Food Sensitivities and Holiday Traditions

Holidays, any time of the year, are made up of traditions.  Just think of all the stuff you and your family (however you define family!) do, sing, play, watch and eat every year when that holiday rolls around.  Don't know about you, but what we eat is the most talked about aspect of just about every holiday in my house!  

Enter food sensitivities.  It all changes, right?  Either you're making two separate meals or just eating whatever is on the table regardless of your reactions or you're avoiding the whole situation.  Putting restrictions on what you can and cannot eat affects a whole lot more than what you have for lunch every day at work.  

The role of traditions...

Holiday traditions are how we identify ourselves, how we communicate with family and friends.  In many situations, those traditions are how we show affection, love and respect for our family members.  Change up the food and things can get pretty stressful pretty quickly. 

This is where the whole concept of Recipe Maverick or Purist comes into play.  Do you need a particular recipe to look, smell and taste exactly like it does every year to be happy or will a modified version be OK?  There is no right or wrong answer to this one.  It's a decision you have to make as an individual…and potentially as a family.  I talked a bit more about this important decision here.  

I bring it up today to also tie it into our holiday traditions.  

While many of us may consider traditions to be written in stone, the pandemic really started to challenge that idea.  We had a lot more than just food restrictions!  And many of us had to switch up old traditions and start a few new ones.  

Food sensitivities may not affect the world's population, but they are increasingly more common and definitely challenge many of our holiday eating traditions.  And, if we're really practical about food sensitivities, most of us react to more than just the food on the table.  Smells and odors can trigger reactions.  Different chemicals can trigger reactions without having an odor or taste.  This life can be complicated!

Decision time - Choosing Traditions

So here is the next big decision for you to make as we approach the holidays this year - which traditions need to stay and which can be tweaked a bit or set to the side as you're solving your food sensitivity puzzle and healing?  And for each tradition you put away for right now, what is a new tradition you can start which will fill the gap in meaning and joy for you?  

I really recommend you start with these kinds of questions in your own mind. Once you can think about it or journal about it without struggling with emotions (if that happens for you), then you're ready to talk it out with family and friends.  Remember, traditions have meaning behind them.  If it is really hard to consider changing them up, that is an appropriate reaction!

It's more than choosing a food - what traditions really mean...

Here is a quick example of making this kind of decision.  I grew up with classic green bean casserole on the holiday dinner table every year.  Absolutely loved it!  (If I'm honest, I still do!)  But with my dairy allergy and other sensitivities, it becomes really labor-intensive to create a version that tastes similar (I was a bit of a Maverick) and doesn't make me sick.  I did it for one year and then decided I was OK saying goodbye to the green beans for now because green bean casserole should not involve three or four pans!  There is plenty on our holiday table and we've added a few other dishes over the years.  Truth be told, at this point I don't miss the food.  I do miss what that dish represented for me - generations of my family sitting around the table and the childhood magic of those holidays and get-togethers.  

And that's the tricky part.  You may become more emotional than you believe is right when you start processing it all out.  Give yourself some grace and some time to process and make the decisions which will serve you the best this holiday season.  

Sixty-second Self-care Tip…

Grab that trusty pen and paper and do a little scribbling as you think through these prompts.

  • What holiday traditions trigger your food or environmental sensitivities?  
  • What holiday traditions are safe for you and bring you the most joy?
  • Of those that are a problem for you, what do they represent for you?
  • Is there a way to tweak a recipe or otherwise minimize your reactions?  Is the effort worth it?
  • What are some new traditions you could introduce this year to help keep you feeling your best throughout the holiday season?

And maybe you're a bit like me and the holiday season is just generally overwhelming, exhausting and you can't wait for New Years!  Wouldn't it be amazing if we could create our own season of Silent Nights?  Here is a free download that will help you focus on what is important to YOU this holiday season…maybe even a new tradition!  And in only three quick steps!


food choices, holidays, resilience, stress, traditions

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