Today, I invited my friend Veronica to talk about something we all have to deal with in life. You know those guests with allergies or surviving the holiday season as a person with food allergies. It’s a difficult time of year, because you’re going to many parties and you don’t always have control over what you’re served. How do you survive the holidays with food allergies? What do you do for food allergies and holidays at your house? Veronica is sharing with us her incredible story, and I’m so blessed to have her here. I hope you enjoy!
I love the holidays! Even as an introvert, I love seeing the holidays as an all-inclusive, everyone is invited as you are, warm-your-heart kind of season. Good times and lots of laughter with family and friends are the best – even if I’m being an introvert and observing it all from a comfy chair.
However, several years ago, the holidays were coming up and I was nearly in tears.
We discovered that both my daughter and I were sensitive to many items including most preservatives, gluten, dairy, and a host of other things. In total, we had a list of about 20 items we had to avoid. I felt completely overwhelmed at the idea of creating a traditional holiday meal that was allergy friendly.
Not only was the meal for our little family, but we’d be in the tradition of hosting many friends on the holidays for nearly 10 years now. Our holiday guest list had crept up to 10 to 16 people even though we lived thousands of miles away from family. We loved sharing the holidays with friends that didn’t have family in the area either. We were involved in several ministries, mentoring and befriending those coming out of difficult times, such as human trafficking, homelessness, and/or addictions. We always invited them to join us, for some, it was the first home cooked Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday meal they had ever experienced.
On top of the stress of cooking for the actual holiday itself, I had fears and concerns about enjoying the company party or friend’s parties without being anti-social or getting sick.
As I said, I was in near tears. How was I going to pull off a gluten-free, dairy-free, (might as well be “everything free”) holiday season?
Honestly, the first holiday was rough, but then I got a handle on it.
Here’s my little guide to surviving the holidays with food allergies and still being social.
1 – Communicate
Let the hosts know about your allergies. Not in a – Everyone has to work around me! – kind of an attitude, but an honest – Can we work together on this? – kind of a way. It’s very important that you are clear on how big of a deal your allergies are to your health. Are you in danger of going to ER or winding up in a life or death situation? If so, tell your hosts or any other cooks. Luckily, my family’s allergies aren’t that serious – we might be awake all night with stomach issues, fatigued the next day or two, but we aren’t going to die. Help ease your friends’ minds or help them to understand your very real concerns.
2 – Make a Plan
Can you bring allergy friendly dishes to the event? Can you offer to help coordinate the food at the company party? Do you have highly recommended delicious recipes that fit your needs? What’s your favorite holiday dish? Make sure you prepare your so you can feel good about eating it even if you can’t have other dishes at the event.
3 – Take Action
Call the restaurant or caterer to ask about ingredients & if they can do alternates for you. Ask the host if you can provide allergy friendly recipes. It doesn’t hurt to ask, just make the call. If you are cooking – buy your ingredients in advance ( the day before doesn’t count) to make sure you have what you need on hand. If you are nervous about making one of your favorite dishes, try it out now. Stuffing for Tuesday dinner anyone??
4 – Set a Schedule
If you are doing the cooking, a schedule is going to be key in helping you avoid stress. Look at cooking temperatures & times to determine when you need to cook each dish & how you can multi-task. The more efficiently you plan your day, the less you will be stressed on that day. Perhaps you can cook a dish or two the night before? Can you use a slow cooker for anything? Look at delegating tasks to your family or friends. Provide the recipe with clear instructions to anyone else willing to cook an allergy-friendly dish for you.
5 – Chill Out
You’ve prepped as much as you can. Now go to that party or event with a positive mindset. You might not be able to eat everything, but hopefully, you’ve either brought something to share or the chef is preparing something special for you. If all of your attempts to cook or change the menus has failed. Eat a bunch of your “safe food” in the car, then go into the party happy for the opportunity to be with friends.
If you’re at home – plan to sit down and watch the parade with your family. Grab some board games to play with your guests. Plan an afternoon walk or short hike. Join the kids for some backyard football. Don’t sweat the small stuff in the kitchen, even if your gravy comes out lumpy or the turkey is a little dry – at least you got to spend the day with friends & family instead of all day in the kitchen. Enjoy making some good memories with your family & friends.
*Bonus Challenge – Perhaps your holidays are always for close family only. Try to open up a bit more this year. Invite someone else to join you. Maybe someone else with a food allergy? Ask a close friend, an acquaintance, or the homeless person you always see but never know how to start a conversation with him or her. If you’ve never reached out to others in this way, it may feel a little uncomfortable. You’re right. Inviting others over may increase the chance of stress, but you’ve reduced the potential for stress or sickness through solid preparation and made yourself available to prioritize spending time with others this holiday. Why not take the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life too? I can’t promise it will be perfect, but it will be beautiful.
Veronica Lamb with Radiant Life Consulting coaches Change Makers and community advocates to prioritize healthy habits in their own lives so they can get fueled up, out the door, actively being the change they were created to be in this world. Find her online at Facebook Group and Instagram.
Veronica’s Healthy Holidays course has opened up again this year. In this course, she will prepare you to create a stress-free holiday meal that includes allergy friendly recipes; a shopping list; and a schedule that ensures your day will run smoothly – leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the holiday spirit. Her learned lessons in preparing allergy-free meals for a crowd and attending holiday functions are detailed below. Enjoy this article and click on the links for more support.