How to Politely Refuse Food You Don’t Like

Being the gracious guest at dinner means finding polite ways to get through the painful moments of the event – whether it’s minimizing awkward conversations or finding the right way to convey a dish that makes your stomach churn. If you’re heading to someone’s home for holiday feasts this year, here’s how to skip food you don’t want to eat without sounding rude.

For some, the following may seem overkill: why not just say no and pass the dish? Well, you’re lucky that you’ve never had to deal with someone trying to force their favorite dish on you or trying to get you to try “just one bite.”

To be honest, they often put a lot of effort into preparing food and want everyone to get enough food, but that doesn’t mean you have to fill your plate with food you don’t want.

Speak your way

At best, you don’t need to eat any unpleasant dish. Try using these phrases to move the dish to the next person without distracting the owner.

  • “No thanks, I want to save space for [another meal] .”
  • “Can’t wait to dig in [another dish] !” Say this as you move on to the next person.
  • [Ingredient] is bothering my stomach, so I’ll skip this one.”
  • “Looks great, but I really want to enjoy what I have on my plate right now.”
  • “Ugh, I was so full that I couldn’t eat another bite! Thanks for the delicious food! “
  • “I’m going to save this for round two!” Then, mysteriously, you forget to take some when you fill your plate, or claim that you are too full for the second round.

The key to successfully using these phrases (or your own version) is delivery. Speak in a light and cheerful tone and smile when refusing to eat.


If you’re feeling pressured and need to bite off a meal, try what Emily Post’s blog calls “No thanks.”

You put on your plate only the taste of what you don’t like, instead of saying, “No thanks.” Whether it’s food you’ve never tasted, or food you’ve disliked in the past, it gives you the opportunity to try and at the same time shows respect for the person who took the time to prepare it.

Sure, it’s ridiculous to take one slice of potatoes or a drop of sauce, but you can only take one spoon to taste the dish a little. Think of it as the amount you can take, which allows you not to take a drop and say, “No thanks.”

If you don’t like your small portion but feel like you need to finish it, try eating it with something else you like or with a strong flavor. Gravy or cranberry sauce is a good option.

Be merciful

No matter how much you like or dislike the food, being a gracious guest is important in order to be invited back again. If your host asks you if you like an offensive dish, focus on the positives and things you like with a little redirection. A few phrases to start with:

  • “You know, it was just amazing! Thanks a lot for hosting. “
  • “Oops! My favorite part of the meal was [your favorite dish] . I’m so impressed you did it! I can never get it right.”
  • “I really appreciate how much effort you put into lunch. Thank you!”

Basically, walk past (or don’t even address) the dish you didn’t like and share what was great while acknowledging your host’s hard work.


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