Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! I’m Emily, and my autoimmune diseases are type 1 diabetes and (formerly) eczema. Food was the cure for eczema, and it is a huge factor in managing my diabetes. Through the Autoimmune Protocol, I have discovered my food sensitivities (gluten, dairy, and eggs), and I’m working through reintroductions that will bring my diet to Paleo. As the holiday season approaches, I’d like to share with you the healthy holiday tips I’ve learned after a couple of holiday seasons with dietary restrictions. Click through to check them out!
So far this month, I’ve been sharing all the turkey-related tips and tricks (that are AIP-friendly!) along with some gift ideas. I hope you realize that you can have maximum joy this holiday season, both in the food you eat and the people you share it with. Going without rich, decadent food when everyone else is eating it can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be! If we let ourselves get down over silly food, the holidays turn downright miserable. Do you know who is responsible for an enjoyable holiday season? You are! So let’s learn together about how to eat healthy through the holidays and embrace dietary restrictions so you can have your best holiday season yet.
Host the Holiday Gathering
The elimination phase of AIP is a critical period. If your symptoms are just starting to fade and you are feeling the best you’ve ever felt, then don’t let a holiday meal mess up your progress! If the likelihood of cross-contamination or temptation is too high, then offer to host the gathering at your place. Offer to cook the majors (here are AIP-friendly turkey and gravy!) so they’ll fit your diet. With the majors out of the way, you know you won’t go hungry!
Accept any offers from guests to bring additional dishes to keep your stress and effort to a minimum. I have found that my family is more than willing to eat the way I do as long as I will lead the way in the meal. Planning and purchasing ingredients is up to me, but my family jumps it with two feet to help me make the meal happen.
Don’t lose the momentum you’ve gained over one meal with bits of cross-contamination, keep the meal clean by cooking at your home with your kitchen tools!
Bring Your Own Dishes
Now if you aren’t the host of your holiday gathering…
No one wants to arrive at a holiday meal only to find there’s nothing on the table that fits their diet. All dietary restrictions require planning ahead. Don’t bemoan it. Do your due diligence so that you arrive at your get together knowing your belly will be full too!
Check with the host ahead of time and ask if you may bring a couple of dishes to the gathering that will compliment the meal and fit your diet requirements. Or if the host asks your opinion or preference on how something should be prepared, share! Offer cooking advice (when asked) or forward a recipe or two along.
Do your research ahead of time so you can offer specific suggestions that will create a well-rounded meal for you. For example, the main meat is likely ok for most diets, so bring a vegetable side and a dessert. That way you can heap your plate with meat, your vegetables, and hopefully, there will be one more dish to round out your plate. When dessert time comes, you have an acceptable dish to enjoy right along with everyone else!
When you bring one or two dishes to a gathering, you are ensuring that your belly will be full. I don’t know about you, but I turn quite angry when hungry which is never fun for you or the people with me! With this method, not only will you not be “hangry,” you will be less likely to cheat with food outside your diet because you will be satisfied.
It is also easier for your host and fellow guests who may feel a touch guilty that you don’t/can’t enjoy the food they are eating. Everyone else sees your full plate and participation during dessert so they don’t feel bad for enjoying their meal either! Win win!
Focus on People, Not Food
I’ve read this suggestion over and over out there in the dietary-restriction-world. Holiday gatherings are about getting together with loved ones. Focus on them, not the food.
On the one hand, holiday gatherings ARE somewhat about the food! Who doesn’t like to enjoy a decadent, indulgent meal with family and friends? (See the notes above so you can!)
However, fixating on food is not healthy for anyone. Now might be a good time to evaluate your relationship with food. Consider the possibility that you are placing food higher on your priority list than family and friends. This might be very hard. I get it, but when you boil it down, the people you talk to over Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter dinner are far more important than the food on (or not on) your plate.
Focus on people this holiday season, not food.
Accept Help Cooking
An AIP or Paleo holiday meal is hard work. Hours and hours of cooking will go into your holiday meal. So here’s healthy holiday tip #4: if someone offers to help, let them! Perhaps even think through your list of to-do’s and make a mental note for which ones would be good to delegate.
But say no one offers to help you, delegate anyway! Some people do not intuitively see a need and try to fill it, but if you make a need known, most people are happy to help. Even if you feel a little nervous to ask, just say “I could use help doing ___, would you mind doing that for me?”
For any gathering hosted at my house where my husband and I will be the primary cooks, we always divide the cooking duties. He handles the main course on the grill, and I make the sides using the stove/oven. I try to make any desserts the day before so there’s no added stress for an after-dinner treat.
Take a few moments to put a loose plan together for how you can delegate and welcome assistance into preparing the holiday meal. A few minutes now could save much tension and raw emotions later!
Educate When Asked
My final healthy holiday tip will help you keep the peace at any gathering: “Educate When Asked.” If your family and friends are not interested in accommodating your diet, do not force your food choices on them. I can be a bit preachy about food myself, and I have to remind myself that my views on food are not common. If others decide to eat differently than me, that is their choice.
On the other hand, if your host is trying to accommodate your dietary restrictions and asks for help, give them all the education you can! Offer tips, recipes, ingredients, or anything that they are requesting help for.
When offering help, use the easiest way, not the craziest America’s Test Kitchen recipe but more along the lines of Rachel Ray 30 minute meals! Do not make any assumptions that your host knows the methods or ingredients you are used to cooking.
For example, I’ve found that when traveling and cooking in a standard, gluten kitchen, the cutting board is the most likely source of cross-contamination. There is a simple solution to this issue: cover the cutting board with parchment paper before chopping (and chop lightly! It cuts fairly easily!).
Think through your dietary restrictions and possible solutions for your host to put them at ease and you during the celebration.
Learning how to embrace dietary restrictions over the holidays will lead to a more satisfying and joyful gathering for you and all your loved ones. Doesn’t everyone want a gathering filled with laughter and good memories? Take the focus off what you can’t have by applying these five healthy holiday tips and bring joy back to your holiday gatherings!
***Check out these other Thanksgiving themed posts!***