The holiday season is upon us. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve there are abundant food choices at multiple holiday parties. After being diagnosed with genetic sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (GSID) five years ago, I know from personal experience that this time of year can be a real challenge to anyone with food restrictions. Navigating holiday parties can be another stressor during the holiday season on top of all the family drama and other issues you might be dealing with. So I wanted to make it a little easier for you this holiday season, whether you are the one dealing with food restrictions or if it’s your child’s first post-diagnosis holiday.
Planning ahead can mean a lot of different things depending on the situation. If you are attending a cocktail and appetizer reception, maybe eat a meal before you arrive so you don’t feel the need to eat during the party. Or if you know the host well, planning ahead can mean making a phone call to discuss your food intolerances in advance. I have found that most people are receptive to having a discussion about the food being served because most hosts want to make their guests happy. In my experience, my friends have actually been grateful for the heads-up.
Bring your own food
Consider bringing your own dish that you know you can enjoy, but be sure to communicate with your host ahead of time. Holiday hosts already have so much to do during a holiday party, they are usually quite grateful not to have to worry about one more thing. Some ideas that have been a hit in the past are Chive-Horseradish Cauliflower Mash as a side dish or Oven-Baked Rutabaga Fries as an appetizer option.
Most holiday parties have a well-stocked bar or assorted beverage options. Stick with drinks you know you can tolerate. Traditional mixers – fruit juice, sodas, and tonic water – are usually full of sugar; therefore, many sweet holiday cocktails are out of the question. Clear alcohol like vodka, gin, or tequila, has no sugar and can be mixed with sugar-free mixers as an alternative.
Avoid sweet liquors, which generally contain a lot of sugar. As for wine, most of the sucrose is broken down during the fermentation process into glucose and fructose, but some manufacturers add sucrose back in to improve the flavor, so the sucrose content depends on the brand. Sometimes I take a bottle of wine or spirits that I can tolerate for the host to add to the bar.
Enjoy yourself and stay positive
I’ll admit it – sometimes, especially when I was first diagnosed, I worried about attending any type of social gathering. Holidays were even worse because of the possibility of unaware family members questioning why I wouldn’t have just one bite of their special homemade pie. But year after year, the holidays have come and gone and I survived them.
Some went smoother than others, but over time I learned how to control my GSID and mange my digestive symptoms. It was definitely a learning curve. A final thought, as cheesy as it sounds…it helps to focus on the “reason for the season,” which for me is spending more time with friends and family, celebrating the accomplishments of the last year. Find your reason, plan ahead a little bit, and most of all, don’t stress. You will get through this.
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