Tips for Managing Food Allergies on Holidays

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Holidays can be fun, but they can also be a lot of work. I bake lasagna every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the past few years, since going gluten-free, I’ve baked two lasagnas–the classic that I’ve always made, and a gluten-free version (which required some experimenting to get it just right). I do the same with pies.

I could serve my family gluten-free versions of everything and they probably wouldn’t even know, but doubling the amount of lasagna and pie simply means that everyone gets lots of leftovers.

I’ve learned a few tricks about both hosting and guesting since going gluten-free. Here are a few that might help make this holiday season more fun than work.

If you’re hosting…

1. Know your audience.

No one wants to spend all day in the kitchen only to find out that half the guests are allergic to the main dish. Figure out food allergies before planning the meal so you aren’t left with hungry guests and untouched plates of food to clean up.

2. Make it seem easy.

Ballerinas make dancing look easy. Imagine what it would feel like to sit in the audience and watch a dancer struggle for three hours. By the end, you would probably feel exhausted and tense.

If you host a guest who is gluten-free, or has any other type of food allergy, you may be stressed about how your gluten-free dish turned out. Don’t let it show, or your gluten-free guest might feel awkward about putting you in that situation.

3. Relax!

Your gluten-free guest may ask exactly what ingredients you used in certain dishes. If you make sure to disclose everything–even spices–your job is done. You can’t be expected to know every single ingredient that contains gluten. If you tell your gluten-free guests what’s in the dish, they will most likely know whether or not it’s safe–or know where to look to find out.

If you’re a guest…

1. Don’t show up ravenous.

Your host may do everything he or she can to provide a safe meal for you. But mistakes do happen. Your meal may be completely gluten-free, but maybe the spoon designated for the glutenous gravy was accidentally dipped into the gluten-free gravy, contaminating it. If you start thinking that there was cross-contamination during the cooking process and want to opt out of the main meal to be safe, you won’t be kicking yourself for not eating lunch in anticipation of dinner.

2. Offer to bring something.

Yes, it’s a nice gesture, and your host will probably appreciate having one less thing to cook. But it also ensures that there will be something on the table that you can eat.

3. Focus on the company, not the food.

While the meal may be the main event, holidays are really a time to get together with people you may not see as often as you’d like. Suggest sprinkling the evening with a game of pool, or assemble a cornhole set (gift idea?) in the garage or on the patio.

Whether you’re bound to be a host or a guest, if you keep these tips in mind, food allergies don’t need to be an added stress to an already busy holiday season.

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Originally published on The Huffington Post.