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Navigating celebrations with a special diet

Gluten-free cake (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Here you are, heading straight into the holiday season ... with your brand new diagnosis of celiac disease? Food sensitivity? Or a diet shift?

Navigating the myriad of food choices at the forthcoming events and finding foods safe for you? Feel daunting? I encourage you to set aside time to consider holiday events and plan ahead.

Potluck? Not only bring a dish that is safe for you, but food you can get excited about and look forward to eating. That way, if there isn't much that you know is safe, you have a fall-back.

I smile when I say, bring filet mignon with a little sign that says "gluten-free" and no one will touch it. You'll have it all to yourself! OK, that joke doesn't work as well anymore. Many people are much more aware of specific food needs, thankfully.

Bring an ingredient list to place by your dish. Chances are it will be appreciated by many who haven't spoken up about their food needs. It also sets a great example.

Remember that places like the co-op or store with a deli can provide a helpful last-minute option.

If possible, contact the host. See if they have an idea of what others are bringing. Perhaps another guest has restrictions that match. Maybe they know there won't be much safe food and you'll know not to arrive starving.

Going for a sit-down meal? Connecting with the host is key. Open communication is ideal; however, not everyone welcomes this discussion. This might be frustrating, but it helps you know what to expect and how to plan for you or your family as guests.

Occasionally hosts feel a little concerned or maybe even threatened that their traditional meal is going to be challenged. You might simplify your questions to a few favorites (brands or ingredients), letting them know you aren't looking to change or add to their work. You are just planning ahead so you can really enjoy your time with them.

The fix might be easy. For instance, they may be okay switching to a brand of turkey that is confidently gluten-free. (Yes, really! Basting solution and spices can also contain gluten.)

And on the positive side, some cooks take dietary needs as a challenge to discover foods that fit and are delicious. God bless them, every one!

Traveling? Small town or big city, research your destination. Google or call restaurants you may visit. Ask about special meal plans. Bring safe mixes, for instance, of food that will or may be served.

It can help to ask ahead about the allergy safe sections or brands local stores might carry. Ask someone to take pictures or face-time with you as they go through the store so you know the options.

Respectfully remind your hosts that for folks with celiac or allergies, "cheating" is just not an option.

Or, if slips don't have such a direct consequence for you, it can help to keep your own goals in mind, such as why you, yourself, need to not eat "x" food?

Perhaps making a calculated conscious slip with a few of your favorites can work for your body. Savor them slowly with deliberate mindfulness and know when enough is enough for you.

Newbie or expert, the bustle of holiday schedules can catch us off guard. Do what you can to support yourself to stave off the stress and keep your body feeling and functioning well at the same time.

Judy Breuer

Judy Breuer is a health coach/consultant who advocates for those with food sensitivity and allergies and teaches classes. Connect with her on Facebook or WellnessRen.com.

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