Navigating the Holidays with Dietary Restrictions

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The holidays can be a stressful time if you follow certain diets or require adjustments to food and recipes out of necessity.  Going over to friends or family homes when you’re unsure of what’s prepared may engender feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, or stress.  Additionally, if you’re the one preparing the food or hosting, making sure all guests are accommodated can feel like quite the challenge. Here are some tips for either situation to make for an easy, fun, and delicious holiday season. 

If you’re the guest: 

  1. Notify your host/hostess ahead of time:This is a kind gesture to keep your host or hostess aware of any serious food allergies or food restrictions. Trust me, no one wants to be the host/hostess that serves peanut butter pie with someone in the room with a peanut allergy.  Instead of framing this as requesting certain foods, simply put it out there so they know why you may or may not indulge in some of their food offerings. This conversation also offers the opportunity to ask ahead of time what will be on the menu.  
  2. Offer to bring a plate or plates of foods you can eat: This ensures that there’s something present at the event that you can enjoy eating without any guilt or questioning.  Plus, this also adds some nice variety and an opportunity to show to friends and family what fun dishes you enjoy while still accommodating dietary modifications. 
  3. Never arrive hungry: Before any event, have a light snack or meal before arriving. This way, if there’s limited food that you can enjoy, you’ll at least have something in your stomach to get you through the day or evening. 
  4. Bring snacks with you: Similar to the above recommendation, don't be afraid to pack a few snacks in your bag to have with you in case you’re limited on options. I do this even without any dietary restrictions as you never know what the schedule will be or what options might look like. 
  5. Bring your epi-pen: If you have a severe food allergy, always bring your epi-pen with you. Even if you know what the host/hostess is preparing, there's always a chance for cross contamination by accident or there may be someone else who brings a dish that was unaware of the food allergy you carry. 

If you’re the host/hostess:  

  1. Ask ahead: When sending out invites or planning the menu, ask your guests if there are any dietary restrictions you should be aware of. It seems simple and obvious to do this, but can easily get overlooked. This will make your friends/family with dietary restrictions feel taken care of even ahead of time and more comfortable at your event. 
  2. Accommodate but don’t over accommodate: If you have a friend or family member who is vegetarian, having a few vegetarian options or one main vegetarian alternative to the main dish is plenty. Don’t feel like you need to adjust the entire menu to eliminate ingredients that would otherwise be enjoyed by others- including yourself! After all, it is your party, you should have your cake and eat it, too! 
  3. Limit mixed dishes: If possible, consider having sides or dishes that are single ingredients instead of mixed and allowing guests to pick and choose how they want to mix their ingredients. Similar to a buffet style, this allows for people to enjoy more options while still considering their dietary restrictions along with their personal preferences. 
  4. Ask for suggestions: If you’re stuck on what to make to accommodate a guest with food restrictions, simply ask them for their favorite holiday recipe that they feel comfortable consuming. There’s a good chance that they’ll offer to bring something themselves but in the event that they don’t, take them up on their offer to provide you with a recipe. You’ve already got a lot on your plate hosting, let’s keep it simple! 
  5. Have guests bring non-food items: If multiple food allergies or restrictions are of a concern for an event you’re hosting, consider asking guests to bring non-food items that will be helpful such as plates, napkins, silverware, drinks, games, party favors etc. This will help take care of other aspects of your event while keeping the food preparation in a controlled environment where restrictions and allergies are known.

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