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I recently got a new job and as part of the new hire process, they cater a lunch for me. In their introduction email, they asked about allergies or dietary restrictions. I don't have any allergies, but I am a very picky eater. My wife(accurately) describes my diet as similar to that of a five-year-old. I don't like eating multiple different things at once and like really plain food.

I generally would just decline to eat in such a scenario, but that's not really an option since they're doing the lunch for me. Ideally, this lunch would just have grilled cheese sandwiches made on whole wheat bread with Kraft Singles. Nothing else I eat would be easy to have catered or would just be kind of weird. I also can't just suck it up and eat something, I feel ill at the thought of eating most foods that other people would consider normal. How can I best explain my diet without sounding silly?

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    You can't: you're going to sound silly. Your best bet would be saying you're on a strict (perhaps temporary) diet for health reasons. Not an answer because I bet someone here is creative enough to come up with some other reason, or perhaps has experience with this. – Tas Sep 19 '17 at 4:50
  • Are they catering a lunch only for you, or is this a company/team lunch for everyone in your honor? – Erik Sep 19 '17 at 7:15
  • @joestrazzere I can't. I get sick if I try to ear stuff I don't like, which looks worse than just not eating. – Tom Pridham Sep 19 '17 at 16:14
  • @erik I think it's for everyone in my honor – Tom Pridham Sep 19 '17 at 16:15
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Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

If you decline, then do so politely with a "No thanks" or "sorry, on a strict diet" but allow for the opportunity to join your coworkers for lunch as this would be an excellent bonding experience. Hence the added expense of catering from the company's perspective.

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If you get sick from food you don't like, you may actually have some dietary restrictions your body is trying to tell you about.

You could tell them that you hadn't realized a catered lunch was coming when you filled out the forms, but that you have dietary restrictions extreme enough that you always brown-bag. I don't think people would think it too weird that you've brought your own if everyone's eating in the same room.

Most professionals now-a-days know better than to ask too many questions about what a person decides to eat, and if someone does, you have every right to change the subject.

Now if you haven't spoken with a doctor about challenges with your nutritional choices, perhaps you should. You may be a super-taster, or there may be something else going on if your body is reacting violently to different food. Once you know for sure, you won't have to be nervous about coming off as 'picky'.

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Unfortunately, you've opened yourself up for this by not stating any dietary requirements on the form.

It's not unknown for people to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other conditions that are helped by eating plainer, uncomplicated foodstuffs.

So writing:

I prefer plain food

Would possibly have resulted in a more acceptable menu for you (depending on the caterer's view of 'plain')

All you can really do is eat what you can from the menu provided and explain that you don't really like 'xyz' ingredients. Fruit is likely to also be provided, so you could be fairly safe with that.

I'm guessing that you face the same kind of issues when you go out to eat or join relatives for meals - use the same avoidance techniques here if you've used them in the past.

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If this lunch is meant to be for the whole team, and it's thrown in your honor, then you can just order a few things you like and tell them to fill in the rest with items everyone likes. Nobody will expect you to try everything, they just want it to be a fun time for everyone and they want everyone to have a chance to get to know you.

Figure out a few things you do like, tell them you're a picky eater but that's no reason for other people not be able to enjoy a good lunch, and then just go and have a good time. And if you can't find anything you enjoy, then you can always thank them for the opportunity, tell them you will bring some of your own food because of diet/pickyness/whatever excuse you're comfortable with and that they should order something the rest of the team will enjoy and you'll gladly join in for the socializing.

At the end of the day, it's really meant to be a nice gesture and a chance to get to know your new team; food is just a common way for people to bond. That doesn't mean it's for everyone, but that doesn't mean it won't work if you can't join in the eating.

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