Raise your hand if you feel like you're the only one in your family that eats super, super special. I know I do.
I've lived through many holidays and tried to figure out how to integrate the best that I can with my family even though I am gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, coconut-free, and I think there's some others on the list.
And every single year, I feel like I have to go through this whole rigmarole with the family of, “No. I can't eat that. Sorry. I can't eat this. Oh, I'm so sorry. I’d really love to, but…”
I've found a few ways to prep ahead of time to be able to know exactly what I can eat and exactly what I need to prepare or bring myself without feeling guilty about it.
So today, let's talk about three things you can do to get through the holidays with a lot less stress.
1. Know Who's Cooking for the Holidays
You can start by offering to cook. I love cooking. I love bringing something to the table and being able to share some of my knowledge and gifts with my family. And if they're not open to it, that's totally fine.
But I can also help them brainstorm ways to figure out a different alternative to recipes that are more allergen friendly.
I love to sit down with the main cooks of the meal and ask, “Hey, do you mind if I bring vegan butter to use instead of the regular butter? Do you mind if I bring a gluten-free stuffing mix or a cornbread mix instead of the regular bread mix that we're gonna use?”
For stuffing alternatives, I love using quinoa as a grain-free base. You can also use chopped up fruits and veggies and stuff turkey with that.
I know it's a little alternative and strange, but it's totally possible to make your turkey gluten-free by having the regular stuffing on the side and then stuffing the main bird with the grain- free mix so that you can be able to enjoy it too.
And then if you're going to try and do some gravy, it's really easy to switch out the flour for some sort of cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot powder, or tapioca starch.
And if you just love a little bit of bread on the side, make your own rolls or bring your own gluten-free rolls so that you have your own bread to enjoy.
2. Bring Your Own Dishes
If the main chef isn't interested in changing up recipes, that's totally fine. Some people love their additional holiday recipes, and there's nothing wrong with that. I love to honor the family’s secret recipes and let people keep doing what they love to do. I like to bring my own few special things on the side.
I have actually noticed that in my family, I'm not the only one that has food allergies. And a lot of times, food allergies run in families.
If you're not the only one, then maybe you can find a small cohort of members among you that can go in on some collaborative alternative meals together.
If you're the only one there, don't worry. You're probably not the only one forever. You can pave the way for other people in your family to eat healthier and to try alternative foods.
I got to host Thanksgiving once, considering what my family would like. I made and really an entire spread of alternative, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free food that was absolutely delicious.
Along with all the alternative foods, we still had breads and cheese and peoples' favorite dishes on the side. But we had an amazing turkey with everything that you usually get, but it was a gluten-free stuffing.
One other time I brought a baked chicken on the side so that people could have their regular turkey and stuffing and I got to have the gluten-free version with a couple of the people in my family.
I also love having some side dishes that I just know are reliable. Salads can be easily made however people want. Just keep a couple of things off that people can add in on the side, like the croutons and cheese.
I really love finding one or two dishes each holiday to lean into as substitutions for the comfort foods I always really miss around this time.
Sometimes I like to do a roasted goose or a ham. And then one or two side dishes that really fill that spot of homey happiness for me.
For me, green beans are so tasty. Here's an easy, super delicious recipe you can try:
Chopped up mushrooms
Olive oil drizzling
Whatever nuts or nut flour you have around to make it all crispy
I really also like my yam dishes and potato dishes. To me, dairy-free mashed potatoes are a staple food. It can make me feel really full and very happy. And it's so easy to make dairy-free by adding in a vegan butter or just using by olive oil and garlic. And adding as much flavor you can through the sauces and the spices you put in, instead of it just being a butter and cream base dish.
There are so many great recipes online. Just Google some different ideas and see what you can find.
3. Special is OK
The third little thing to lean into for making your holidays feel really cozy for allergen-free cooking is knowing it's okay to be the special one at your family.
It's okay to be the special one.
People would honestly rather see you feel happy and eating food, than make you feel like you're missing out on some of your favorites.
And so to do that, I start by letting everyone know before I go, “Hey, I have a specialty diet. I'm gonna be providing some of my own food. or altering some of the foods that are coming. And don't worry. You guys don't have to fuss over me. I have it taken care of.”
And that way, they're not shocked and trying to force feed me when I get to Thanksgiving or to Christmas. But instead, It's totally just understood.
And some people will go out of their way to try and help you feel more comfortable and fit in when they hear you have special dietary needs. That might mean that they ask what they can do, or what they can bring, or how they can change things to make you feel more comfortable.
I know one year, the first year that I was really announcing my diet, I was super nervous. And several of my aunts called me up and said, “Hey, do you eat this? I found these cookies. Maybe you could have these, you want me to bring them?”
And someone else was like, “Hey, I found this salad at Trader Joe's. Can you can you eat this?”
And before I knew it, my family had already picked out a meal of allergy friendly food that I could eat before I'd even stepped in. It was very, very sweet.
People would like to see you happy. And that means that supporting your own body's needs is okay. Because if you don't and you eat those allergens, sometimes you feel so bloated and uncomfortable and sick that you can't enjoy your holiday anymore.
And people don't really want to see you sick. So even though it might feel strange and you might feel like the odd person out, it's okay. People do want to support you.
And if you get any negative feedback from your family, just know that it's from not understanding yet what's going on.
And you can try your best to educate them, make room, and invite them to share in some of your new favorites as you explore more allergen-friendly foods down the line.
So if you want more tips and tricks on how to survive the holidays, we'll be having more digestive health tips all month.
And for those of you who want extra support, we do offer Herbal and Nutritional Consultations to really walk you through how to get through the holiday season without the belly aches in between.
If you're interested, please click here to find out more. If you have any other questions, feel free to DM me or just say hello on our Instagram or Facebook. We'd love to hear your holiday tips and tricks.
We'll keep sharing more healthy and hearty recipes with you guys all month long, so stay tuned for that. Take care everyone!