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how to survive a corporate catered lunch with food restrictions

How to Navigate a Corporate Catered Lunch With Food Restrictions

Gluten covered sandwiches, salads with a thick, mystery vinaigrette dressing, and let’s not forget the inflammatory cookie plate. This scenario can be super stress-inducing for someone with dietary needs. How does one navigate a corporate catered lunch with food restrictions?

We don’t want to be difficult but we also don’t want to feel sick for the rest of the day. Rather than sustain solely on lettuce leaves and a tasteless fruit salad, I’ve rounded up a few simple ways I have personally navigated this sticky situation.

Bring a Packed Lunch

There is nothing wrong with bringing your own food to a catered lunch. Rather than gamble with food that could make you feel ill, pack your own delicious lunch and bring it to the meeting. Of course, there will always be someone that asks, “Why did you bring your own food? You should just save that for tomorrow since this is free.” 

Here are a few ways too combat this one: 

  • Be honest. I have food sensitivities and it’s easier to bring my own
  • The food was close to expiration and I didn’t want to waste it 
  • I made this amazing dish last night and I couldn’t wait to eat it again 

You get the picture.

Order a Restriction Friendly Meal (Delivery or Pick-Up)

Order something you know suits your dietary needs to be delivered before the start of the meeting so you can roll up with something that won’t make you feel crappy. In New York City, there are a few  places I’ve relied on for restriction friendly meals:


Mulberry & Vine

The Little Beet

Hu Kitchen 

Le Botaniste

Suggest Accommodating Catering Options

Next time there is a lunch meeting, contact the organizer to suggest catering options that could work for you. If they don’t know, they can’t help you. It’s always easier if you have a few catering suggestions in mind.

Overall, the key to surviving corporate catered lunch is to prepare for it. You don’t have to eat whatever is available. If you have dietary restrictions, either contact the organizer in advance or roll up with your own restriction friendly meal. There is no need to be ashamed for taking care of your health.