I'm trying to find a word or short phrase that generally describes people that have dietary requirements, food restrictions, sensitivities, and even preferences. The phrase might apply to different kinds of restrictions, might include taste likes / dislikes, etc.

Instead of saying something like "we help people with dietary restrictions, allergies, and sensitivities" (which is verbose), is there a way to say "we help ______________" (where the blank is "people with dietary restrictions, allergies, and sensitivities")

Is there a word or short phrase that would make sense here?

  • Usually people are described according to their specific needs; vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 3, 2017 at 22:28
  • Agreed. I'm trying to find a "looser" term / phrase that would include all of those groups. Oct 3, 2017 at 22:33
  • XYZ has or needs a "special diet". On an airplane ticket, it's "special meal". Why classify intermediates when you can specify specifically whether the diet is celiac, nut sensitivity, kosher, halal, ovolactovegetarian, vegan, etc.
    – user662852
    Oct 3, 2017 at 22:50
  • I'm sensing a generally negative or even semi-hostile response to this question. This question comes from a positive and constructive position - what about it is eliciting negative responses? Oct 4, 2017 at 14:39
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    I'd suggest that there is a benefit in keeping a distinction between people with requirements and those with preferences. There is a danger that if you have a catch-all phrase encompassing both that there is a tendency for people to subconsciously downgrade all of them to 'preference', which could have consequences for those with actual needs. I'd guess this may be the source of perceived antagonism in responses.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 4, 2017 at 15:29

5 Answers 5


There is no good word for these.

There are obviously conditions (diabetes, celiac disease, acid reflux, etc.) that limit what people can eat, but most people do not want to define themselves by their conditions, any more than they want to define themselves by gender, age, or other things that are attributes of a human being.

Some people can get quite militant about their food choices. However, there too I'd suggest that their choices be treated as attributes, since this effectively denies them the opportunity for moral posturing.

There may be some medical term. However, in ordinary social usage, you're probably better off with a familiar phrase, e.g. a person with diet restrictions.

The concept of ableism sometimes seems overblown, but it's not much fun being at a restaurant with nothing on the menu you can eat. There some ideas in the article you could maybe build on.


As one who every working day in seven years has spoken to a dozen or more such people about their dietary requirements, I promise you there is no such word or phrase.

What research let you coin a term like food requirements, please?

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    I did not mean to "coin" the term, I was actually attempting to use accurate terms. It's clear to me that I mashed-up different terms I was finding during my attempt to research this myself: food preferences, dietary requirements, food sensitivities, food allergies, etc. Food Requirements is likely not the best term. Oct 3, 2017 at 22:36
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    Yes - agreed - I edited the question to correct this. Just got my words tangled up. I wonder - if this is who you work with every day, how do you describe (the "elevator pitch") what you do? That might help me understand how to articulate what I am trying to as well. Oct 4, 2017 at 14:41
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    Can I, as a lay person in this context, ask you both why you are so clear that 'food requirements' is no good? Its a term I would understand and might well use myself. I would not feel that I needed to rely on research to use a general term in conversation, so why would it be wrong in a formal/business context?
    – Spagirl
    Oct 4, 2017 at 15:34
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    @Spagirl - I didn't think it was necessarily problematic, but as Robbie clearly works in the field and had a strong reaction, I deferred. Oct 4, 2017 at 17:18
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    @RobbieGoodwin An "elevator pitch" is a "sales pitch performed in an elevator", which is basically a metaphor for giving a very concise but concrete explanation in the amount of time it takes to do an elevator ride. In your case, he's figuratively asking for a succinct explanation of your role/job.
    – psosuna
    Oct 4, 2017 at 23:31

On airline tickets, the category term is special meal

other major carriers and travel.se

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    So, 'I am a Special Eater' would alert people to my condition/preference.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 3, 2017 at 23:38

I shall probably regret this when I see how many points I lose . . .

When there is no suitable word for something, it is time to expand the English language and develop a new word.

I propose the word 'digestic'.

I cannot see any connotations to the word and nobody should be offended by it or embarrassed to say, 'I am digestic'.

There is a word 'dietetic' which is a general term meaning 'concerned with diet and nutrition'. So one could say, 'I have dietetic needs'.

  • Perhaps you should start a new stackexchange forum--proposals for new English-language terms? ;-) Personally, I think "digestic" is too similar to "digestive" or "digestif."
    – Shosht
    Oct 4, 2017 at 0:30
  • @Shosht I shall give that serious thought, actually. But there would probably be a flood of weird ideas to begin with.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 4, 2017 at 1:45

Just hosted a dinner and also had this question! Originally I was going to use "dietary restrictions" but the word restriction has a more negative connotation. In the end said "those with unique diets"; though it may detract from the medical element of some guests' diets, it's more positive and guests seemed to understand.

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