The holidays are coming. For many this means you need to talk to your family about dietary restrictions. Some families and friends can be understanding towards the changes you want to make in your life. But if your family is anything like mine, they look at your choices to better your health as a fad or a passing fancy. This can make it difficult for social events where you have continually explain to people why you choose to eat the things you do. Or it can mean that you feel guilted into eat foods you know don’t make you feel well. Or worse, you may unknowingly be exposed to foods you can’t eat because someone doesn’t fully understand what it means to have a food allergy or intolerance.
If you are feeling nervous or anxious about broaching the food conversation this holiday season, here are some pointers to help you get through it.
Get specific about your allergy
Some dietary restrictions are straight forward in a single sentence. Saying “I can’t eat potatoes” is really straightforward. But saying that you can’t have nightshades may be confusing to some. Specifying the foods in that particular group (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant….) can be helpful for people to wrap their minds around. Other food groups like dairy are also not intuitive for people. A lot of people think that eggs are included in dairy because they see them in the dairy section at the grocery store. Saying “I can’t eat butter, milk, cheese or cream from cows” is specific and can be understood by most people.
Ask for specific ingredients in food
If you are concerned that people in your family don’t understand what your dietary restriction might entail, ask them! If you tell someone that you can’t have dairy and they tell you that a very cheesy looking dish is dairy free, try to clarify that. You don’t have to ask in an accusatory way, but instead say “wow! That looks delicious! What did you put in it?” And if it contains something you can’t eat, replying with a “I wish I could eat it! Unfortunately, it contains butter which makes me feel sick.” Asking ahead of time is always better than waiting for the consequences of eating the food later.
Offer to help
If you feel like your dietary restrictions impose on others, then offer to help! Nothing breaks the stigma of a modified diet like proving to people that food is delicious, no matter what type of ingredient it is seemingly missing. Tons of desserts can be made dairy free, gluten free, egg free or sugar free and be delicious. Gluten free stuffing or dairy free green bean casserole can taste just like the original with the right recipe. Not only can you bring new and inventive ideas to the table, you can teach your friends and family that eating with certain restrictions is just as delicious (and healthier!)
Be confident in your decisions
Otherwise known as the “F*#@ Them” attitude, when the people around you still want to give you grief about your decisions. If you approach your family and friends with an open attitude and a willingness to have conversations with them about your health decisions and they still respond with respect and acceptance let them have that. Not everyone will agree with your decisions, but ultimately they are your decisions. And if your food allergies make other people uncomfortable, then that is their problem, not yours. Be confident in your decisions to take steps towards bettering your health! You are ultimately the only one that could get harmed from eating foods that don’t agree with you, so make sure to be there for you!