The Cook Awakening

Healthy Holidays – Navigating the Festivities on a Special Diet

October 31, 2011
Posted in: Food Sensitivities, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Living with Health Challenges, Seasonal Change

Published in New Connexion Journal.

Can you feel the pull? Just as the earth is winding down into darkness and cold, there’s an equal and seemingly opposite invitation to mingle and celebrate. It can feel burdensome at times, welcome at others. There’s a good reason for the festivities, as humans we need support when nature deprives us of light and warmth. We have to generate our own. Community is a beautiful means to help us through the dark times.

Having food sensitivities or health challenges that require a strict avoidance of certain foods can be difficult at this time. So many of our celebrations are marked with the sharing of sustenance, the breaking of bread. Thanksgiving with its gluten filled stuffing alongside the turkey and sugar; gluten and dairy laden pies; Christmas parties with gluten and sugar packed cookies, cookies, cookies; family parties and potlucks where you have NO control over the meal served.

A little planning and willingness to take responsibility for your health and happiness will go a long way toward insuring that you both enjoy your holidays AND keep your hard won health in the process.


Don’t go to parties hungry. Have a small meal before you leave home, and when you’re at the party, only serve yourself small portions of what you know you can eat. If you can’t eat anything, you won’t starve, and you can have a snack after the party is over.

Make a dish you can enjoy

For potlucks, plan to bring a dish that you and your family can eat, and make it a complete meal in and of itself. For gluten and/or dairy free folks: lasagna made with gluten-free pasta and no cheese; or a rice and bean soup, stew or salad with plenty of vegetables. If you eat grain-free: green salad with chicken or fish; or pastured meat stew with vegetables. If you have a hard time resisting the sweets table, bring a dessert you can eat! Almond flour cookies; stevia sweetened chocolates; or a raw food pie sweetened with dates. Seek out good recipes and you won’t feel deprived.

Host the party

If you have the resources, consider hosting a holiday party and providing the staple foods, asking others to bring a few sides. This can also be a good strategy for the family get togethers on actual holidays, the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. If there’s a strong tradition of “Mom always hosts”, this might be challenging, but could be worth a try.

Call ahead

It is completely reasonable to ask what’s being served at a non-potluck gathering. Explain in a simple and matter of fact manner that you have allergies (you don’t have to go into detail!), and need to know if there will be food that you can eat so you can plan. Make it clear that you don’t expect your host to cook a special meal for you, although if they offer to make accommodations for you, accept and thank them! Occasionally this happens, and it’s a blessing when it does. You work hard to maintain your health, it’s okay to allow others to take care of you every now and then. Be specific about your needs in this case, don’t assume that your host will know all the grains that contain gluten, or that “sugar-free” may include honey and maple syrup for you.

Take the focus off food

Remember, the holidays are not really about food. They are about connecting with your community and bolstering your spirits in the dark and chill season. Making and enjoying food is a way to bond in many cultures, but it is not the only way. You have the power to work with your mind and shift your focus. If you find this very difficult, you may have some work to do with acceptance, surrender, and grief. There’s no judgment in this! What you are facing is VERY challenging, and takes time to come to peace with. To help yourself in this process, unless a sit down meal is the focus, plan to stay physically away from the food table at the events you attend.

Ask for help

If you feel close enough to someone at the party, let them know you’re having a hard time. Sometimes just the fact that someone knows you feel challenged can help you get through a hard moment of feeling tempted, or feeling isolated.

Remember the reason for the season

It’s about community. Let yourself focus more on the people and the underpinnings of the holiday, whether you connect with the spiritual and religious aspect of the times, or the acknowledgment of the dark and cold. Remind yourself that food is just one way of celebrating. Hug someone. Give a hand made gift. Feel your feet on the earth.

And remember to enjoy yourself!

This entry was posted on Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 9:48 pm and is filed under Food Sensitivities, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Living with Health Challenges, Seasonal Change. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Healthy Holidays – Navigating the Festivities on a Special Diet”

  1. Healthy Holidays – Navigating the Festivities … – The Cook Awakening | Health and Fitness Says:

    […] more here:  Healthy Holidays – Navigating the Festivities … – The Cook Awakening Posted in Nutrition | Tags: christmas, cooking, events, family, festivities, focus, […]

  2. Pamela Says:

    Thank you for this, Durga. Sending warmth and gratitude your way.

Leave a Reply