How to Navigate the Holidays with a Food Allergy (and Still Eat Deliciously)

Whole roasts with all the trimmings surrounded by mounds of herbed stuffing, creamy green beans covered with crispy onions, baskets of dinner rolls, soft salty butter, savory gravy. This tablescape is all too familiar—the happy tastes and smells of the holiday season. However, since I was diagnosed with celiac disease, that tantalizing tablescape signals caution.

More and more people are being diagnosed with food allergies and intolerances or choosing to follow special diets. While this changes the holiday table we know, it doesn’t have to change the holiday table we love. So let’s take the stress out of navigating the holidays with dietary restrictions, shall we?

Don’t Keep It a Secret.

Telling people about your special diet is just plain awkward. Every time I mention I have celiac disease, the first question I get is, “So, what happens when you eat gluten?” That’s what I call “not-a-first-date conversation.”

But no matter how annoyed your friends might be to talk about your diet all the time, they will be way more annoyed when you pass out because there wasn’t a single scrap of digestible food around for you to gnaw on at their four-hour holiday party. Take ownership—tell the host about your diet and ask for the menu ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

Offer to Make Something Special.

You can’t expect someone who knows nothing about your diet to plan a meal around it. So after you notify the host of your restrictions, offer to bring a dish to share. You’ll look like a grateful guest while being covered if there’s nothing else safe to munch on.

On the same note, if you’re hosting don’t be afraid to ask questions about your guests’ dietary restrictions. It might just be one simple ingredient swap to make your main dish something everyone can eat. Or consider making multiple smaller mains to suit various dietary needs, like this gluten-free lemon-rubbed turkey and this vegetarian galette.

OK, Actually Keep Some Things a Secret.

No one needs to know the delicious dessert you brought is dairy-free or that the beautiful roast sitting on the table doesn’t have any wheat products. Last year I made this Pumpkin Tart with Pecan-Shortbread Crust for Friendsgiving. It’s a fun variation on pumpkin pie that can easily be made gluten-free (just use certified oats!). I made it three more times afterward because it was in such high demand by my friends—they didn’t even know the gluten was missing. Had I told them, I’m sure they would have convinced themselves they hated it, but what they don’t know won’t hurt them. There are so many rave-worthy, allergy-friendly recipes out there—your friends will never know the difference!

Be Prepared.

You’re the only one responsible for your diet, so always go into a holiday party expecting there won’t be enough for you to eat. Whether that means you eat dinner before you go or just load up your bag, pockets, etc., with snacks is up to you. I prefer the latter—my friends may make fun of me for having food on my person at all times, but the tables really turn once you’re all stuck in traffic together and you’re the only one with any car snacks.

 

 

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