How to navigate the holiday party scene when you're on a specific diet

How to navigate the holiday party scene when you're on a specific diet

How to navigate the holiday party scene when you're on a specific diet

Just because you're avoiding meat, gluten, sugar or all of the above, doesn't mean you're a bore! Follow these pro tips to stay healthy and happy and still be the life of the party.

It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year. Yet, the thought of a cheese and bread loaded platter gives you a figurative and literal pain in the gut. Or maybe it's the meat that your host lopped onto your plate without asking. Or dreading to have to explain (yet again) that you just feel better when you don't eat sugar. A strict diet might make you feel better, but it can be troublesome for social gatherings, especially when holiday party season hits. 

But you don't have to be anxious about the holidays. In fact, you can still enjoy the parties, if you consider these strategies.


Don't stress about your strict diet

Special diets aren't new. In fact, they're pretty common. Almost one in 10 Canadians have at least one food allergy, reports AllerGen, and there are similar stats for vegetarians, showing in research from Dalhousie University. And as many as one in three opt for gluten-free foods, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 

So, you're not alone. And, your host likely won't be surprised to hear about your special diet. But it can be overwhelming to hear about yours and five others. So that's why it's still important to tread politely when addressing your diet needs.


RSVP with dietary concerns

Nowadays, especially for catered parties, you're encouraged to RSVP with dietary concerns. And if not, you can always ask to let the caterer/hall/restaurant know about your food restrictions. It's a little different for more of a home-cooked affair.  "Ask the host about the food they'll be preparing, and then offer to bring something you can eat," says personal trainer and registered holistic nutritionist Elizabeth Matthews, "but make sure you bring enough for everyone." Make a grocery veggie platter, display it on a fancy dish and add a homemade dip to make it extra special.


Be realistic with yourself

How strict is your diet really? Christy Brissette, registered dietitian,, says to ask yourself this before you start doling out a restricted foods list. She explains there are essentially three types of diets.

  1. Serious health issues: This includes food allergies, with severe reactions to foods such as peanuts, shellfish, milk and more. It can also be chronic food issues, such as diabetes or celiac disease. "There is nothing rude in explaining a food allergy," says Brissette. "If a food affects your health, you need to communicate that." 
  2. A Healthy Diet: Restricting certain foods have become trendy, like dairy, sugar and even gluten for some. With the promises of getting lean, no belly bloat, better skin and more energy, the benefits are worthwhile. But Brissette suggests you consider the occasional treat. "If your diet affects your social life, it might be worth reconsidering your diet," she says. She encourages the 80-20 rule of eating healthy 80 per cent of the time and treating yourself 20 per cent of the time. For digestive issues, you'll have to trust your gut and wager how your body will react if you do indulge.
  3. Ethical food concerns: There are health benefits of not eating meat and avoiding animal products, but, vegetarian and vegan diets are also about the environment. Brissette was hosting a dinner party when one of her guests requested that the seafood she was serving to be sustainable. While these diets are important, Brissette suggests not putting your food ethics onto an entire party. 


Check your purse

In addition to lipstick and ID, consider packing a few other things. 

For food allergies that could result in an anaphylactic reaction, definitely pack an EpiPen in your purse, says Brissette. 

For digestive issues, Matthews has recommended digestive enzyme supplements (taken with food) to clients, which can help break down foods like carbs, lactose and fibre and others, depending on the type you buy. "But if you have high stomach acid, it can cause heartburn," she says, adding to talk to a dietitian or health care provider first before taking. And don't test them out the night of a party, though. "Know how your body reacts to taking them first." 

If you don't already, consider taking probiotics, recommends Matthews. Not only do they help with the immune system, but it may help with inflammation, which can be caused by some foods.


RSVP as you please

All that said and done, Brissette says that if you're comfortable in saying no or showing up later for drinks and skipping the meal/food table, feel free to do so. Just consider how your host (family, friend, boss, otherwise) might respond if you don't go, and if it will affect your relationship. The point of a party is to socialize, not analyze your diet. They're called happy holidays for a reason.




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How to navigate the holiday party scene when you're on a specific diet