It’s the time of year that people start thinking about holiday parties. For me, parties always mean food. I’m a foodie so it makes sense. I’m a food blogger who loves to cook, eat, share my food and share my recipes on Recipe Idea Shop.

I’m also someone who gets sick from certain foods.

If you have food allergies or sensitivities going to an event or party that includes food might be tricky. You either end up not eating anything that is served because some foods make you sick or taking a chance and eating what’s served only to pay the price later.

Do you have food allergies and sensitivities? Or do you know people who do?

I wish I could eat anything that is served. It would make my life a lot easier, and I wouldn’t feel panicky looking at a menu or a buffet that contains nothing that I can eat. It’s not that I’m a ‘picky eater.’ I love most foods. They just don’t love me back, and I don’t want to get sick.

What Others Think

When dealing with people who say they are sensitive or allergic to a certain food, others may think, “It’s all in her head,” or “What a pain in the **** she is with all her food restrictions.” I hear people say, “It’s just a fad and she’s just jumping on the band wagon.”

Little do they realize that when they mix in “just a little flour” or “grind the nuts up and hide them in the cake” and think, “she’ll never know,” their friend or relative may end up spending hours in the bathroom or at the emergency ward.

Sometimes, I decide to eat what is available and then pay the price later. Luckily, the only food that sends me to the hospital is soy milk, and that isn’t a common ingredient in most people’s foods. The others – milk and gluten – merely give me severe joint pain and send me to the bathroom for half a day.

Because my body rejects certain foods, I have developed a few strategies to help me get through an event without getting sick. If you have special dietary needs, these strategies might help you, too.

Ask About the Menu

Talk to the hosts or organizers prior to attending the event to make them aware of your special needs. Most people will accommodate your restrictions if they are able to do so and have time to plan for your needs. Offer to bring food to accompany the planned meal so you don’t make extra work for them.

It’s really not that hard to avoid allergens in your recipes. Many allergens can simply be left out, or there are good substitutes for them available.

The easiest thing to do is to start with whole foods, such as a fresh potato instead of Tater Tots. Also, make sure you read the labels of anything that is canned, frozen or boxed so you can avoid particular ingredients.

Bring Your Own Food

If I want to attend the gathering, the safest thing for me to do is to bring a dish to share. This strategy assures there will be something that I will be able to safely eat. If I make it, I know it won’t make me sick.

I contribute to the fare not only because I know I’ll be able to eat it, but because I was brought up to never arrive empty-handed.

Many people my age have no idea what vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free means. So, even though your hosts may think they are offering food that is vegan, for instance, they may have used regular refried beans – which contain lard – instead of the vegetarian kind.

Luckily, most hosts generally appreciate my contributions. I try not to overshadow what they have provided but instead supplement the food choices.

Request a Special Meal

If you are attending a meeting or event in a public venue, you can usually request a special meal ahead of time. During the event is not the best time to ask for accommodations, however. Food is generally prepared before the day of the event and simply brought to the party.

A restaurant at which you are ordering off the menu, however, should be able to meet your needs. To be sure that your restrictions are followed, insist on talking directly to the chef. The chef knows what is in the menu item, and he or she can usually make you something that fits your needs.

I have found that many restaurant servers do not understand the meaning of dairy or gluten allergy. For instance, even when I specify I cannot have milk or cheese, they will bring me something that has cream in it. They do not seem to understand that cream is a milk product.

I have learned that I need to be specific in my request: “No milk, cream, butter, cream cheese, yogurt or any cheese at all.” And, “Be sure to leave the croutons and cheese off the salad.”

Eat Before You Go

If you have ever been on a diet, you know this simple trick. If you eat at home before you go to the party, you will be less likely to nibble on everything in sight and will be careful about what you eat.

Instead of grabbing the cupcake, you’ll choose the sliced fruit because you won’t be thinking, “I’m so hungry, and there’s nothing here I can eat. If I’m going to be sick anyway, I might as well eat cake!”

Ask, Ask, Ask

Be careful about what you eat. Never eat something that you don’t know what ingredients it is made of. Ask those in charge of the food (chef, caterers, etc.) what is in each item so you know if you can eat it. Let them know your allergies so they can help you make good choices.

I hope these suggestions make your holiday season less stressful.

What tricks or tips do you employ to avoid allergens when you are outside your home? Have you ever had someone hide an allergen in a food they serve you? How did you figure it out? Have you been discounted as being ‘too picky’ when you made a special food request? What do you do to avoid being labeled as a picky eater when you are really sensitive or allergic to particular foods? Please share your experiences and recommendations below.

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