More people than ever before are being diagnosed with food allergies, and many are adopting diets that eliminate gluten, dairy, and soy, based on a diagnosed intolerance or personal preference. The dietary restrictions that accompany food allergies and intolerances often require an adjustment period of learning what you can and cannot eat. It can be isolating, but remember – you are not alone!
If you are among this growing group, you’ve likely felt anxious at some point about attending a social function or dining out at a restaurant. Whatever the reason for avoiding certain ingredients in your meals, it’s important to focus on your primary food, like spending time with friends and family while still nourishing your body at mealtime.
Here are five tips to help you stay social:
Offer to bring a dish – If you’re heading to a party hosted by someone else, let them know ahead of time that you’d love to bring a food contribution. The host will likely be relieved to have some help, and you’ll be able to eat without worry.
Host a get together – In the same light, invite friends and family to your home. If you are cooking and preparing the meal or snacks, you have control over the ingredients, thereby adding an element of ease to your social engagement. You’ll introduce your guests to delicious food, and have the opportunity to shed some light on your allergy or intolerance, if you so choose.
Do your research – Check out restaurant menus online (or call) ahead of time to ask about allergy-free options. An increasing number of restaurants offer entire gluten-free menus, vegetarian and vegan options, and many dishes can easily be modified for your specific needs. When researching restaurant options, ask if the chef is willing to accommodate someone with food allergies, and tell your server at the beginning of the meal.
Carry healthy snacks with you – Most people who are on the go pack snacks to balance blood sugar and boost energy. Fresh fruit, vegetables, hummus, or packaged bars with simple, organic ingredients are easy options. Another great idea is to make your own trail mix using ingredients that suit your needs. Add a bit of dark chocolate for a boost of antioxidants! If you’re prepared with a snack, you can tame your hunger in a crunch, and eat a more substantial meal soon after.
Be honest with your friends and family – Food allergies are common and there’s no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. Set your mind at ease by being honest with the people in your life. They more they know, the better they can respect your circumstances and honor your needs when it comes time to dine together.
Do you have experience with food allergies? Please share your tips!