While, we have nearly reached our One Year Anniversary of major diet changes, this was our first Christmas season following the Feingold Diet (Stage 1). Had we not been following the program for so long, I know the season would have been more stressful and intimidating. I do remember those early days, weeks and months. During those early days, a month long of continuous events involving food, spreading from Thanksgiving to Christmas, would have totally freaked me out.
For that reason, I thought it was important to share a little of how we survived the season. A little guidance and hope for those newer to the journey. To the newest families, it can be done. We did it and you can too.
I’m not going to lie, there was still was a little stress and some emotions involved, mostly caused from my hyper sensitivity to people, some very close to us, who still don’t “get it”. People who act as if there is something wrong with our child (or our thinking), when really there is something (many things in fact) so very wrong with our food system. People who rather us not share “our food” with them at potluck type functions. Seriously? It’s just REAL food! Oh well, I am thankful that those people are very few and far between and for the most part we are surrounded by people who accept it, appreciate it, and accommodate it…even if they choose not to eat the same themselves, many are asking questions, becoming more aware, making smarter choices in their own ways, and showing support for the choices that we are making for our own family.
Here’s some tips on how we braved the season.
I consider it very fortunate that both of my children’s teachers encourage healthy options for class parties. For both Halloween and Christmas parties, there were lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and crackers, fresh chicken breasts and more. Yes, there were also cookies, brownies, cupcakes and the like, but I have witnessed it myself while spending time in the classes, if the good stuff is offered they take that on their plate as well.
Here’s a few pointers to survive the parties:
Sign up!: Most of the time, these celebrations are fed by volunteers who sign up to provide a dish to share. So, what better way is there to get options that your own child can eat offered up on their buffet line? Sign up to share a dish. I always sign up so that I am sure my child can feel included and can choose food from the same table that the rest of the children are eating from. Need I mention that it’s also getting good food in the bellies of their classmates?!
Pack extras: While I do sign up and allow my child to eat what they can from the main buffet, I do pack a few extra items to fill in some gaps in the menu and to make sure they get enough to fill their belly. For instance, my son is very dependent on protein so I usually make sure he has some approved cheese. I also provide a cupcake from our freezer at home to satisfy his desire for a sweet when everyone else is getting one. I also tend to throw some chips, crackers, or popcorn in his bag along with an organic lemonade.
At this year’s party for my son’s class, I signed up and brought a whole fresh pineapple, cut into slices and bananas cut in half. Other choices good for our son, supplied by other families were a veggie tray with carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and celery (we skip the dip), string cheese snowman that just happened to be a Feingold approved brand (yay!), and oranges (stage 2…doable for some but not for us). So, in reality, the only thing that I provided to him at this party was his own cupcake. It was a great feeling seeing him able to go through the food line, selecting what he could, right along with the other children.
Take Your Own: Besides the parties, there where also gathering such as sing a longs, meetings and more where there were cookies, hot chocolate or similar items offered for snack. In these cases, I simply brought our own homemade/approved version which we all enjoyed as a family just as we do throughout the year, only I tried to stick to the holiday themed snacks. I made homemade hot chocolate on the stove top at home and then placed it in a big thermos to go. I honestly splurged and bought approved gluten free sugar cookies from the health food store…I saved time and stress from my usual baking. I also picked up approved organic candy canes and stashed them in my bag. It seems every where we go, the kids get candy canes. They were quite a spurge for cheapo me, but sometimes it’s simply worth it to help my kids feel “the same” as everyone else. In reality only one candy cane was even consumed, but still worth it.
This is where things can get more difficult for some. When you are dealing with family and friends, you are often invited to their homes and are at their mercy. There can be emotions, drama, misunderstandings, and good intentions gone wrong.
Unfortunately for some children, one mistake off diet can have drastically negative results. This can be very stressful and scary for us parents. But we do have options and here are some that have gotten us through. Yes, we used each and every one of these for different functions this year.
Host: If it is feasible, do it. Host the family dinner yourself. Since I come from a small family (only child here), this is not too much for me to take on. In fact, hosting for my side of the family only involves three extra people than I usually cook for daily. However, before I started cooking due to Feingold, even three extra people would have been too stressful for me. I would have had to rely on the next tip…
Trust: This can be a hard one for some. But fortunate for us, we do have some trustworthy cooks. One such person is my grandmother. In fact she cooks for us once a week throughout the year. Why has it been so easy for her to provide approved meals for us? Because the way we are eating now, is pretty much how she has always eaten and cooked…home cooked meals with real food. She has been my #1 mentor through my new journey in my kitchen this past year.
Take Your Own: Some times it’s simply easiest to take your own plate. This is best for times when you simply know there won’t be suitable options or there are too many unknowns.
Eat At Home: And when all else fails, you can simply skip eating at the function all together and fill your belly with a wholesome, tasty meal at home before you go. You can always pack a few snacks in your bag to get you through a long evening event, but get your main meal at home.
I feel it is important to add that, in my mind, these options are not just for the kids, these are for our family. Whatever option we choose, we are implementing it together. I do not believe in my heart that it is ok for my son to have a separate plate of food that we set aside or bring special for him while seeing me eating from a spread of food that does not accommodate his dietary needs. While I may eat off diet on occasion, I do not do so in front of him. I tend to follow an 80/20 rule for myself as many folks do…I eat 80% real food and splurge (realistically less than) 20% of the time. I stick pretty strict to this diet not simply in support of him, but because I feel so much better physically and mentally when I do.
In the end, you simply need to do what is best for your family and the situation. I had to remind myself several times during the month to just take it one event at a time. I couldn’t look at the big picture of the whole event line up ahead of me or I would have probably bubbled over with stress.
The result was a joyous holiday for our family. Lots of fun was had and memories were made. And food was towards the bottom of my stress list (finally).
Here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas and great blessings for the New Year.