4 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays with Diet Restrictions
Navigating the holidays with diabetes is one thing. Navigating the holidays with diabetes and celiac disease? That's a double whammy, but it doesn't need to ruin your fun.
Miriam Raider-Roth and her 11-year-old daughter, Talia, who has lived with diabetes and celiac disease for most of her life, share tips for making seasonal festivities enjoyable, even with diet restrictions.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead
Don't stress about the menu of an event before it has happened. Instead, spend the energy planning to make it work for you.
If Talia is heading to a holiday party at a friend's house, Miriam calls ahead to ask what's on the menu. That way, if there aren't any gluten-free options, she'll send something with Talia. "In terms of celiac, there are so many more choices now," Miriam explains. "I can go to any supermarket to buy gluten-free pizza to send along with her."
On the other hand, for parties in the classroom, "My teachers usually tell me when that sort of stuff is coming up so I can bring in food that's okay for me," Talia adds.
Tip #2: Save the Worrying for Later
"I think for families with either diabetes or celiac, there is an added layer of vigilance in terms of being careful," Miriam explains. "We try to be playful and carefree during the trick-or-treating escapade [for example], and then afterward is when the careful sorting begins."
"Sorting" is a technique many parents of diabetic children use during Halloween. When sorting, the candy collected during trick-or-treating is placed into two piles. One pile is put in a safe place that can be used to treat low blood glucose reactions. For some children with diabetes, candy can be enjoyed as dessert - especially when the child (or caregiver) is able to accurately count the carbs contained within the treat and appropriately given insulin. Some families practice an exchange plan for the other pile of candy, where candy can be traded for money, toys or privileges, like being able to invite a friend over for a play date.
Remember: you can only save the worrying for later, if you've planned ahead.
Tip #3: Educate Others
It is important for the host of an event or cook to be educated about their guests' food restrictions - especially if the restriction is due to a severe food allergy. Don't assume you are coming across as a picky eater; instead, educate others to understand your restriction ahead of the event.
When Talia is going to a new school or getting new teachers, Miriam tries to schedule a brief meeting to run through what they should be aware of in terms of Talia's dietary restrictions, especially with regards to diabetes. This includes educating others of symptoms Talia may present if she's low or high on blood sugar, and can also be a good time to help others understand the importance of saving or displaying nutritional labels. For diabetics, knowing the amount of carbs in a candy can help ensure dosing insulin safely to avoid unnecessary highs in blood sugar.
Now that Talia's older, she's well-versed in what she can or cannot eat. However, "when she was younger and had play dates, we trained each and every one of the parents on how to do a finger check and how to give a glucagon shot, in case of an emergency," Miriam explains.
Tip #4: Speak Up
During situations when Talia is around people who aren't educated on her diagnosis and she's offered food containing wheat, she makes sure to politely ask if there are any gluten-free options available.
For example, on Halloween, if she is offered something like a Twix, her go-to line is: "I have celiac disease; is it possible that you have any other candy that does not contain gluten?"
If none of these steps feel right, pack a diet-appropriate snack to take with you. As long as your end destination doesn't prohibit food or drinks, preparing a snack or two to carry with you is typically acceptable.
Last Updated: October 19, 2016