Do you hear that? That’s the sound of belts unbuckling, buttons popping and pants giving way for all the holiday foods that are upon us. Now that the holidays are around the corner, it’s time to start making room for family, friends, and all the holiday food. To some, this is the time of year to look forward to, while for others it can be one of the most undesirable times. The reason? Food Allergies and Intolerances.
Let’s just clear up what the differences are in two sentences. A food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body (think peanut allergy), while a food intolerance is often less serious and mostly limited to digestive problems (think lactose intolerance). Some of the symptoms of both can be similar, however a true allergy can cause a more serious and/or life-threatening reaction.
A person who has an allergy or intolerance has to be mindful of all the ingredients in the foods they will eat. With the plethora of foods and treats during this time of year it can be a little frustrating, depressing, and isolating because a majority of the dishes contain foods that can cause some pretty serious reactions.
However, there are a few tips to help make this season something to look forward to and even exciting when you have a food allergy or intolerance.
1. Make Pinterest and Instagram Your Best Friend
These two social media platforms have really revolutionized the way we make and prepare our foods. Outside of the ‘pretty’ dishes and desserts, both Pinterest and Instagram provide really good search platforms for people with allergies. Simply type in an allergy-free food you’re looking for and you will find hundreds of recopies that have been re-makes of your favorite things. Most recipes are tagged with hash tags, so they can be super easy to find.
From gluten-free pies to dairy-free chocolates, you’re sure to find a recipe that will mimic its full-ingredient counterpart. If you don’t find one that’s quite right, modify it with ingredients that you can eat and make your own.
2. Eat Before You Leave
Sometimes you will attend events in which a majority of the people will be people you’re meeting for the first time. It can be nerve wrecking enough when you’re meeting your future in-laws, or even being the new mom on the block who scored an invite to a potential new friend. Adding food allergies and intolerances to the mix can make it even more stressful.
Eating before you leave can ensure you won’t eat something that may cause a reaction. AND it will guarantee that you will not be so hungry when you attend that you slip up and ‘accidentally’ eat something you shouldn’t have. Believe me, we’ve all been there, and then had to run home because something came up – or, out.
3. Host the Meal
One of the best ways you can control what’s in the food you are about to eat is to simply host the meal. While it may be a little heavy on the wallet, it may be worth it. Particularly if the food allergy/intolerance is severe. Another idea? On the invite ask others if they want to participate in a potluck. This way your other guests can bring dishes that they want to eat, which could be less cooking for you.
4. Contact the Host/ess About The Food They’re Serving
If someone else is hosting the meal, don’t be afraid to contact the host/ess to ask about the food they’re serving. Inquire about ingredients they’re using, and even offer to bring a few dishes to help them out. Sometimes they’ll be so inclined that they will make sure to have edible dishes for you.
5. Take Food With You
A majority of the time I end up taking my food. When I first started doing this, I’m not going to lie; I was mortified. BUT, the great thing is that I was able to control what I was eating. Most times whenever I’ve brought my food, people who ate with me always wanted a taste, and ended up leaving with the recipes. This was because the dishes were so appealing and different from what they normally eat (Thank You Instagram!). This has ended up in a lot of people cooking the foods that I can eat. Bonus? This get’s me quite a few dinner invites I am able to attend because I can eat the food!
6. Find a Restaurant That Will Cater To You
It can be daunting and embarrassing if you’re planning on eating out for the holidays because there will be many times that there won’t be a lot of options. Please know that it’s OKAY. Find places that will work with menu modifications due to allergies/intolerances, and ask others to meet there.
Simply get on Google Maps or YELP to search for restaurants. Once you find some, make sure you call ahead of time and ask them about catering to someone with allergies/intolerances. Once you get to the restaurant, go over the menu with the server to ensure you’re going to get dishes that you can eat. Don’t forget to leave them a good tip!
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season.