Is there really such a thing as a stress-free holiday? Family gatherings, big meals, menu planning, present buying…and food allergies all collide together in what should be a fun time of the year. Breathe in, breathe out, the holidays are here!
It has become a tradition to all meet somewhere different with my husband’s family. One year we went skiing, another in the middle of nowhere in the south of Germany, and this year back to the Alps.
Unlike North America, in Germany and Austria things seriously shut down between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Everything seems to slow down until after New Year’s Eve. It’s nice to have the slower pace, but the shutdown means there is a lot of prep that needs to happen. Especially if you are not in your usual surroundings with your go to grocery shops.
Stress-free holiday cooking
Luckily, we have all learnt that renting separate apartments with kitchens is the most harmonious way to spend time as a family. One year in a shared apartment taught us a lot about how our in-laws live and eat!
To keep it stress-free we all have our own spaces and can have whatever we please in them. This means for shared meals, we go for the potluck model. We all cook something and bring it to the biggest apartment, like a potluck every night. However on the big nights, we want to make a meal for all, which means there is a lot of planning and prep in advance.
Since my in-laws want to make sure everything is going to be Kortney safe, everyone is doing a lot of pre-planning and pre-shopping. This means a lot of texts back and forth with pictures of labels!
Stress-free means working together with food allergies
A safe and stress-free holiday comes down to working together. There is already enough to do as it is that adding on allergy management can make you feel overwhelmed. To help you navigate how to make the holidays stress-free, I asked some of my favorite allergy bloggers how they work with family and friends during the holidays.
Tips to create a stress-free holiday
Work together; start by asking for accommodations, create a meal plan especially if you will be staying in someone’s home, and contribute meals or a dish for the holiday.
Kathleen from AllergyBites:If you have family or friends who aren’t making an effort to be inclusive, try not to take it too personally. Instead, have them walk a day in your shoes.
Bring them grocery shopping with you, show them what it means to read a label like a pro, or offer to help with the food prep. Remind yourself that your loved ones don’t mean to be hurtful — they just don’t get it. And if an event is way outside of your comfort zone, don’t feel guilty about opting out. Commit to spending time with people who make you/your children feel safe, included and loved. If that means creating new holiday traditions, then so be it.
Help the host, they get stressed too
☆ Laura from Umpalarain:
We always make sure to plan ahead with food by calling the host to find out everything that they will be serving. From there, we always plan what we will be bringing ourselves to fill in the gaps and extras in case we don’t feel safe eating.
Check out Alida’s tips on lessening anxiety around food this holiday season.
☆ Alisa from Go Dairy Free:
Special diets cause stress for hosts too, not just the person with a food allergy. I always offer to bring a couple of dishes, to ensure there is something I can eat, so it doesn’t make others feel awkward. But it can also help to mention brands and pre-packaged foods to the host that are safe for not only me but other guests with food concerns. This way they can “cheat” and buy a few items (rather than going homemade with everything) and not feel the least bit guilty since it is in the name of accommodating guests.
☆ Amanda from Everyday Allergen Free:
Communicate your food allergies in advance and offer to bring something to the gathering. I generally offer to bring the dish I am least comfortable with others preparing for me, which often happens to be dessert. If it’s a potluck party (so very common in offices) don’t feel shy about foregoing your colleagues’ creations and bringing your own meal. Remember that the point is to gather and celebrate together!
Don’t forget part of stress-free means have fun!
☆ Kristina from Spabettie:
When going to parties, I will often eat ahead of time if I think there will be few options. If appropriate (more casual party, no catering), I will offer to bring a dish or two. When planning my own parties, I plan ahead and make as much as I can ahead of time, and reign myself in so I don’t go overboard with all the foods!
And I try to just focus on relaxing and having fun.Kristina
☆ Adrienne from Whole New Mom:
I would say to plan ahead and really focus on being thankful and not have too high expectations. Make it more about memories and the moments instead of food so that those who are dealing with special diets don’t have as much stress.
From all of us, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
Want more holiday tips? Here are my simple 6 steps to own the holidays!
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!