I admit that in the lead up to Thanksgiving this year, I was dreading another holiday meal that I would not be able to enjoy because of my dietary restrictions. I typically have to avoid eating most of the food on the table, and yet I still usually leave feeling sick because I ate something that had dairy or wheat in it, even though it had looked safe.
And then, a light bulb went off… “What if I host Thanksgiving this year? Then I could cook and I would actually be able to enjoy the meal!” Wow- why hadn’t that crossed my mind before?
So that is what I am doing. I will be hosting Thanksgiving, and cooking everything. And I will be able to eat everything because it will all be gluten-free and dairy-free. I have to admit that I am excited to eat stuffing again.
The silly truth is, these days it is not that hard to modify traditional favorite dishes to accommodate those with food sensitivities and dietary restrictions. The old excuse of, “well that is how we have always done it” doesn’t hold up anymore. It is possible to eat yummy traditional foods that are safe for you and your loved ones. I promise.
The most difficult challenge to overcome is the way you think about these traditions, and allowing yourself to change the way you have always done things… By making very small changes in some cases, for example, using gluten-free bread or bread crumbs instead of regular bread for the stuffing, you can make everyone feel good and feel loved. That is not a difficult change to make, yet I know that some people resist it either because the change takes a bit more effort, or because they don’t know where to start.
Having food sensitivities or being on a restricted diet is not an easy experience. I know that I have on many occasions opted for what was easiest, which is to eat the food anyway because I didn’t want to seem rude, instead of what was best for me, which is to politely decline the food or bring your own food, or offer to cook and host. I did this especially when I was first diagnosed, and I paid the price dearly afterward. You already feel deprived and like you are an outsider when you have a restricted diet. When the holidays roll around it feels like torture, watching everyone around you enjoy, and being tempted and sometimes taunted by your loved ones to “just have one bite”, or “just eat one slice.”
Do you suspect or know that you have some food sensitivities? Or is there someone close to you who does? Or do you know that you absolutely feel better when you eat a certain way, and you know that you feel physically bad when you eat certain foods? If you do, then consider ways that you can gain some control over the holiday meals, and show your love for yourself and for your loved ones by saying “yes” to your body and choosing foods that love you back.
Here are some tips for making dishes that are accessible to everyone, and I hope that you will experiment with these this year.
- Use all-purpose gluten-free baking flour in place of regular flour for baking. Check out Living Without Gluten Free and More’s handy substitution listfor some great ideas.
- Use one of the sugar substitutes I have written about in place of sugar, corn syrup, and brown sugar.
- Use ghee (clarified butter) in place of butter or margarine. Unless someone has a milk allergy, ghee is a great substitute because it imparts the decadent buttery taste without hurting someone with lactose intolerance or casein sensitivity.
- In place of milk use an unsweetened non-dairy milk. My favorite one is coconut milk because it has the most neutral taste. For a rich taste and consistency use the full-fat canned coconut milk, and for a thinner liquid I use either my home-made coconut milk (see above) or the boxed kind by So Delicious.
- Use gluten-free bread or bread crumbs in place of regular bread.
- Make cornbread instead of biscuits or rolls.
- For gravy use alternative thickeners like tapioca starch, coconut flour, rice flour, or chick pea flour.