Navigating your way through food sensitivities can be difficult to begin with. But navigating your way through food sensitivities over the holidays?! Eeeep – what about all of the peppermint, gingerbread and egg nog-goodness?! Not to fret – after reading these tips, you will feel readily equipped to take on any holiday gathering with your food sensitivities!
Before we dive into it, let me just break down what a food sensitivity actually is. Food sensitivities are delayed reactions to specific foods that are triggered by IgG antibodies. Common symptoms experienced by those with IgG food sensitivties are migraines, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating and, brain fog and low energy. IgG food sensitivities differ from IgE food allergies which trigger the release of histamine and cause an immediate reaction in which symptoms appear within minutes or hours. An example of this would be adverse symptoms as a result of exposure to pollen, peanuts, shellfish or mold.
I've worked with a number of clients who I helped find their way through their new list of food sensitivities. It can be super daunting to look at your list of off-limit foods. People often have a look of fear on their face and say "But what am I supposed to eat?!" But what we have to remember, is that it's only temporary and typically only requires avoidance of the specific foods for anywhere from 3-6 months. Plus, there are still tons of things you can eat – it just requires a bit of creativity!
So how do we honour our food sensitivites and enjoy the holidays without coming home with a belly ache because we decided to be polite and eat what the host of the party offered us, even though we knew it wouldn't end in a pretty way? I'm about to tell you!
Tips To Navigate The Holidays With Food Sensitivities
Bring Your Own Food To Holiday Parties
If you're going to a potluck, the odds might already be in your favour for this one as you'll be required to bring a dish to the party anyway. Even if it's not a potluck, offer to bring a dish that is ________ (insert your name here)-friendly. That way, you can be positive that you'll have something to eat at the party and won't have to let yourself go "hangry", or worse, get hangry and eat all of the food that you're sensitive to and that triggers unpleasant symptoms.
Some yummy crowd-pleasing recipes include this Not Your Mama's Meatloaf Meatballs, Guacamole Deviled Eggs or this Orange Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Bark (unless you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in those recipes, of course). This is your opportunity to show people that healthy food can be super delicious too!
Don't Assume. Ask!
In the event that you aren't able to bring your own dish to a holiday party and have to rely on what is being served there, don't make assumptions about what ingredients are in a dish. Simply, ask the host or the person who made the dish! I know you want to be polite and don't want to be a nuisance to anyone, but I promise you, it's not worth enduring the crippling stomach aches or frequent trips to the toilet that can follow eating a food that you have a sensitivity to.
Call Ahead If You're Going Out For Dinner
Are you celebrating a holiday get together at a restaurant? How fun! If you're not familiar with the restaurant and their menu, I would recommend checking out their menu online ahead of time to see what options you have available to you with your list of food sensitivities (this is my favourite thing to do by the way, food sensitivities or not – anyone else?) But again, don't assume – simply ask! Call ahead and confirm the ingredients used in a few of the dishes you're eyeing and confirm that they will be able to accomodate your sensitivity.
Eat Before You Go Out
Eating a food sensitivity-friendly meal or snack at home before you go out holiday-ing with your friends and family is a great way to ensure your belly is full so you're not left to eat foods at the party that contain ingredients you're sensitive to, or worse – go hangry! Can you tell I hate being hangry?! That way, if there are foods that are food sensitivity-friendly that you'd like to enjoy, you can enjoy, nibble and sip away without the urgency of filling up on a full meal.
Remember How It Makes You Feel
Once you see that creamy egg-nog or that wheel of brie cheese paired ever so beautifully with a caramelized onion chutney, it might be easy to throw in the towel and dive in, despite the fact that casein (dairy) is your top offending food.
I recommend you think back and remember how that specific food made you feel last time you ate it. If you "caved" and had the cheese, despite the fact that you are very sensitive to dairy and it left you with a queasy stomach, running to the washroom; that might be enough for you to pass on it this time around.
Instead of telling yourself a food is off limits for reason X, Y, Z; simply ask yourself, "How does this food make me feel?" If it's a "no bueno" then it's a no brainer!
Don't Let The Group Pressure Get To You
I get it. It's not the most fun being the odd one out of a group who can't do what everyone else is doing. But you're going to have to stick to your guns and stand your ground on this one. Surely, people will ask you why you aren't eating or drinking a specific food or drink that everyone else is consuming. Usually they are asking this because it makes them feel uncomfortable in some way or form about their own actions, but that's not induced by any of your doing! You can also just tell them you're doing a detox!
In this case, don't feel the need to explain yourself, unless of course you want to. I find that saying something along the lines of "I'm working on resolving some health issues at the moment" or "I haven't been feeling too awesome when consuming that food as of late so I'm taking a bit of a break from it" are often effective, straight-to-the-point methods to deter the conversation. No one is going to pressure or challenge you for honouring your health. And if they do, pass them along to me ;) I've got your back!
While managing food sensitivities during the holidays can come with an extra challenge, remember that it's not forever. If managed properly with the support of gut-healing foods and supplements, you will likely be able to enjoy those foods again in a matter of 6 months. Of course, this differs from person to person, but once we recognize that the food we feel we are missing out on will be there for us tomorrow or in 6 months when our body can tolerate it again, managing food sensitivities becomes easier.
Do you suspect that you are sensitive to certain foods, or are experiencing unexplained bloating, brain fog, low energy or headaches after eating?
Take a Food Sensitivity Test to get a list of your food sensitivities (includes a complimentary 15-minute consultation to review your results with you from a Holistic Nutritionist from the Joyous Team).
What do you find most challenging about dealing with food sensitivities during the holidays?