Navigating the Holidays with Food Restrictions

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By Coach Mel 

If you have food allergies or sensitivities the holidays can be a frustrating time, mainly for your digestive system, but also for your stress levels. No one wants to be “that person” who is everything-but-lettuce-free and only drinks water blessed by kittens.

Some of us have real allergies, some just know certain foods make them feel bad and want to avoid that, and some of us just prefer a certain way of eating. Navigating this and knowing who and who not to announce it to can be the tricky part. Recently I have been doing some allergy testing by eliminating certain food groups; surprisingly what I have found is that, for me, the hardest part has not been leaving out beer and chocolate as I presumed it would be. The hardest part has been feeling like the weirdo who is nibbling on lettuce because nothing else at a gathering complies with my restrictions and I don’t want to start the whole process from scratch and indulge just because I am self-conscious that I’m not drinking.

So, with that, here are a few tips to help you navigate things!  

  1. Just say no: We are all adults here… You always have the option to simply say “No, thank you” when offered something. You could go into having Celiac or being on an elimination diet or how dairy makes you fart; we always feel like we need to justify why we don’t want to eat what makes us feel bad. But you could also just say no. And that, in any scenario, is enough.
  2. Keep it to yourself and go fed: If the event you are going to is more of a social thing than a sit-down dinner party you can always just eat beforehand, grab a club soda with lime when you get there, make your way around the party and no one will be the wiser. In situations like this it is often easier to not have to explain why you aren’t eating or drinking what’s provided.  
  3. Bring a dish or two: There is always at least something at gatherings that even the most food-restricted soul can partake in. If you also bring a couple dishes you know are safe then you can load up your plate accordingly and look like an awesome and caring guest. If you really want to have some fun you can use this as an opportunity to find a recipe that mimics your favorite pumpkin pie or (fill in the blank) but also abides by your restrictions.
  4. Let the chef in on it: Sometimes, we have to be that person and let the host know what’s up. Generally, if you are being invited to an event, this person is your friend, but even if they aren’t they are probably an understanding adult. You could explain to them why you aren’t eating their pizza casserole this year, that you think it is delicious and would usually ask to take some home for the next day, but this year you will need to avoid it and explain why. This can help you avoid a potentially embarrassing situation of being called out in front of a whole table of people as you avoid a dish. Remember: no one would rather you spend the next day on the toilet than eat their tuna pie; it is okay to privately explain what’s going on.  
  5.  Be your own person: Along the lines of #1, you are your own person and while the above are all tips on avoiding certain foods, if you don’t have a real allergy and just generally like to eat a certain way you can: A) Keep that up because you are a f**cking adult and can eat what you want. Or you can: B) Eat whatever you want because you are a f**cking adult and can eat what you want. “Seconds on pie?” Grandma asks. “Bring it on.”

Overall, don’t feel like you NEED to give everyone your story as to the “why.” It can definitely feel necessary to explain all the reasons, but again, remind yourself that you don’t have to justify wanting to feel good. Generally speaking, no one really cares what foods you are or aren’t putting in your mouth. Do what makes you feel best this holiday season whether that’s 2 extra slices of apple pie and extra whipped cream please or making your own adapted version of the same thing. Have fun and feel free to share any awesome recipes you might have!