It’s not easy going through life with food allergies, sensitivities, special diets or other health based reasons for a significantly different diet that the diet others in your life have. Hopefully, those other people in your life are aware and understanding of the differences and are willing to help you. I know, however, that this is often not the case. So, I’ve put together some tips and tricks that I use, personally, to help me get through the holiday parties and family dinners with both supportive and insensitive hosts. I hope this helps you develop your own methods and that you stay safe and healthy this holiday season!
If you can, tell your hosts ahead of time that you have specific dietary needs.
If you are going to a friend or family event, it is probably not too hard for you mention any special needs or share food related concerns ahead of time. If the event is work related or less personal, it may be more difficult to make special requests, but you can certainly try. My husband’s office is hosting a dinner party this year, so he has talked with the party committee and they are going to ensure there are some gluten free options!
Offer to help with food prep or bring a dish that you know is safe for you.
When you talk to your friends and family about their holiday parties, offer to come early to prep food – this will allow you to see firsthand what goes into some of the dishes and can alleviate some of the extra work of converting things to allergy friendly foods. If you can’t go help beforehand, see if you can bring a dish or two that are safe for your family.
Bring a snack for yourself.
I never go anywhere – including parties – without a snack in my purse. Load up your bag with trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit, etc! This way, if you get to the event and it turns out there isn’t an option available you won’t stave.
Eat ahead of time.
If you know there is little to no chance of safe foods at the party, eat a meal ahead of time. Better safe than sick, so plan ahead and a good meal before.
Try not to focus on the food – enjoy the party for the social and human connections.
It’s hard, but if you do end up eating your meal ahead of time and then are watching everyone else munching away on foods you can’t have, try not to let it get to you too much. Focus on the positives and the people you came to see rather than what foods are provided.
At the party, ask the host what is safe and what is not.
Don’t be afraid to ask what ingredients are in the dishes you want to try! This goes for homemade foods and catered foods! If there isn’t anything set out you can eat, they may be able to find something for you once they are aware you’ll be hungry.
Bring any medication or emergency information you might need.
If you or your family members have severe allergies and there are medications (like an Epipen) that might be needed, bring them. Keep them on hand. It’s just not worth it to be unprepared.
If food allergies also effect others in your family, prepare the same for them.
If you have young children, be sure to talk to them ahead of time about the importance of only eating safe foods. At the party, let them know what foods are ok for them and remind them to ask you if they aren’t sure if something is ok.
I hope these tips and tricks will help you with your holiday plans. I have used all of these strategies and usually don’t have any problems staying safe. The important thing is that you don’t let the food part of the holidays interfere with or damage the other, more enjoyable parts!