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[QUIZ] Discover the #1 way food restrictions are increasing your holiday stress

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Here is the transcript of the episode:

Welcome to the sensitive kitchen where home cooks are inspired to Cook to Enable Those You Love to Flourish.

I’m Cindy Sullivan, registered dietitian, passionate nutrition, educator, and accomplished home cook. Whether you’re changing, how you cook for food sensitivities, allergies, intolerances, or just trying to eat healthier on a budget. You’re in the right place. Most episodes, I will share favorite recipes as well as modification tips and nutrition benefits. Occasionally I’ll have a guest or special episode like modifying holiday favorites.

My favorite foods are raspberries and homemade chocolate chip cookies. My latest cooking project was long fermented sourdough bread.

Merry Christmas, belated happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa. In the midst of preparing for our Christmas celebration, I have a special gift for you today. I have been working on a quiz to help make your cooking more manageable this time of year. For many of you cooking for food sensitivities, whether it’s allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, or just substantially changing your diet, the holidays now have an extra layer of stress, food. There was already more cooking, baking, and roasting than usual this time of year. Now, many of your recipes can’t be used, or you’re going to be guests in someone else’s house that does not usually cook for your restrictions. You have more to do and less time and less money. No wonder it’s so stressful.

So, my gift to you is this quiz. The results report will give you some practical help, depending what your particular stressor is, how you answer the quiz. But as I’ve been writing these five reports over the last week, I’ve noticed a similarity. I have repeatedly talked about communication, expectations, and perspective. So for all of you who are navigating this more difficult food journey, let me give you some almost universal strategies, and then for some more specific ones, go take the quiz. It’s on the homepage of my website, FoodSensitivityKitchen.com, or the direct link is FoodSensitivityKitchen.com/holidayquiz. And for those of you who have friends and family, that this may help their cooking for food restrictions, give them a gift, send them to this podcast or to the quiz.

One of the big parts of any celebration is the food. On birthdays, for example, we have cake. At my house for Christmas dessert, we have birthday cake, we celebrate Jesus’s birthday, and even when my kids were little, they could understand that we have cake for people’s birthday. When I was a kid, we made Christmas cookies, four different kinds, always those four kinds, and that was the only time of year we made them.

I still make Christmas cookies, but I vary the kinds. This year, however, because of requests from family and friends, I think I’m going to make all four of the kinds I grew up with; almond moons, thimble cookies with raspberry jelly, date nut rolls, and Russian tea balls. But, this Russian T-ball recipe will be gluten-free dairy-free, that is if I have time to make all four, and that is one of the main points here.

I surveyed my family and asked what cookie they wanted. For both of my kids, their very first choice was chocolate crinkles. For me, it was rollout sugar and gingerbread cookies. For my husband, it was something gluten-free. So those are at the top of the list. A couple of them thankfully are already in the freezer.

I want to introduce my family to date nut rolls as we’ve been fans of dates lately and I want to use up the almond flour in my freezer and make almond moons. Yum, my mouth is watering, but those are not as important, those were not people’s first choices, and that is what you need to do. Have a family meeting and talk about what is important.

Really sit down together, take, block out at least half an hour, and let everyone pick one or two foods that are very important to them. And you may luck out, one of your kids may want candy canes. That’s easy. In terms of meals, it doesn’t take much to make a regular meal special. Perhaps it’s a Christmas tablecloth, or a menorah centerpiece, or the good dishes. Add one or two special foods, and keep the regular green beans or potatoes that you make every day.

Ignore the Pinterest beautiful meals and concentrate on what is important to your family. At your family meeting, don’t forget to let everyone pick out one or two non-food-related activities to do together this season. Remember to do many fun things, and there are lots of them that don’t involve food. Your waistline will thank you. So will your dishpan hands.

A few words of wisdom about navigating holiday meals in other people’s homes. Take these for what they’re worth, but for someone who has done this for many, many years, and who’ll be a guest in someone else’s home, you have some additional communication to do. As soon as possible, contact your host or hostess. Talk about their menu, see what is already on it that you can eat, or whoever it is in your family that has food restrictions.

Then ask if you can bring one or two things to add to the menu that your family can eat. Now, depending how many people with food sensitivities you’re cooking for, you may be able to bring a couple of supplemental foods for that one person, or you may need more. Please, don’t demand that the host change their menu for you. Just inquire politely to see what ingredients are being used so you know what they can safely eat.

Explain your situation clearly and state the consequences of eating the restricted foods. Try something like, I don’t want to make a trip to the emergency room for anaphylaxis to spoil our day, or I don’t want Michael to get a migraine after dinner, or I don’t want Becca to have brain fog and lethargy that entire next three days.

Then tell them what you want to accomplish. If we can discuss ingredients, I will tell him, or her what they can eat and bring a couple of things to supplement. I hope that’ll be okay. Your host may offer to modify some dishes. If you agree, you may have to supply specific brands to purchase and any modification tips you have.

For example, one type of dairy-free margarine may contain soy, and one may not. Ask the host or hostess to please save the labels of foods if you have anaphylaxis concerns. This is a time to be polite, respectful, and yet firm, you cannot endanger your family member, but you do want to spend time with everyone. If you’ll be an out-of-town house guest, this conversation will need to be longer and more extensive. Maybe you can trade off cooking meals and store some things in their fridge, or bring a cooler with you and replenish the ice. It’s especially helpful if you live in a cold climate, it’s easier to do that so you can feed the person for a week or however long you’re staying.

I actually do not recommend having the host modify everything for a holiday meal, and that might surprise you, but I have several reasons for this. First of all, if it’s for a child, the child will likely not eat everything anyway. If it’s for a teen or an adult, they will be able to understand. You can do something special for them the following day.

Another reason to not have them change their entire menu is that it takes time, money, and energy to modify recipes. And as you know, they often do not turn out how you expect the very first time. So rather than risk disappointing guests and a frustrated cook, it’s probably better to let them cook regularly, except for perhaps a dish or two. Plus, other people have favorites too.

So my big tip for reducing holiday stress around food? Family meetings. Let everyone pick a food or two and forget the rest. Remember the reason for the season, you have much to celebrate, and food is just one of the ways we celebrate, but we can celebrate over rice Krispie treats with a candle on them, just as well as cake, over the fruit soup instead of clam chowder.

If you need some special sweet treats for the holidays, there are several recipes on my blog that are wonderful and people will not even know they are allergy-friendly. Let me give you a couple. You might try the easy dairy-free fudge and the regular one is there too with dairy or Marlana’s gluten-free vegan sugar cookies. If you want to put in a little more time, homemade marshmallows are almost universally adored and allergy-friendly. You can even use maple syrup in them for those of you who are avoiding corn or try a sweet-savory combination with maple roasted pepita seeds with cranberries. All of these are dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, nut, and peanut-free. Just be sure to read the labels on any of your ingredients.

I wish you a season of great joy. May you have times of celebrating with family and friends, and times of quiet reflection. May you make many memories and may some of them involve food and cooking together. Keep cooking to enable those you love to flourish. Remember to go take the holiday cooking quiz at FoodSensitivityKitchen.com/holidayquiz. Take care and I will talk to you in a couple of weeks. As always, send me comments or questions, or suggestions.

It’s [email protected]. Have a great day. Bye-bye.


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