The holidays are such a fun time of year; from family traditions, to reconnecting with friends and reflecting on memories of years past. There’s something extra magical about the holiday season. For many, holidays are centered around food and the kitchen; which is great when everyone can eat without having to modify and change recipes to fit with ones dietary or food allergies. What do you do when you’re the one in the group with the food restrictions? You don’t want to offend anyone by not eating their food, but you don’t want to get sick and regret it later by trying to be nice and eating food you know is going to hurt you. It’s just an awkward situation if you avoid confrontation. Your first holiday dinner will be a challenge: navigating what you can and cannot eat and educating your loved ones on things such as cross contamination and what is safe and not safe for you. I can assure you that after your first rodeo, you’ll gain confidence in how to approach future holiday dinners and get togethers.
I remember my first Thanksgiving on The Strange Diet. My entire Arizona family got together and I was so worried about how they would react to me bringing my own food and asking them to modify some classic family recipes so I could enjoy them too. To my surprise, my family was happy to change the way they made the turkey for me. I even brought my own food because I didn’t want to add any additional stress – my food ended up being more popular than the classic family staples. I am grateful that my family and friends have been so supportive with adjusting recipes or making recipes that are safe for everyone to enjoy. Fast forward to today and my immediate family is on the same diet, which makes the holidays even more stress free!
You might be wondering, how do I go about telling my family I cannot eat turkey because they use soy oil or that I can’t eat the stuffing because of cross contamination? The first step is just to ask. Although I know not everyone has a supportive group of loved ones, more times than not someone will be able to help you or want to make sure you have an enjoyable experience. I get it, it’s awkward asking the family chef or the people who are bringing food to the potluck to modify food preparation and ingredients. There are a few sunny sides to this situation: it could be a fun challenge for your family! It gives you the opportunity to experiment and approach classic dishes in a new way! The chef in your family might be thrilled with the opportunity of the challenge. At the bare minimum, you get to create a new memory of making a classic dish with a food restrictive twist! If for some reason your family doesn’t want to modify the family recipe, give them a heads up that you will be bringing your own food. No one wants to offend the chef, but if you give the chef notice that you will be bringing in your own dinner rolls that are gluten free it will avoid an awkward Christmas dinner.
At the end of the day, food is food. I think we sometimes get caught up with having certain holiday foods: “It’s not the holidays without _______.” Thanksgiving will still be Thanksgiving without the pies or the cranberry sauce or dinner rolls. Christmas will still go on even without the ham. The holidays are about being with your loved ones and the ones who make you smile. If your family and friends don’t want to accommodate to ensure your food is safe, do you really want to spend a holiday dinner with them in the first place? The holidays are stressful enough, relax and spend it with those who do want to ensure you have a great experience. Want to still attend the family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner even though no one wants to modify or accommodate? My suggestion is to still show up and just hangout with everyone, but also plan a Friendsgiving where you can be around people who care and don’t mind adjusting recipe ingredients for you. When in doubt just drink wine and everything will be fine!
If you have food allergies or restrictions, you need to speak up and ensure that everyone understands the importance of why you cannot eat certain foods. It’s not worth getting sick over! The key to a successful event, relationship, etc. is communication.
The food allergy community is growing and so are the food options. There are so many companies excited to make classic holiday staples that you don’t have to make allergy friendly pies from scratch anymore.
May your kitchen be filled with memories through the next few months. May they be filled with loved ones and yummy food. I hope this upcoming holiday season for you is food allergy friendly and stress free!