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December 20, 2012

Holiday food tips for picky eaters

From the time stores start playing Christmas carols in October until the last New Year's aspirin is swallowed, the holiday season kicks up the stress levels in everyone.

And for the picky eater, the holidays and their accompanying food-centric events magnify yet another source of stress: how to eat. Or, to put it more accurately, how to not eat.

Although some picky eaters have learned how to deal with dinner parties, others opt to decline all dining-out invitations. On the other side of the coin, harassed hosts can become unhinged if they feel unduly challenged by their guests' complex eating regimens and preferences.

As a former picky eater, I sympathize with both sides. If you're opening up your home and welcoming friends and relatives into it, your primary concern should be that your guests enjoy themselves. That's what being a good host is all about.

That said, it's understandable that the host, who just finished carving an edible creche out of mushrooms, complete with an enoki baby Jesus, is whittled down to her final nerve when it turns out all she can serve at her holiday gala is grape soda and cottage cheese.

With all that in mind, here are a few tips to help us get along this year:

Tips for the picky

1. Don't be rude about the food. No face-pulling, no shudders, no gags. Just say, "No, thank you," and leave it at that.

2. Be honest. I know this is difficult, but bringing picky eating into the open can reduce your stress. You can soften the potential blow to your host by immediately proceeding to Tip No. 3.

3. Offer to bring a dish. Your harried host might welcome your offer to take some of the pressure off him or her, and you will be certain to have something to eat.

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