Food intolerances, allergies and sensitivities are being diagnosed now more than ever before and we can’t eat everything we used to enjoy! It’s a reality that many of us cannot eat everything on the menu during the holidays. The news that we won’t be eating her Pan de Muerto may break an abuela’s heart and watching others binge on Halloween candy while you can’t have any could drive a person crazy! Food intolerance is hard enough but family gatherings may seem impossible to a newly diagnosed sufferer. Here are some ways to make the restrictions tolerable.
What do you tell people?
Whether you’re gluten free or dairy free, nut free or lactose free, you need to tell people. Everyone who will be responsible for the food you put in your mouth needs to know what you’re avoiding and why. Try to explain your illness, the specifics of what you have to avoid, and why you can no longer have those foods. From personal experience, I can assure you that you’ll receive in return everything from understanding to confusion to opinions that your doctor is completely wrong in his or her diagnosis. Take others’ reactions as lightly as possible and keep your focus on your own wellness.
What can you eat?
There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that many of your Fall favorites are already allergy friendly. Calabaza En Tacha (candied pumpkin) is free of common allergens and Atole can be consumed by most. Today, the internet can bring you a wide variety of recipes that replace your particular culinary nemesis. The bad news is that you’re going to need to work at this and it’s going to feel pretty awful for a while. You may feel isolated and deprived at holiday gatherings and you may slip and eat something you shouldn’t while you’re getting used to your new diet. All of that is completely normal and a part of any big life change. Stay patient with yourself and your loved ones and use this as an opportunity to try new foods and get really great at creating recipes with alternative ingredients!
How will you deal with food intolerance?
For a period of my life, I was thought to have Celiac’s Disease and could not have gluten. This was before food allergies were commonly diagnosed and there were very few bread, pasta and processed options for people like me. Currently, I’m avoiding dairy products in order to breastfeed my daughter safely (she has a sensitivity). Both food avoidances were challenging so I learned many ways to cope with food intolerance during the holidays.
- Bring two dishes you can eat, even if Mami says she understands what you can’t have and will cook according to that, you can bet money that she’ll forget something at some point and you’ll be stuck with nothing to eat (my mother-in-law offered me a slice of pizza just seconds after she asked if I missed eating cheese).
- Don’t be personally offended when people forget your food intolerance. If it doesn’t directly impact their own health, people are going to forget that you have a food sensitivity. Calmly remind them and shrug it off.
- For your own mental health, learn to make some old favorites with different ingredients so that you can still have the comfort foods of the holiday. Experiment with different gluten-free flours, rice or almond milk, or simply try leaving out the offending ingredient and see how the dish turns out!
A food intolerance doesn’t have to ruin your holiday. There’s an abundance of food allergy friendly Halloween candy on the market now and many family recipes may already be fine for you to consume, you’ll just need to ask whoever is making it what ingredients they use (Horchata is already made with rice milk, yay!).
Above all, keep in mind that the holidays are not only about food. Enjoy your loved ones’ company and keep the meaning of the day in mind and you won’t even notice some of those treats you once loved passing you by.