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Navigating Food Allergies and Healthy Holiday Eating

Dec 2021 | Food Sensitivities

Food Allergies or Intolerances Can Be Difficult to Navigate

I was 17 years old when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. My first reaction was pure relief because I finally knew what was torturing me for ten plus years. My second reaction was worry over the reaction of others. Will people think I’m high maintenance due to my diet requirement? In the beginning, I was apologetic for my dietary needs. I was concerned that my friends wouldn’t want to put up with my gluten free diet. I was afraid that no one would want to date me because I had limited options at restaurants and couldn’t drink beer. Over time, I became more comfortable communicating my needs. It took a little more maturing through college for me to feel comfortable at parties where traditional beer was the common drink. These responses were not surprising for a young girl who is trying to navigate life, yet alone, life with an autoimmune disease and a rigid diet.

What’s interesting is that most of my clients feel this way too. Why is requesting a diet modification taboo? It shouldn’t be. Living with celiac disease and many other diseases require lifestyle modification. Diet modification is becoming an increasing component of healthy living. If you communicate your dietary requirements others will come to respect your health needs. If they don’t, you need a new circle of friends.

My friends modeled this supportive response as teenagers. They helped me get through the awkwardness with humor, and they were supportive of my needs. This response has been echoed throughout my life. My family became gluten free. My college friends found gluten free alternatives to alcohol. I still had the traditional 21st birthday celebration. My husband became gluten free for me. Even my book club includes gluten free options. I know there are many support networks out there to help you navigate life with dietary requirements. All you must do is communicate.


Food Allergies and Healthy Holiday Eating

I bring this up because it’s holiday time. Holidays mean increased parties, travel, and mixed family gatherings. I want to share some tips to help you or those with friends and family who require diet modification to make navigating food allergies and healthy holiday eating a little easier.

Be prepared.

This holds true for eating out, going to someone’s house, attending an event or when traveling. Call and request information about the menu or check for restaurants or vendors that cater to your needs. Let them know what you need and ask if they can accommodate you.

Never go hungry.

Eat throughout the day to make sure you are meeting your needs. This will ensure that your body is well fed in case your plan doesn’t work out.

Bring a snack.

I’ve attended many a wedding or holiday party with a bar or trail mix bag hidden in my clutch.

Offer to bring food to the party.

This way you will know that you have something to eat.

If you are a host, check in with your guests regarding food sensitivities.

This may make the person with dietary requirements more comfortable communicating their needs.

Check labels of ingredients before using them.

Never assume foods are safe. As the host, show your guests the ingredient labels so they feel safe.

Avoid cross contamination.

Cross contamination is a big issue. Make sure each dish has its own utensil for serving.

Try easy substitutions that you know will work.

For example, olive oil for butter or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk for dairy sensitive individuals. Experiment with rice flour to make a gluten free gravy. You might be surprised at the result and change the recipe forever.

Include a variety of beverages.

That way those abstaining from alcohol can have a fun mock-tail. This is a good idea for the kiddos as well as adults.

Politely decline foods on your no-no list.

You don’t have to eat everything that is offered to you. Focus on socialization with friends and family. Instead of filling your plate, you may be filling your contact list.

What are some common food allergies to consider for holiday meals or parties?

Reduced sugar/no sugar:

Make a dessert using Lakanto sugar. This way everyone can indulge in something sweet. If you aren’t a baker, feel free to offer a bowl of berries and cheese as a sweet end to a rich meal.

Gluten free:

Any type of traditional bread, roll, or stuffing is NOT an option. Gluten is found in other items too but those three carbs are most commonly served as part of a holiday menu. You can purchase gluten free rolls in the freezer section of most grocery stores. If you’re adventurous, you could try to make your traditional stuffing recipe with gluten free bread. Is that too much? Then, buy a gluten free stuffing box from the local Trader Joe’s or Williams Sonoma.

Dairy free:

You might be surprised how much butter is used in holiday cooking. Alternatives to butter include coconut oil or butter substitutes. This will also make your vegan friends happy.

Peanut free:

I recommend eliminating peanuts or any peanut based food product from the menu. Use other nuts such as almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachios or walnuts. You can even use alternative nut and seed butters. Instead of peanut oil, use almond, walnut, avocado or grapeseed oil.

Egg free:

Try a flax egg, chia egg or psyllium husk egg. If the recipe calls for one egg, these are good substitutes. If the recipe calls for multiple eggs, try an egg substitute powder or unsweetened applesauce. Check out this link for egg substitutions.


Include plenty of vegetable side dishes in your menu. Everyone will thank you for the addition of vegetables to a rich menu.

Hopefully these tips have helped you understand some of the common food allergies or intolerances that can affect one of your loved ones and how you can better prepare for healthy holiday eating.

Here’s to a holiday filled with good cheer and good health!

If you’d like more information on food allergies, visit my services covering food sensitivity testing.

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