The holidays are an exciting time of the year—festive music, parties, events, food traditions. Yet for anyone with food sensitivities or allergies, navigating all these different events can be challenging. But, having a plan for how you’ll deal can help take away some of the stress from an already overwhelming time of year. To set you up for a successful holiday season, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you navigate the holidays with ease (maybe even a little holiday spirit).
Become a Food Detective
It’s time to pull out that journal and spyglass. Okay, maybe not the spyglass part, but the journal may come in handy! The first step to a successful holiday season is to develop a full understanding of your food sensitivities. This may take some time to explore, but we promise it’s 100 percent worth it in the long run.
If you know you have food sensitivities, you likely already have a list of the foods you can’t tolerate. Take this list out and give it a thorough examining. Are you aware of all potential foods that may contain these culprit ingredients? For example, if you’re sensitive to gluten, you may need to be extra cautious around certain sauces and dressings, baked goods, other grains/pastas (farro, barley, couscous), and brewers yeast. This may seem daunting at first, but it will make it much easier to navigate parties and eating out.
Understand Your Limits
One of the tricky things about food sensitivities is that they often occur after consuming a certain amount of the food in question. It’s helpful to have an understanding of your individual limit/tolerance for this food. If you’re sensitive to soy, for instance, perhaps you know that a teaspoon of soy sauce in a dressing won’t cause any major reactions. On the other hand, if you’re following an elimination diet to determine whether you are sensitive to soy, then it will be best to completely avoid the dressing.
Either way, establish these limits ahead of time. You’re much more likely to honor your tolerance if you’ve created these guidelines before you walk in the room and see the food. If you’re uncertain how to identify your individual food sensitivity threshold, our doctor and dietitian would be happy to support you.
Check In Ahead of Time
So you got your first holiday party invitation—now what? As uncomfortable as it may feel, give the host a call and clarify the menu. We promise, it’s much less awkward to ask in advance than to get to the party and realize there is nothing you can eat. If the meal doesn’t happen to have anything that will work with your food sensitivities, offer to bring an extra dish.
Perhaps your holiday party is at a restaurant. Check out the menu in advance and have a few choices in case the restaurant happens to be out of something. When in doubt, give the restaurant a call or ask the server whether your meal of choice may contain that not-so-friendly ingredient.
Always Have a Backup Snack
We can’t stress enough the importance of this next tip. As someone who has food sensitivities, chances are you’re already doing this. However, if you’re new to the game, listen up! What’s worse than arriving to an event only to discover there is nothing you can eat? Arriving to that event with nothing in your back pocket (aka, a backup snack). This is the formula for what we like to call “hanger.”
If you’re headed to a party, even if you already spoke to the host, BYOSF (bring your own safe food). This way you can quickly have a snack, keep your blood sugar levels balanced (no more hanger), and enjoy the party until you’re able to have a full meal.
Boost Your Digestive Support
Your ticket to a pain-free holiday season actually starts before the holidays even begin (or as soon as possible). Work with your doctor and dietitian to establish a protocol to support overall digestive health. In addition to identifying food triggers, your providers will work with you to heal your intestinal lining, reduce inflammation, and keep your digestion happy and healthy.
Depending on your specific needs, your doctor may also help you create an emergency toolkit to navigate any accidental food exposure, because those are never fun, especially amidst the holiday spirit.
Navigating food sensitivities can be tricky. But, our team is here to help if you would like any additional support. Schedule an appointment today to get your holiday season off to a peaceful start.