Food intolerances: Handling the holidays without missing out

Tis the season for indulging. But if you want to keep your wellbeing on track, you might want to think about some strategies to find balance. Here are some tips to help you enjoy yourself throughout the holiday season.

Make your choices in advance

If you’re going to an event or meal where the options are available online, scope them out in advance. Most restaurants, cafes and even catering companies will have menus online for you to view. Choose what you want before you arrive, so you’re less tempted by what others are ordering or the scents around you. Call the restaurant and let them know you have specific allergy or intolerance issues. Ask if the meal you would like can be altered to fit, or if there are any hidden ingredients.

Know the consequences

It’s important to know how foods affect you, and make your choices based on those. For example, you might choose to eat a gluten-filled cake if it only gives you a mild tummy ache. But if you know it’s going to make you violently ill, you’ll probably want to avoid it.

I suffered from daily 24×7 nausea for years before I figured out gluten was the culprit. Now I don’t eat gluten at all. But if I do, I know what will happen and can choose to eat it, or not. Don’t let it bring you down. Remember you are making these choices for your health.

It’s okay to communicate the reason for your choice with others. If your family or friends are pushing a dish on you, you can simply say ‘thank you, but X food makes me sick’.

Start off with foods that are nutrient-dense

If you’re at an event with a buffet table, you may be able to enjoy a few treats. But it’s best to start with one plate of nutrient-dense choices first. Grab a good quality protein, high-fibre carbohydrates and some fresh veggies before you hit up the dessert table. For example, at a buffet I would usually start with a raw vegetable stick, like carrots or celery. Steer clear of anything that you are not sure of. Sauces will often contain gluten or dairy and it might not be obvious.

Be prepared

If you are going to a gathering at a family or friends house, offer to bring a plate. Bringing something that you know fits into your diet makes sure you can eat something, and not feel deprived. I often make sure to bring a couple of dishes, some mineral water, and a dessert. Bring more than you need for yourself. I guarantee if it looks good, other people will want some!

Another option is to host a meal yourself with all of your favourites. Some recipes to try are:

Other ways of being prepared could involve eating beforehand if you know you are going somewhere that you can’t bring a plate to. As well you could contact the host and ask if any gluten/vegan/dairy free options will be available. If all else fails a hidden stash of macadamia nuts in your handbag can be useful!

Stay active

It’s easy to get sluggish as the weather heats up and the year comes to a close. But staying active is just as important for your wellbeing as what you eat. So find ways to incorporate movement into your holiday plans. These are also good ways to catch up with friends that do not include food. You could look at options such as:

  • Swimming on hot days
  • Going for an evening walk after a large meal
  • Going to the park after breakfast
  • Schedule in a weekly exercise class over the holidays

Choose your indulgences

Have you ever munched through a chunk of fruitcake, only to remember that you don’t really like it? You’re not alone. During the holidays, it’s common for people to accept plates of food they don’t really enjoy or are intolerant to in order to be a “good guest”. 

I have done this in the past, calculating in my head, how much of this will make me sick? Can I eat just a little bit to make them feel happy? Remember you don’t need to eat food that harms you to make others feel good.

If you choose to indulge and know how much you can handle, this is one area where you want to be picky. After all, we absorb more nutrition from food we enjoy, so you might as well go for a delicious option. When you’re faced with a variety of food options, choose one or two of your absolute favourites, and leave the rest.

When you do have a treat that you enjoy, being present will make the experience far more enjoyable. By savouring each bite, you’re less likely to over consume and feel guilty about it afterwards. So take your time with your holiday favourites.


If you need support with creating a holiday game plan, I’m here to help.


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