Surviving Thanksgiving with a special diet

Being different is A-OK, little carrot. -- photo by craigles75
Being different is A-OK, little carrot. — photo by craigles75

Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, paleo, lactose intolerant, celiac or just plain picky, the holiday season can be extra stressful if you don’t eat the way “everyone else” does. But Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a stressful, passive-aggressive — or aggressive-aggressive — mess. There are many ways to ensure your health and happiness while eating the food you want and need without sacrificing holiday cheer.

1. B.Y.O.Anything!

Regardless of your particular diet, it is always a lovely — and appreciated — gesture to bring part of a meal to a celebration. Most people will plan on having turkey and mashed potatoes or something else very #Murican, but you can never have too many appetizers and sides. Find a dish that can make a yummy side for everyone, but make sure it’s filling enough to serve as a prominent part of your meal. Pinterest is a magical catalogue of casseroles, pies, finger-foods and many other treats suited to every type of diet. And then, there’s always the Vegducken:

2. Know what to say

It’s bound to happen. Aunt So-and-So is going to to ask, “Why aren’t you eating X?” And when you answer, “I’m vegan/vegetarian/paleo/celiac/I don’t like it,” she’s likely going to ask you to explain yourself. Yes, that is frustrating, but most people are more curious than judgmental. Rather than getting upset or snapping back, have a planned response. This way you can be calm and collected and won’t have to fumble around for the point you want to make. A simple, “I can live without meat, so I do,” or, “I believe this is a good way to improve my health” will suffice.

3. Say “No, thank you” and don’t feel guilty

Declining to eat something is not inherently rude. Yes, your host or hostess prepared all that food, but they prepared it to show their love and gratitude for you and the other guests. You are obliged to be gracious, but not to eat something that you either don’t want or might put your health in jeopardy. Just say “no” with a smile and compliment what you can eat, and I promise you, no one will label you a jerk.

4. Focus on non-food activities

True, Thanksgiving is a food-centric holiday. However, the true point of the day is to count your blessings and appreciate those you love. The best way to ensure a great day is to put effort into creating fun memories with everyone. For my family, we love to play board games for hours. Other camps head to theatres to see a film. If your squad doesn’t have any traditions, start one!

Ultimately, the best way to survive the day with a special diet is to accept that your Thanksgiving might not be your favorite food day of the year. Sometimes, you’re gonna end up eating gluten-free crackers from the cupboard with cashew cheese you brought yourself. And you know what? That’s okay! On Friday, you can satiate yourself with a decadent feast of your own choosing. You’ve earned it.

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