Six years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when you ingest gluten. Even the tiniest amount of gluten, a mere crumb, can make me sick for weeks.

Not surprisingly, since my diagnosis, I haven’t been invited to many dinner parties. It’s just too hard to figure out how to safely feed someone like me.

But here’s the thing I want you to know, being invited into your home for a meal is about much more than food.

The whole point is being together, getting to know each other better, and gathering around the table.

I may not eat your food, but will you please still invite me over for dinner?

Chances are you know someone with some kind of dietary restriction and are wondering how to host them for a meal.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Find out whether their dietary restriction is an allergy, an autoimmune issue, or simply a dietary preference. This will determine how careful you need to be about cross contamination. (Allergy and autoimmune = be extremely careful.)

2. Ask your guest if there is anything you should be aware of or any precautions you should take that you might not think of.

3. If your guest is avoiding something as a dietary preference (not an autoimmune disease or allergy), invite them to look through your menu plan to make sure you are on the same page.

4. If cross contamination is a serious issue, invite your guest to help you in preparing the meal. I love cooking with friends because it helps them to see exactly how to keep my food safe. After a few times, they get the hang of it and are able to do it themselves.

5. Let your guest know that it’s perfectly fine to bring their own food if that would make them more comfortable. Remember, they just want to be invited, whether they can eat your food or not!

Keeping the line of communication open and asking the right questions will help your guest not only feel safe, but feel wanted and valued. I’m grateful for friends who have the guts to invite me over for dinner, whether I can eat their food or not.