“This is why you’re so skinny!”
Listen. I do yoga. I meditate. I practice kindness and gratitude. I take my probiotics and do all the other nutritional things that make a person happy, but quite honestly, there are still those select moments in life when I want to punch someone. While incredibly rare overall, when those moments do occur it tends to be when someone makes judgemental, passive-aggressive, and/or demeaning comment. Hit the trifecta, all while coming between me and delicious food and we’ve got a problem.
Don’t send your loved ones running from the holiday gatherings, nor to the ER. Understand that people all eat differently and that’s okay. Also know that more often than not, the reason they don’t eat certain foods is not a dinner appropriate conversation. Accept their food choices for what they are, their choices, and be accommodating if you can. Everyone deserves to enjoy their holiday time with their family.
It’s awful to show up to a meal with all your family and friends, only to find out that you can only have salad without dressing…while every person there asks what’s wrong with you. Fortunately, you have nothing to eat, leaving you plenty of time to answer all the horrible, upsetting questions. This is the experience of far too many individuals with food allergies, sensitivities or preferences.
While you can’t please everyone, there are simple accommodations that you can make to make the meal a happier experience for everyone.The first one is to ask if anyone attending has any food allergies, sensitivities or preferences. You will make your guest feel cared for by asking if they have any food accommodations you need to be aware of.
More often than not people with food allergies/sensitivities/preferences have had a poor group meal experience where they were stuck eating side dishes or even going without food. Don’t be surprised if they offer to bring a dish they know they can have, which helps you out, or offer tips on baking/cooking alternatives they’ve already tried and tested.
Recommendations for food allergies
If someone says they are allergic to a food, believe them. It’s easier to leave out a food or take precautions than to run someone to the emergency room. True food allergies can be lethal.
May seem silly, but a great way to prevent cross-contamination is to imagine that everything that food touches turns bright, glowing red. Did you use your hands to touch the shellfish? They’re red now. Did your hands touch the faucet and soap to wash the shellfish off your hands? Well now they’re red. The counter? Silverware? Etc.
Individuals with allergies are responsible for taking care of their own allergies and letting you know what they are. Once you know about them, it’s your responsibly to be mindful of them, as your guests are now counting on you to prepare a safe dish for them.
Tips for Gluten Free
Be it a fad or a legitimate case of Celiac Disease or wheat allergy, if someone says cannot have gluten, they cannot have gluten. This makes label reading even more important! Check the labels for sneaky gluten sources such as maltodextrin and caramel coloring. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Additionally, oats that are processed on the same equipment as wheat are cross contaminated. Look for items with gluten free labeling or ask for brands or ideas from the person with the gluten issue.
First and foremost, vegetarian and vegan are different. Vegetarian means that a person does not eat meat; they may consume animal products such as dairy and eggs though. Vegan means absolutely zero animal flesh or products. None. Both these food preferences mean no meat based broths. Some individuals may have an allergy to meat or there are those who have gone so long without consuming meat that they become ill when they do have it.
Secondly, and this is the game changer, it is NOT OKAY to leave only random side dishes as an option for vegetarian or vegan guests. It happens all the time and it leaves them without a protein source or positive experiences.
Protein sources for vegans and vegetarians include seeds, nuts and beans. Vegetarians have additional protein options such as eggs and dairy products. Tofu is made out of soy beans, but let’s all rise above the tofu stereotype. Unless that is specifically what they want or you have a prime dish in mind to use it for, you don’t have to make a tofu dish. Adding seeds, nuts and beans to dishes or setting them out as added options is a great idea.
There are several different vegetarian and vegan recipes in the recipe section of this guide. All easy to make and delicious.
Tip: Check out The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of food additives.
Go to https://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm for a summary of food additives ranked by their safety level. You can print out a one page list and read why each additive received the ranking it did. Conveniently color coded, simply make sure not to grab anything with a giant red X, which indicates it’s unsafe. They even offer a free “Chemical Cuisine” app for smartphones so you can check ingredients while at the store.
Tip: Download the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list and app.
The Environmental Working Group puts together a free list each year of the 12 dirtiest produce items available in the US market. These fruits and vegetables have more chemical fertilizer, pesticides and other chemicals on them than any others. It is recommended to choose organic options of the foods found on this list as no amount of washing can undo the chemical damage.
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