While exercising on the elliptical this morning, I discovered much to my delight that 98.1 CHFI had started playing Christmas music. I swear this made me workout harder as I’m a sucker for the holidays. The Christmas tree, snow, decorations, time spent together as a family by the fireplace, presents, eggnog and my favourite, opening the stockings! The holiday season also means lots and lots of social gatherings, but remember, nobody wants to be ‘that girl’ at the company Christmas party who has one too many rum and eggnogs and starts spilling her entire relationship history in tears to her boss. The holidays can also be a source of stress for people with IBS, food allergies, intolerances or special diets. You want to enjoy yourself, but having to explain your dietary needs over and over, or grill the host over every single ingredient can be tiresome and annoying for both of you. To help avoid awkward situations or even more awkward bathrooms encounters the next day, here are some tips for navigating the holiday menu with style and poise.
1. Plan ahead and call the host- If the event if being catered by a specific company or individual, call ahead and explain your dietary concerns over the phone. Most catering companies are willing to accommodate dietary concerns these days, and if the host is a good friend, politely asking to leave a few dishes aside that don’t contains X,YZ can be extremely helpful. For example, if you are allergic to garlic or lactose intolerant, ask her to leave you a plain piece of protein and plain steamed veggies without any sauce, rub or marinade to ensure safe eating. The same goes for celiac disease as many proteins (chicken, fish, pork etc.) are coated with flour before frying, and flour is used as a thickener in many sauces.
2. But don’t expect the entire party to revolve around you- Just because you can’t eat dairy or gluten or think sugar is the devil doesn’t mean the entire party should have to eat a dairy-free, gluten-free, organic, often overpriced cake from a local bakery on your behalf. I always recommend eating a high fiber snack with protein before attending parties in case you do find yourself starving and with nothing to eat. A salad with egg, handful of nuts and some fruit, or a small serving a greek yogurt before a party are good choices. You can also use these special occasions to expose your friends to different food choices, by bringing specialty items such as almond flour desserts, gluten-free grains and vegan friendly mains. If the party is a potluck, ALWAYS bring a main you feel comfortable eating. At my last potluck, I made this delicious tofu and veggie and edamame quinoa salad with sesame ginger dressing from the Planet Organic market cookbook.
3. Start popping some pills- No I don’t mean copious amounts of Pepto Bismol, Tums or Zantac, but there are some great herbal remedies of there that can help your avoid tummy troubles and keep your digestive system happy. When eating out at restaurants, I always bring a peppermint oil capsule, and a broad spectrum digestive enzyme. I take the peppermint oil capsule about 20 minutes before my meal (usually right after I order) and my digestive enzyme when my meal arrives. I find this really helps reduces abdominal discomfort and GI issues.
4. Prep your elevator speech- In my experience, some people can be extremely judgmental of other people’s eating habits. Suddenly a fun holiday party turns into a debate about different diets and whether or not you’re sensitivities are ‘real’ or you happened to jump on the gluten-free fad bandwagon. If someone asks you why you eat a certain way, clearly explain your intolerances, without preaching, avoid any scientific jargon and then change the conversation topic if necessary.
One of my favourite bloggers, Chocolate Covered Katie, has written an excellent post on this subject that is specific to those who follow vegan diet.