    I think if you bring something healthy that you also want to eat (bring fruits or veggies and have a serving yourself), then you’ll get to eat what you want and participate.

  • kjr March 28, 2013, 7:45 am

    If nobody will bring healthier options for food, who will? Someone needs to start the trend and I say let it be you! Then, as a bonus, you can at least eat your own food 🙂

  • ferretrick March 28, 2013, 7:57 am

    No, you shouldn’t HAVE to participate or get a lot of flak for choosing not too, but this is one of those times where I would say it’s more drama than it’s worth and just bring something.

  • Bint March 28, 2013, 8:36 am

    I disagree that you should bring something to ‘show camaraderie and team-building’. It’s a potluck of junk food. Camaraderie and team-building aren’t forged by a monthly junk fest; not taking part isn’t going to make any difference, as shown by your workmates’ reaction – they aren’t bothered. Why would they be?

    If you want to bring something, go ahead. If you don’t, don’t. It’s your money spent on something you don’t take part in, and I strongly doubt anyone gives a toss or expects you to bring anything. Nor should you feel you have to ‘rise to the challenge’ and go to loads of effort to bring something healthy to a lunch in which you’re not interested.

    Seriously, your friend is a bit earnest about this. People know whether you’re a team player based on your performance at work, not by the tofu-kelp-fudge you spent hours making thanks to well-meaning people’s guilt-tripping.

    As an aside, I think that lunch sounds disgusting, and wouldn’t take part either. And I do eat junk food.

  • Michele K. March 28, 2013, 8:37 am

    From a strictly etiquette point of view, I say you are not rude. It is not a mandated activity and there is no social obligation to take part.

    However, from a professional point of view, you are likely shooting yourself in the foot. The perception is that teams work best when they bond. These potlucks have become a bonding activity for your work group. By not participating, you are effectively stepping back from the team experience. If your friend took the time to mention your lack of participation, it is likely others have commented in a not-so-nice way.

    When it comes time for peer reviews, your team members may not have entirely positive things to say. If your boss participates in these potlucks, your refusal to participate may color your boss’s opinion of you. When it comes time for annual reviews, raises, promotions, key work assignments, etc., the boss’s opinion counts.

    The admin’s suggestions are spot on. You can participate without gorging on junk food.

  • Joni March 28, 2013, 8:37 am

    I suspect there are others who want healthy options as well, but haven’t been bold enough to say anything. And I bet that hummus and pita chips would be the first to go. I know that I, personally, adore hummus and would rather have that than the same old potato chips and dip!

  • WildIrishRose March 28, 2013, 8:39 am

    While admin is right that you could contribute healthier items to the potluck, it’s certainly within your rights to sit these out. I work in a very large office. People usually bring treats for birthdays, and I usually contribute to those, but I never feel obligated. As for actual potluck meals, those are more carefully structured, and most people don’t bring junk food for them. Either way, don’t feel obligated to participate in these events. It doesn’t sound like people are giving you a REALLY hard time for not joining, so if you choose not to participate, then don’t participate, and don’t feel bad about it, either.

  • Jay March 28, 2013, 9:06 am

    Or just bring crudite. The fact that everyone else brings chips doesn’t mean you have to, unless the potluck is explicitly billed as a “junk only” potluck. Not sure why this would even be an issue. Maybe you’ll be the only one who eats it, but maybe not. And if so, at least you have something to eat.

  • Lo March 28, 2013, 9:08 am

    I’m with Bint.

    Additionally, the kind of junk they’re bringing doesn’t exactly sound like a lot of effort– I wouldn’t waste my time trying to sway junk food eaters with a good healthy dish that takes attention and care when people are just showing up with sugary crap and calling it a meal. Maybe if it were every once in a while I’d be more inclined to play along but once a month? No way.

  • Margo March 28, 2013, 9:09 am

    I don’t think it is rude not to participate, but I think that, in your position, I would try to participate at least some of the time, by bringing something which is healthy and tasty, so I could eat that. Unfortunately being the only person who doesn’t participate, even though you have good reasons and it is not a compulsory part of your job, may make you stand out and be seen as a snob or as someone who isn’t a team-player.

    Maybe some sticks of celery, carrot and bell pepper and hummus , fruit salad, or even a green salad. Those are all inexpensive options, so if you end up needing to eat lunch as well you are not too much out of pocket.

    As you have one other coworker who is an ally, perhaps the two of you could liaise so you both join in, and bring things you can both eat – that way, you are neither of you in the position of bringing something but being unable to eat anything but your own offering, and you may find that when your colleagues taste what the two of you bring, that they become more enthusiastic and perhaps start to have a bit more variety in what they bring, too.

    From what you say, it sounds as though this isn’t a full meal with home cooked dishes but more a collection of snacks, so even smallish changes could make it more palatable for you – how about bringing some pumpernickel that people can try instead of / as well as the bagels (if people are adding fillings, they can have whatever they like, you can stick to hummus or whatever you like), pizza made with a wholemeal base and with roasted veggies on top, etc – stuff that isn’t totally unfamiliar but which is less loaded with processed sugar and fats.

  • Gilraen March 28, 2013, 9:11 am

    We have these potlucks too and over the last few years they have changed a bit. The reason? People started bringing in more healthy food and those where the ones always emptied out. Recipes were exchanged and the next time we saw more healthy food. Turns out a lot of people were bringing junk as they were convinced that this was expected and only acceptable. Seems times change. Sure there is still a chocolate cake etc, but also lots of salads and nice sandwiches.

    So do join in with the co-worker and buy some even if it means just the two of you eating effectively your own food you end up participating in something which is actually fun. And who knows your next pot luck will have three healthy dishes then four etc. etc.

  • Anonymous March 28, 2013, 9:17 am

    1. If the potluck is truly optional, and you don’t work at one of those companies I keep hearing about on here where passing up an “optional” social event is career suicide, then you don’t have to participate.

    2. I like the idea of bringing something easy and healthy if you do want to participate, as long as you can pull it off without comment, and deflect if anyone makes comments about your “healthy” fare among the humongous, towering, plates of junk. Naturally, this might take more mental energy than you’re willing to invest, but if you think it’s worth it, then you know you have at least one co-worker who’d pick your fruit salad (or whatever) over everyone else’s cookies and potato chips.

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

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn March 28, 2013, 9:19 am

    I do understand the difficulty with being ultra healthy and still attending a potluck. I’m on a very strict Paleo diet for medical reasons, and my housemates and I host potlucks or other parties a couple times a month.

    I’ve found that providing a fruit salad and some delicious freshly made salsa for chips mean I can eat something along with everyone else, and you’d be surprised at the number of people who will enjoy your dish.

    Protip: adding mango to the fruit salad and then topping your portion with some salsa is really delicious.

  • Cat March 28, 2013, 9:21 am

    Food sharing is a primal activity. One of the things we tend to do as a group is to go out to eat. Few people feel comfortable going out to eat alone. We go to school on our own; we go shopping on our own, but, bring out food, and we congregate with others in our group. We celebrate festive occasions with food: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, you name it; if we get together, we eat.
    It’s not a matter of good vs. poor manners or healthy vs. unhealthy food choices; it’s whether you are in or out of the group on these occasions. I would bring grapes, watermelon, carrot sticks with dip, whatever, but I would include myself in.Work is one place where you want to be seen as a team player.

  • nk March 28, 2013, 9:24 am

    I agree with the admin’s reply except for one thing—I wouldn’t classify people who don’t eat a vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. diet as “uninformed.” Some choose to eat that way and some people don’t, depending on what works better for that individual. It’s not a matter of ignorance on either side.

  • Melissa March 28, 2013, 9:30 am

    I’m vegan and often find myself in this situation with work events. My previous employer was obsessed with potlucks and chili cookoffs. I skipped a good number of them (work was busy and I couldn’t justify a 4 hour lunch). But I did win the chili cookoff with my vegan chili that no one knew was vegan! additionally, I brought a few huge salads and they never failed to disappear. As an added bonus, one of my coworkers was convinced to go plant-based as well. Giving up all those burgers helped her lose over 30 pounds!

  • Anonymous March 28, 2013, 9:30 am

    P.S., I see the “team player” issue coming up again. I think that the issue of how far the “team player” thing can be taken, could make for a pretty interesting debate. Anyway, *mumblemumble* years ago, the summer I was 21, I had a summer job at a law firm, and some of the “regulars” planned a cottage day at one of the lawyers’ cottages. They said I was “welcome to come,” but that they all had full cars, and I had no way to get there, since I didn’t have a car myself, but if I had had a way to get there, I probably would have gone for at least part of the day, to keep the peace. However, I was kind of glad to have that “out,” because I knew it’d be a big day of drinking (not assuming; they actually said this beforehand), and I didn’t want my bosses, and my new co-workers, to see me in my bathing suit either, so I didn’t go. I mostly got along with everyone that summer, but I wasn’t invited back the following summer, and I’d hate to think that they thought I “wasn’t a team player” because I didn’t go to an event that I had no way of getting myself to.

  • LiLi March 28, 2013, 9:40 am

    I agree with Michele K. While in the strictest etiquette sense you are not required to participate, it can be seen as standoffish. If it’s well known that the reason you don’t participate is because you find the food unhealthy you may also be cultivating the image that you are “too good” to for these events which can build a negative image if these potlucks are ingrained in the culture of your office.

    Unless you truly object to bringing food or participating, bringing the hummus and pita chips can go a long way to help you be seen as a “team player” while maintaining a healthier option. Who knows, it may inspire others to bring things other than junk food.

  • starstruck March 28, 2013, 9:45 am

    while you dont have to, i personally think you should participate at least sometimes. but you should not compromise by bringing junk . just bring your favorite healthy dish and if your the only one who eats it, then fine more for you! lol but just a side thought; i cant imagine having potlucks every single month. holidays and maybe the boss birthday, but every single month? that sounds a bit exesive .

  • Aria March 28, 2013, 9:49 am

    When I go to an office meeting… I work from home… I bring cookies or brownies. I usually make a gluten free, sugar free version as well as the normal type. I’ve noticed that everything gets eaten. 🙂 Also, for the OP, you could bring something like a shrimp ring. I brought that to a company wide pot luck and it was gone so fast it would make your head spin.

  • Huh March 28, 2013, 9:49 am

    I’m with you, OP, I don’t like to participate in office potlucks for a lot of reasons, one of which is because my medium-sized office acts like it’s a “perk” and you’re getting a free meal. No, I’m having to make a dish to feed a large amount of people or pay $5. And it doesn’t sound like you’d be able to eat anybody’s food but your own, so what’s the point?

    You can “team build” with your coworkers at another time other than your lunch break.

  • Miss Merlot March 28, 2013, 10:06 am

    You mentioned in your posting that one of your colleagues follows a similar diet – one person to share with right there!!

    I agree that in terms of politeness not obligatory, but professionally you may make yourself seem a bit stand-offish and inflexible. You’d have to eat lunch etc anyway, so you may as well bring something!

  • petty-chia March 28, 2013, 10:10 am

    No you do not have to participate. And no, you’re not being rude. I also follow an (extremely) restrictive, healthy diet and I too don’t participate in work potlucks. Why spend the time and money to bring a large quantity of something when it’ll be the only thing I can enjoy? Bring your own damn lunch and let the others bond over their hardening arteries. But: eat with them. If the point is bonding and socialization then do that. You don’t need to explain why you’re eating your own lunch and its best to avoid anything that seems judgmental. If junk is pushed on you, just say “No thank you.” If pushed, day “I prefer what I’ve brought.”

  • Kara March 28, 2013, 10:17 am

    What about bringing your own bagged lunch to these potlucks, and sitting there and just eating that?

    That way even though you are not really participating in the potluck, you are still sitting there and eating with everyone and being companionable.

  • Politrix March 28, 2013, 10:18 am

    This reminds me a lot of the post where the person was on an extremely tight budget, and couldn’t afford to contribute any food to a potluck dinner. There were a lot of great suggestions about contributing non-food items, such as plates, forks and knives, as well as non-material items, such as help with the setup/cleanup. As long as none of this is too inconvenient for the OP, maybe this could be an option? In return, I’m sure the OP could partake in a small beverage or something that’s not too unhealthy, as well as being able to relax for a few, and catch up with her co-workers.

  • Heather March 28, 2013, 10:29 am

    I just want to say that I sympathize very much! You said that not only don’t you want to eat the junk food, it actually makes you feel bad. I’m hypoglycemic, and eating sugary things gives me a bad sugar spike and leaves me feeling weak and shaky after about an hour, and I hate it bad enough that although I have an enormous sweet tooth I’ve given up processed sugar entirely. You absolutely have the right to eat what makes your body feel strong and not be patronized or laughingly accused of lying (!), but given our messed-up food culture, unfortunately that is too much to expect.

    I like Admin’s suggestions, and unfortunately I think those commenters who are suggesting people might be putting you on the “not a team player” list for non-participation may be right. (Now it’s absolutely your decision whether than matters to you or not.) I just wanted to offer a small suggestion for how to put it over next time you’re forced to explain either your non-participation or the fact that you chose to eat only your own potluck contribution plus a ham sandwich on whole-wheat. This: if it feels OK to you to do so, you could find some way of putting it that is true yet makes it sound like it’s because of a medical condition. If you do have hypoglycemia or something: I often say “I have blood-sugar issues” or “I’m sorry, I have to say no because cake does bad things to my blood sugar.” (Cake generally does bad things to your blood sugar whether you’re hypoglycemic or not, so that could probably be a catch-all.) See, the key is that in American culture (I’m about 99.99% sure we’re talking about the U.S. here!) eating healthy because you want to be healthy makes you a self-righteous health nut (gah) but eating healthy because you have a medical condition and certain foods do you serious harm is considered OK. So putting yourself in category B will get you sympathy, while putting yourself in category A will get you accused of “lecturing” when you’re just trying to explain your choices–because your choices make people feel guilty, and they will try to judge you before you can judge them.

    So, that’s just a strategy you could bear in mind so as not to get falsely accused of self-righteousness. Depending on how comfortable you feel with it, you could even go for a little misdirection: “Listen, I don’t want to discuss my medical history with everybody, but please believe me when I say junk food is bad for me.”

  • ElizabethD March 28, 2013, 10:30 am

    Once a month? Make the effort to show up with something just to interact with your colleagues on a social level.

  • --Lia March 28, 2013, 10:32 am

    I love to cook so this is just me, but I’d bring an awesome healthy dish with plenty for everybody. Lightly cook some broccoli and cauliflower. Toss on some finely chopped scallions and fresh dill and parsley. Bring an oil and vinegar dressing that you put on right before serving. Or quinoa salad. Or any of a thousand other healthy vegetable party dishes. Put it in a fancy bowl right in the middle of the junk food table. Don’t say anything. Then wait for the compliments to start pouring in. When they do, smile demurely and say thank-you. Make no comment about what others brought or what you thought of it or what you eat all the time at home. If you get no raves or compliments (though in my experience that’s hard to imagine), take the leftovers home and try again next time.

  • petty-chia March 28, 2013, 10:42 am

    No you do not have to participate. And no, you’re not being rude. I also follow an (extremely) restrictive, healthy diet and I too don’t participate in work potlucks. Why spend the time and money to bring a large quantity of something when it’ll be the only thing I can enjoy? Bring your own dang lunch and let the others bond over their hardening arteries. But: eat with them. If the point is bonding and socialization then do that. You don’t need to explain why you’re eating your own lunch and its best to avoid anything that seems judgmental. If junk is pushed on you, just say “No thank you.” If pushed, say “I prefer what I’ve brought.”

  • Cami March 28, 2013, 10:43 am

    I’ll agree with the previous posters who said while it’s not a breach of etiquette to decline participation in a work potlck, it’s a breach of good sense in terms of workplace politics. I’d go and bring something I want to eat that I also KNOW is tasty enough for others because others have given me their honest opinion. Also, if you make healthy substitutions, please label the food. (For example, we had a workplace potluck and a healthy eater on our staff brought in what appeared to be your average brownie. He did not label them otherwise and people stopped dead on the first bite as he’d substituted sugar beets for sugarand well, while he thought it tasted fab, it was nasty).

  • Annie March 28, 2013, 10:46 am

    There are certain people in my office who never participate in any of the little social gatherings. I don’t think less of them for it, but I also don’t know them as well. I’m less likely to stay late at work to help them with something, and I’m less likely to ask them for help. In the end, this can be damaging to a career.

    If you participate in other events and only skip this one, you’re probably OK, though.

  • Elle March 28, 2013, 10:54 am

    Is it rude to not provide anything? Absolutely not.
    Is it politically savvy to bring something? Absolutely.
    *Should* politics matter in the workplace? Probably not.
    *Do* politics matter in the workplace? Absolutely.

  • just4kicks March 28, 2013, 10:54 am

    I’m along side most of the comments in that you shouldn’t give a fig what others think about you. However, if this is a small office and you see these folks everyday, I don’t see the harm in buying a bad of carrot coins and hummus, as you suggested. People in office settings can be very strange. I speak from experience. I started a new job and thought I was doing a good job, some of those in my department even commented positively on my efforts. Then as I made more friends throughout the building, they started telling me to “watch my back” as a few people were speaking very unkindly behind my back. Even going so far as to comment on my weight and what a lousy job I was doing. Why give anyone a reason, valid or not, to do the same to you?

  • Shalamar March 28, 2013, 11:05 am

    I sometimes take delight in bringing vegan food to potlucks like those. I’m not a vegan myself, but my daughter is, so I often make a big batch of brownies or cookies or whatever so that she can have some, and I bring the rest to the potluck. The last time we had one, it so happened that another lady and I both brought banana bread, except mine was vegan. I overheard some people saying “I’m not going to eat the vegan one – I’ll have the normal one. Oh, the normal one’s all gone – I guess I’ll try the vegan one (SIGH). Hmm … actually, it’s pretty good. *munch* In fact, I can’t tell the difference.”

  • Yvaine March 28, 2013, 11:18 am

    I’m someone who is not particularly diet conscious and love my junk food, but I can also say I’d be thrilled if hummus also showed up at an event like this. I like a variety of tastes and sometimes you show up to a potluck and it’s all sugar, and something savory would be refreshing.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith March 28, 2013, 11:42 am

    I feel your pain OP, a bit. Real food is far more costly than junk food for an equivalent serving and you aren’t likely to be thanked for your efforts. I see this as “good money after bad” with this caveat- Admin and several of the commentators are right about the team side. That said, you’ve begun on one foot and don’t want to start in just because of low grade pressure. Do whatever feels best to you but “own it”. Settle in your own mind your qualms about whether or not participation is necessary from your own set of values and perspective and then consider the matter settled. It’s okay to be ribbed a little for being different as long as that’s only occasional and not too personal. You may be standing up for others who would like to skip participating in the future. Finally, you could always (and only once in a great while) bring in a small treat to share that’s healthy. Maybe you won’t mind bringing something special to the office during a holiday or just because. But do it on your own terms out of your authentic self and values.

  • Erin March 28, 2013, 11:46 am

    Sure OP could bring healthy and delicious items – doesn’t seem like much of a potluck from his or her perspective if OP isn’t getting to share others’ offerings as well.

  • Goldie March 28, 2013, 11:53 am

    As an aside, I have to say it irks me when employees’ level of teamwork is being measured, not by how much they contribute to the work of their team (as the word would imply), but by how much they socialize with their teammates during work hours. I find that in a workplace like that, the best team players get nothing done because they’re busy chatting, going to 2-hour lunches, and organizing team events all day. The non-team players end up picking up their slack in terms of work. But guess who gets recognition, raises and promotions? I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t worked in a place like that in many years. In my experience, working in a mission critical environment where a lot depends on every member’s work contribution, puts an end to this type of value judgement pretty quickly, and people are evaluated on their real merits.

    Rant complete!

    To the OP – I’d cave in, bring a non-expensive, non-labor-intensive, healthy snack (pita and hummus, veggie tray) and partake of it myself while sitting around chatting with coworkers. If others want to join in, great, problem solved! If not, you tried. If the fact that you bring healthy food to potlucks becomes an issue, update your resume. Job market’s been picking up lately and you deserve to work in a better team than this.

  • The Elf March 28, 2013, 12:00 pm

    You don’t have an obligation to do this, but I think participating in the pot luck would make you appear more of a “team player”, as your friend points out. Yeah, I know, your ability to bring in a salad has no bearing on your ability to do your work. But that’s corporate culture for you. If nothing else, you won’t stand out, and that’s one of the ways that standing out can be bad. Just bring something that fits your dietary requirements, and eat that. I bet there would be others glad to see something a little healthier on the table too.

  • Allie March 28, 2013, 12:17 pm

    I suspect the reason for all the junkfood is that it’s quick and easy and requires no imagination. However, you never know… people can be competitive. If you follow Admin’s suggestion, some of your coworkers may want to get in on the action and bring healthier, yummy treats to fool everyone with. You and your compatriot could be catalysts for change.

    Incidentally, I was at a party once where someone revealed that her delicious, frosted cupcakes were vegan and flour and sugar free. Don’t ask me what the heck was in them but they were amazing: a little bit heavier and very moist like old-fashioned white cake, which I love. Of course, I took this as a sign that I should eat several more (there were plenty to go around and everyone was encouraged to eat as many as they liked). Remember, though, healthy and low fat does not equal calorie free : )

  • Rebecca B March 28, 2013, 12:25 pm

    I have had many potlucks where the fruits and veggies are finished off first before the junk food.

    IF you decide to participate you could keep it very simple. A bowl of grapes. Carrot sticks or chips with or without ranch dip. A can of sliced peaches or pears. Something that you would be bringing to work for your lunch already. What do you typically snack on/eat while at work? Watermelon, when in season is great also. A simple green salad, a bean salad, a whole grain or pasta salad with lots of veggies.

    Good luck with whatever you decide! 🙂

  • Karen March 28, 2013, 12:50 pm

    I kinda feel like you should participate. Its a chance to bond with your coworkers in a slightly less tense environment, and most people probably see it as a treat. You don’t need to eat the junk food, but I’m sure there are veggies and hummus or salsa, and if not..that can be your thing!

  • Kelly March 28, 2013, 1:24 pm

    I also work in an environment where we have regular potlucks at work and I also am in a similar dietary situation. My field is mostly men and we live/work in a small, blue-collar town. I have been vegetarian for 25 years and these potlucks frequently involve various meats that my co-workers have hunted, along with the requisite chips, cookies, brownies, sodas, etc. I almost always bring a large veggie platter with ranch dip from Costco. People do eat them and there is always a lot for me to take home afterward (I put it on ice so it stays fresh).

  • WildIrishRose March 28, 2013, 1:50 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. These things should always be voluntarily attended and participated in, and no one should be coerced in any way to take part. 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. Sometimes people have dietary restrictions or allergies or even financial issues that preclude participation in these events, and nobody should be made to feel guilty for not taking part.

  • MollyMonster March 28, 2013, 2:07 pm

    At my office, people who are following dietary restrictions will often just bring their own lunch to the potluck (we only have a holiday one so it isn’t a constant thing) and eat there with the group. No one gets on them for not bring anything to share since they aren’t partaking, but they get to still be a part of the group. And once everyone has stuff on their plates, only the really petty will care where the food came from.

  • NostalgicGal March 28, 2013, 2:08 pm

    If I show to a potluck I bring something I can eat…and others should be able to as well. if I am having such wars with myself at the time that I can’t eat within that timeframe (meds fighting back or something similar) I will still bring something for the others. Most of those I socalize with are well aware now I have had health and diet issues for some years and no end in sight; and if I sit with them and don’t eat it’s because of me not them. I am there to socialize and if I can’t eat I can’t eat, go right ahead and eat as it does NOT bother me in the least. (last month I had bbq catered (they made I picked up and it was served buffet) for a club meeting, and I was on ‘fast the whole day’ (my sudden and unlucky draw of life) so I got to sit with them and watch them eat and talk with them.)

    If you go to a potluck, bring something. Even if you can’t eat at all. Doesn’t have to be lavish, but it is part of participating. If you sit it out, that is your choice. Since the OP has a friend/coworker that eats similarly, that would be a great thing to collaborate then to bring something they can eat, and that the rest could and would be tempted with.

  • Morgana March 28, 2013, 2:47 pm

    I worked in an office that did Friday snacks. I like to bake and am very good at it, so this is fun, right? No. They only wanted crap. Seriously–stale doughnuts. When they turned their noses up at Moroccan tea loaf then brown bread, I quit participating. One of them snipped at me and shut right up when I said I had no wish to waste time and ingredients on people who clearly don’t want my work.

  • Rug Pilot March 28, 2013, 4:16 pm

    I have a similar problem in my office. The staff knows I can’t eat anything for medical resasons ( they are predominently Filipino). I eat my own food and pass on the potlucks and the mass lunch orders. They have seen me have 3 Crohn’s attacks in one afternoon from trying to remove all the cheese from a salad. No more. We have no problem with office esprit.

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