I’ve written ad nauseum about food allergies and sensitivities on this blog. Every time I think I’ve perhaps written too much about those topics, I take a peek at my web traffic statistics and note that the most popular posts on the site, week after week, are the practical ones with guides for either the six-food elimination diet (avoiding dairy, soy, egg, nuts, wheat, and fish) or the chylothorax diet (avoiding fat). I imagine that these posts are most commonly read by people struggling to feed themselves or someone they love. In my heart, I wrote them for a past version of myself, up in the night searching the web for information that, quite simply, didn’t exist.
At the holidays — these winter ones or others throughout all four seasons — it is hardest to be someone with food restrictions. Whether it is my daughter, who had to be on those two diets (among several others!) over the first nine years of her life, or me — dairy intolerant and severely allergic to fish — our family is incredibly aware of the limitations imposed on our social life by these restrictions. In my wider family, I love people who are allergic to nuts, who are on anti-inflammatory diets for auto-immune diseases, who are recovering from eating disorders, and who are diabetic. In all likelihood, there are others in my family with dietary needs that they keep to themselves. Yet somehow, we all manage to eat together, in each other’s homes and at restaurants, without too much disruption.
This happens because we love each other.
When some of us are really in the mood for thai food, we go when our nut-allergic family member isn’t with us. When everyone wants ice cream, we look for an ice cream or frozen yogurt shop that also serves sorbet or other non-dairy frozen desserts. At the holidays, I think carefully about everyone’s needs and try to be sure that there is at least something for everyone. Here’s how you can do this too:
- Offer options. If someone is bringing fresh bread, I make sure there’s butter for it and a non-dairy spread of some kind — Earth Balance vegan spread, jam, or something extra fun, like dairy-free cream cheese. You can do this with DIY salads, taco bars, pizza crusts, etc.
- Think “top-8 free.” Almost universally, if you offer a couple of things that have none of the top 8 allergens in them, you’ll be safe for most of your guests. This means no dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish. That’s easier than you think! A tray of veggies and hummus, a really good vegetarian soup, rice and grilled vegetables — all of them are pretty safe bets.
- Don’t forget dessert. It’s pretty crummy to sit at the table and watch everyone eating dessert without you. Ask everyone with food restrictions who is coming for your holiday meal what they can eat for dessert. Either make it or ask them to bring it.
I have more holiday accommodation tips in these posts:
- Latkes Work for Everyone: how potato pancakes are an easy way to accommodate food allergies
- How to Feed the People You Host: more specific tips about allergic guests
- Mother Blessing: on learning to make an easy, customizable meal that works for many dietary restrictions
- Six Things Not to Say to A Family on a Restrictive Diet: a reminder of the things you should avoid saying to your guests who have food restrictions
If you’re sharing the holidays with family — related or chosen — one way to show your love is to feed them with love. Even a bowl of fresh raspberries, beautifully displayed and glistening, is a treat for someone who thought they’d be eating a protein shake for dinner.
However you’re celebrating this winter, I hope you have the chance to give and receive love with a full heart!
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where Kenya (from Sporadically Yours) and Kristi (from Finding Ninee) host a prompt. This week’s a five-minute stream-of-consciousness post about “Family and the holidays…”