It’s a season of love, joy, peace. . . and stress? For those us with restricted diets, the holidays can be a struggle, especially when we are sharing meals with those who don’t adhere to the same eating style as we do. So how do we survive the holidays without sacrificing good times or our well-being?
It’s sad, but true, that many people who follow a specific diet (out of need or choice) opt to “check out” of holiday gatherings. Relationships are of such central importance in our lives, however, that we really shouldn’t let our dietary choices limit our interactions with others. I’m happy to share that our family has successfully hosted holiday meals in our home for years and we’ve attended family gatherings and work/friend parties with ease, despite our unique dietary issues.
How is this possible? The key is planning ahead. If we just “show up” we’re setting ourselves up for failure, and we’ll end up feeling more and more deprived or embittered as the holiday treats are passed round. Having a strategy makes a world of difference!
Strategy #1- Bring some good stuff! It is so important to know you have some good options when you attend a holiday meal or party. We have certain dishes we love, that people who eat the standard American diet also enjoy, and we depend upon these simple recipes for our “party fare.” These dishes are great because they fill our need for tasty fare, and they give others an opportunity to try some good, wholesome food. So, whether you’re hosting a party or just attending, prepare a couple of reliable dishes.
Strategy #2– Talk through the options. Face it- there will be some really tempting goodies available. It’s beneficial to talk through (especially if you have young children) what other foods might be “good” or “okay” choices. This helps prevent some of the “heartbreak” that can come when you’re presented with foods that you know aren’t best for your health. You’ve already said “No” to them in advance and it won’t be as great a struggle. You also know that, at the bare minimum, you’ll have your own dishes to enjoy.
Strategy #3– Have some “better” treats in mind. We use this strategy a lot when we’re attending an event where we have even less input on the foods available (like catered events or a children’s birthday party). We enjoy whatever wholesome options there might be and we’ve strategized in advance that in place of the inevitable gluten-laden foods and sweets that are available, we will treat ourselves to a gluten-free treat after the event. We call this “trading up” with our children. Of course, for a holiday gathering, you can bring these nice options to share. Our gluten-free apple crisp is always popular. And at the holidays, my gluten-free pumpkin pie is requested by gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters alike!
Strategy #4– This may sound crazy- but eat ahead (or after)! This works great for parties or catered events where it isn’t appropriate to bring something to contribute or you know there won’t be any good options. It also works well for holiday meals and parties where you know your appetite for “less than best” foods may be stronger than you’d like. You might eat a whole meal or just a large snack to decrease your interest in eating. You can still participate in the event, but the eating isn’t the central activity. And it’s quite okay to answer that you’re just not hungry if someone inquires why you’re not eating. Remember, you are at the event for the interaction with others, not just to satisfy your taste buds, so avoid the struggle by taking the edge off your hunger in advance.
Author Information: Kim Wilson has spent over 12 years working exclusively with whole foods to develop recipes that satisfy a variety of needs (for those just beginning to eat healthy to serious raw-fooders to those with extensive food allergies and health conditions like candida)- all in a tasty, enjoyable and affordable way. Her recipes don’t just avoid ingredients that contain gluten, but also a number of other foods that are problematic for many people (soy, dairy, eggs, sugar, yeast, animal products, etc.). Whereas most gluten-free products and recipes depend heavily upon refined ingredients and costly gums and starches (devoid of nutrition, fiber and flavor!) her recipes are prepared exclusively with whole foods. So when you prepare gluten-free recipes in this way, not only will you be eating gluten-free and allergen-free, but you’ll be eating better!
Her website: Simply Natural Health
Her recipe blog: WHOLEmade
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