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Photograph by Natalie Pitts @npcatherine.
Photograph by Natalie Pitts @npcatherine.

4 Tips For How to Navigate the Holidays With Food Allergies

4 min read

Oh, what fun it is to… receive another holiday invite centering on traditions, family recipes, office treats and comfort foods. Hold up, though. If you’re one of the 220 to 250 million people worldwide who suffer from food allergies, looking for the perfect party outfit isn’t the only thing on your mind when it comes to accepting a holiday invitation. Ruminating on what you’ll eat or how to manage the social interactions built around food can weigh on a person for weeks in advance.

Aside from possible life-threatening allergies, the consequences of eating something you can’t tolerate can linger and be debilitating for months. With respect to the struggle, we don’t want food allergies to impinge on all your holiday fun. Keep reading for four tips on how to navigate the holidays with food allergies. 

1. Have the hard conversations ahead of time.

If there’s a significant sit-down meal involved, it greatly helps to contact the host ahead of time and ask what the food options will be. While educating others about your restrictions is not easy, it’s decidedly better than awkwardly explaining why your plate is empty. Best case scenario? Your host will already have options that work for you or be grateful for the heads up and time to make adjustments. There’s no controlling the level of understanding or the kind of response you might receive, but good or bad, knowledge is power, and you’ll know what your next best step should be.

2. Eat before you go.

Are you sick of asking and talking about what you can and can’t eat? We get it. Sometimes you’ll want to fly under the radar. Use this as an opportunity to plan an extra special meal at a restaurant or home before you go. When you show up to a gathering already filled up, you won’t be stuck hungry without options or triggered by overwhelming emotions in the middle of a party. Instead, picture yourself satisfied with a drink of choice in hand and totally set for a conversation that is mindful rather than distracted.

3. Offer to bring an appetizer or dessert.

And make it the best allergen-free dish anyone has ever had! Sound like pressure? It doesn’t have to be hard. Try a beautiful board of fruits, nuts, meats and vegetables you can enjoy or chocolate truffles for dessert made with your allergy compliant ingredients. This simple recipe for naturally sweetened pecans with a touch of spice is a simple addition to drinks, your board of fruits and vegetables, a dessert or a salad. 

Sweet & Spicy Pecans by Heather Bursch | shemadeitshemight.com

Sweet & Spicy Roasted Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups raw pecans
  • 1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. clarified butter, ghee or coconut oil melted
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne (Double this if you want more spice!)
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Whisk together the syrup, butter or oil, cayenne and salt.
  3. Pour over pecans in a bowl and toss until thoroughly coated.
  4. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread pecans in a single layer apart from one another. Bake for 8-10 minutes until starting to look darker in color and lightly toasted.
  5. Sprinkle with a pinch more of sea salt and allow to cool on baking sheet. When completely cool, store in an airtight container.

4. Throw an allergy-free dinner party.

Instead of waiting for the holiday invitations to roll in, host your own dinner party, with allergen-friendly option. Design the menu to fit your needs and essentially create your personal allergy-friendly support team. Your efforts and intentions will inadvertently educate your friends and family about the specific allergy, and purposefully illustrate what inclusion can and should look like when entertaining. For a quick how-to on planning an allergy-free dinner party, follow these steps:

  1. Decide what 8-10 safe and supportive people you want to invite. You might not be 100 percent on this until after you throw the party, but trust your discernment and take a risk.
  2. Choose whether you’ll serve a full meal or appetizers and drinks. (Don’t forget dessert!)
  3. Send out an invite with requests for specifics on food preferences or allergens, even if you think you know what they are! This ask is a gift to anyone with allergies and is an entertaining 101 step that most people skip or assume. 
  4. Make a list of things anyone could bring to go with your menu the main. Things like crudités, beverages, chips or crackers are easy requests. Be very specific on brands and ingredients and say yes when someone asks what they can bring.
  5. Pick a couple of friends to help cook and serve.

While executing a party is mental and physical work vs. the aforementioned emotional toil, the return of celebrating for a night with friends and having food freedom might be the peace you’re looking for this holiday season.

Need more allergy-free recipes? Check out these dinner party ideas for multiple food sensitivities.

About The Author

Heather Bursch

Heather Bursch

After teaching first graders for seven years, Heather Bursch went from creating reading lessons to designing dinner parties as a personal chef. She credits her three kids with teaching her how to eat well as they've lived and learned together about how good food makes them feel. Heather believes food is for health and pleasure and works to celebrate both the daily greens and seasonal desserts. She writes at shemadeitshemight.com, WELLinsiders.com and you can find her posting @heatherbursch on Instagram about food, life, cooking classes and all things in between.

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