Holidays: Dodging Dietary Dangers

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

With family gatherings, work parties, cookie exchanges and food gifts, the season can feel full of dietary hazards if you have food restrictions.

Whether it’s an intolerance or allergy, your dietary restrictions may not seem important to others. From a “forgotten” ingredient in a side dish or a relative who thinks it’s “all in your head,” here’s how you can dodge dietary dangers.

From Heather Carrera, doctor of clinical nutrition at the office of Lesley James, MD in Pittsford:

• “Bring a dish to pass that you can eat, hopefully something that’s part of the main meal so that if everything there is something you can’t eat, you’ll have something you trust to eat.

• “Carry a snack with you that you can eat. Worst case scenario, if your own dish is the only thing you can eat at least you’ll have your snack, too.

• “Usually, there’s at least a few staples most people can eat like a veggie tray or cold cuts.

• “Try to identify at the beginning as to what looks safe and what you can stay away from. There are usually a few things compliant.

• “Call ahead to see what you can eat if it’s a family member and you feel comfortable asking. Ask if there are gluten-free options or whatever your need is.

• “Especially around family, feel comfortable saying, ‘No thank you.’ Practice a few lines ahead of time of you’re going to say. People don’t get it. You don’t have to go into the nitty-gritty, but stay positive and polite.

• “If it’s something like lactose intolerance, bring some digestive enzymes along.

• “If you load up on anti-inflammatory foods in the weeks leading up to the holidays you can help your body deal with things that are inflammatory. Make sure your diet is as clean and anti-inflammatory as possible leading up to the holidays. It helps set your body up for success.

• “If you have irritable bowel syndrome and you’re on a low-fat diet and you eat something accidentally, there are certain teas like fennel, ginger or peppermint to help reduce gas and bloating. They can help settle your stomach.

• “For food gifts, my go-to line is ‘Thank you so much! I’ve eaten so much that I want to have room to really enjoy it.’ So, I take it home and give it to someone else.

• “If it’s an allergy that’s not going away, it’s worth telling the person, ‘I wish I could eat it and it looks terrific, but I can’t.’ After you give it to someone else, tell the giver how much that other person enjoyed it.

• “Suggest something else they’ve made in the past that you’ve enjoyed and that you can eat.”

From physician Az Tahir, who practices holistic medicine in Rochester, also suggested what to do:

• “It can be a challenge, especially when traveling and at family functions, if you’re allergic to foods commonly used. Usually, you have fruits and vegetables. They’re usually safe and you can buy them anywhere.

• “Nuts can be a healthful food if you’re not allergic to them.

• “If you’re allergic to something, don’t just eat it because you’re afraid of offending other people.”