Living with Chronic Pain

Tips for Dealing With Food Allergies or Limitations During the Holidays


The holiday season is filled with sweet and savory treats, festive dinner parties, and celebratory meals with friends and family. However, if food allergies, sensitivities, or other food limitations are an issue, it can be challenging to enjoy the festivities of the season. However, it is possible to safely enjoy treats and holiday meals by taking a few simple steps.

Tips for the guest with a food limitation

  • Talk to the host. When an invitation is extended to a holiday meal or event where food will be served, talk to the host as soon as possible about any personal allergies or intolerances. This will give the host time to prepare. If possible, ask what will be served. Offer to bring an allergy-friendly side dish.
  • Be prepared. If the menu is not shared before the occasion, eat a small meal or snack at home before the party. Consider packing an allergy-friendly protein bar in a purse or coat pocket. This will prevent the need to leave early due to low energy or a hunger headache.
  • When in doubt, ask. Whether it’s a holiday treat at a local coffee shop or a dish prepared by another guest at a dinner party, don’t be afraid to ask about the ingredients. Assuming something is safe to eat is a dangerous way to discover it contains a personal allergen.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector. If food allergies are life-threatening, have an epinephrine auto-injector available at all times. It is much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
  • Enjoy events. Remember that food is not the most important part of a social event. Focus on conversing with loved ones, giving and receiving gifts, and other traditions that make the holiday season special.

Tips for the chef or party host

  • Avoid serving foods with common allergens. When making or serving food for large numbers of people, avoid including common allergens, such as shellfish and various kinds of nuts.
  • Have allergy-friendly foods available. If you are hosting a dinner party that includes a guest with food allergies or limitations, try to have a dish or two that is safe for them to eat. For example, make gluten-free stuffing or leave out the nuts in the cranberry sauce. Be sure to let the guest know about the modification so they can enjoy it.
  • Consider labeling dishes with common allergens. If hosting a buffet-style meal, consider adding a small label to each dish. Add notes about common allergens or limitations, such as “contains peanuts” or “contains dairy.” When gifting baked goods, consider including a list of the ingredients.

These tips can help make the holiday season even more enjoyable for all.

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