The festive season brings with it a lot of joy.  It is a time of celebrating with family and friends, which often centres around food and drinks.  Add into that multiple Christmas Parties and dinners out (because we can finally dine out again!) and we’ve got up to a whole month where we are eating quite differently from our usual diet.  Whilst this time is wonderful for most, it can cause a great deal of anxiety for those of us who suffer from food intolerance(s).  

It’s important that everyone enjoys the festive season, especially after the year that 2021 has been for most of us (thanks covid!).  So, let’s look at how to navigate this time of year whilst managing food intolerance.

Offer to bring a plate
If you’re attending an event that someone else is hosting, offer to bring a plate.  This might be a nice salad or side dish so that you can take comfort in knowing there is at least one safe option for you.  What you choose to bring will depend on the type of food intolerance.  For example, if you can’t have onion or garlic, perhaps also offer to bring your own marinated or plain meat/tofu/fish/burger patty so you know there is a safe protein option for you as well.  If desserts are a trickier one for you to navigate e.g. if you’re lactose intolerant or gluten/wheat intolerant, then offer to bring a delicious dessert that you can share and enjoy with peace of mind.

Don’t be afraid to call ahead
Whether your event is at someone’s home or out at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to call ahead to find out what’s on the menu.  Individuals who suffer from food intolerance can sometimes feel like a burden doing this, but there is really no need to.  It’s important you can enjoy your time at the event and enjoy delicious food with loved ones without experiencing uncomfortable symptoms after.  Most restaurants are accommodating to food intolerances, and calling ahead can mean you have peace of mind in knowing they can modify options for you to enjoy.  Similarly, calling the host of an event (e.g. friend, colleague or family member) is a great way to explain what you can/can’t have and workout suitable options for you.

Eat safely leading up to the event
Avoiding the foods you’re intolerant to in the days leading up to an event can be a great way to minimise symptom flare-up if you do inevitably eat something that doesn’t agree with you at the event.  Sometimes we can do all the right things to avoid certain foods, but end up accidentally consuming them at a function anyway.  By avoiding trigger foods and eating well the days leading up to the event and the days after, you’re likely to minimise the degree of symptom flare if you do consume something.

Make the best of a less than ideal situation
Sometimes there will be events where you simply can’t control the food that is provided or it can’t be avoided entirely.  This is where we need to just pick the best options of what is available.  Choose the better options available and limit intake of the key trigger foods.  It can be a good idea to have a small meal or snack beforehand, so if there aren’t many safe options for you to enjoy you’re not left feeling hungry (or hangry!).

Remember non-food strategies
Many individuals who suffer from food intolerance will find they have non-dietary triggers that exacerbate their symptoms.  For example, someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may notice that during times of stress their symptoms are much worse.  Take time to prioritise factors that may worsen symptoms such as stress management, getting adequate sleep, drinking plenty of water and fitting in regular exercise.  

About Chloe McLeod