Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
When eating with a food intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity, the main goal is to identify a food’s ingredients before you eat it. For example, cooking allows you to control what ingredients are put into the food, and an allergen menu at a restaurant will list the ingredients in each dish. Overall, situations where it is easier to determine the ingredients of a dish are easier to navigate and situations where it is more difficult to determine the ingredients of a food are more challenging. These challenges can range from social discomfort when asking about food to having no one to ask about the ingredients.
One of the hardest food situations to navigate is a potluck. While potlucks tend to have a large variety of foods (meaning that there might be a greater chance of finding a soy-free food), there is usually little information provided about the ingredients. We can actually categorize potlucks into two different categories, homemade and store bought, that each come with their own challenges:
At a homemade potluck, nearly every dish is homemade. As a result, ingredient lists are nowhere to be found and it can be difficult to determine what ingredients are used in each dish. Depending on the size of the potluck, asking about ingredients can be simple or nearly impossible. At a small potluck, it is easy to figure out who brought each dish. After you make an educated guess if the dish contains soy (remember the five places to avoid soy), you can ask specific questions of the the person who made it. With a larger potluck, you may not know who made which dish and therefore cannot ask about ingredients. At this point, you are left making educating guesses. Since very few of the dishes list the ingredients at a homemade potluck, you are stuck asking about food or skipping any questionable dishes all together.
Store Bought Potlucks
At a store bought potluck most of the dishes are purchased from the store. In this case, eating can be less challenging because the ingredients are listed on the packaging. But, the downside here is that because store bought foods are more likely to be processed (and therefore contain soy), soy is more prevalent at a store bought potluck. A store bought potluck removes the challenge of asking about ingredients, but also reduces the likelihood of finding a soy-free dish.
So, how should you approach a potluck if you have a food intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity?
- Bring a food item that you can eat. This way, you know for certain that at least one thing will be safe to eat and you won’t be stuck with an empty plate. (You should also strive to make sure that you get some of the food that you brought.)
- If possible, survey the food options before you get in line. By surveying the line ahead of time, you get a sense for what foods you might need to ask about and what ingredients you’ll need to look up.
- As you go through the line, make educated guesses about foods that don’t have ingredients. If needed, and if possible, ask about any foods that you have ingredient questions about.
- Bring a backup snack just in case. In the event that you can’t eat any of the food, bringing a backup snack will ensure that you don’t go hungry.
While a potluck is one of the more challenging places to eat soy-free, it is definitely possible to do. By making educated guesses and asking about ingredients when you can, a potluck can be an enjoyable, soy-free experience!