Managing Christmas Functions if you have Specific Dietary Needs

It’s that time of year – Christmas functions are in full force. Many people find this time overwhelming – but managing it when you have specific dietary needs makes it even harder. Maybe you have an allergy, or Coeliac Disease, or you are on an elimination diet. Navigating this period can be tricky, so here are some quick tips for you:

1. Chat to the host beforehand

Many Christmas functions are held at someone’s house – from a friends’ end of year get together to your partner’s work function, or even the volunteering group you are a part of. Whatever the function is, it can be really helpful to phone and speak to the host beforehand, find out what is being offered, and perhaps make some requests: maybe ask if the sauce could be put on the side, or if they can send you photos of the ingredients they’re using. This way, you can mentally prepare beforehand, know what the potential pitfalls will be, and maybe even decide that it is easier to eat beforehand and just have the one thing that will be suitable.

2. Ask questions beforehand

If you are going to a restaurant for a function, phoning and asking questions will eliminate the need to do so on the day. This might include asking for a copy of the menu to be sent to you (if it’s not available on their website) and then asking specific questions. This way you can arrive at the function and already know what you will be having when presented with the menu. You might even be able to pre-order something, so that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the event.

3. Have something special in your bag

I know from the many clients I work with, that sometimes it is so frustrating when they constantly have nothing tasty at a function because of their dietary restrictions. Fruit salad is great, but not when it is constantly the only thing you are able to eat for dessert. Having a special chocolate or baked good to hand – something you don’t have very often – can be nice to have with your coffee or drink. Remember it is OK to say something like “I have a wheat allergy or Coeliac Disease and I’ve learnt that it is helpful to have something nice to enjoy.”

4. You are not a burden and you don’t need to feel ashamed

You hate being “that” person. The one who goes to the functions and everyone has to cater to. Firstly, having special dietary needs is a fact of life. The biggest challenge is when others don’t know what is required. To help them, remember what you needed to learn when you first realised you couldn’t eat (for example) ANY gluten. The more you can embrace it and help others know what is useful, the easier it is for everyone. That doesn’t mean making demands, but rather helping out in any way you can and communicating why you do things – for example taking your own tongs along for the BBQ, or suggesting to your friend what makes it easier, or offering to bring your own gluten free sausages for the BBQ. It’s a win-win for everyone, as you equip them with new information for other situations, and you know you are safe.

5. Take something you can eat

If it is a potluck, take the item that is the most important part of the meal and likely to be the one that is contaminated with the ingredient you can’t have. This might be the protein dish or the dessert. This could also be you bringing the potluck component plus one single ingredient– for example a salad to share, but just one gluten free roll or garlic roll for you.

By taking these simple steps, and thinking ahead, you’ll successfully navigate Christmas – and even enjoy it.

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