Living with food allergies is never a walk in the park, but Christmas time is a whole other ball-game. The festive season is very much a food-oriented holiday, meaning that for those with food allergies, it can present all kinds of challenges. The day somebody creates a luxury allergen-free Christmas hamper cannot come soon enough, but in the meantime, the following five stages of dealing with food allergies over the festive season may resonate with you…
We approach the season with a positive mind-set. We will NOT be governed by pesky allergens. They will have NO bearing on our seasonal Winter bulking. Problem is, denial of this kind only goes so far when you know that the smallest particle of the allergen in question could quite literally kill you. And so, reluctantly, we have to admit that not even the most delicious looking mince pie is worth taking the risk.
Fuelled on by this mince pie-based deprivation, we turn our attention to seeking the food we CAN eat. And this is where the anger kicks in, thanks to the not-so-trusty labelling regulations here in the UK. Here’s an epic brainteaser for your Christmas crackers this year: if a product doesn’t disclose that it MAY contain traces of nuts but on further investigation discloses it MAY contain ingredients that have been made in a factory that MAY contain traces of nuts… does it or does it not contain traces of nuts? And don’t even get me started on whether or not their definition of nuts includes peanuts, because quite frankly we’ll be going on about that one well into the new year.
Disheartened by our attempts to source safe foods, the bargaining commences. Although not to be confused with allergies, intolerances naturally become something to test your luck with over the festive season. They’re also an easy target for well-meaning yet non-understanding family members, who despite a complete lack of medical education are convinced that food sensitivities simply don’t exist on special occasions. Intolerance maths, if you will, commences: if we don’t even chance a sniff at the dairy for breakfast or lunch, can we risk a teeny tiny chocolate from the selection box? How much harm could it *possibly* do? A valid question, but as anybody in this position will tell you, most likely more than you could imagine. Step away from the Quality Street, friend.
Let’s face it: there’s no fresh hell like being around the table and watching your loved ones bonding over and luxuriating in delicious festive food, whilst you sit there with a piece of bread that looks like it’s come out of the rear-end of a reindeer and try to be grateful for it. It’s a tough time of year, and it’s absolutely okay to feel a little down about it. If nothing else, know that there will be many others wistfully at the profiteroles with EpiPens in hand too. You’re not alone.
But alas, the good food IS out there. Though non-allergic people may never know our struggles, they’ll also never experience the pure joy of finding a free-from alternative that actually tastes like the thing it’s supposed to. Safe foods are becoming more and more prevalent (particularly in the gluten and dairy free market), and surely it won’t be too long now until we can enjoy safe alternatives to all our favourite festive foods. So stay vigilant, whip out your favourite free-from selection box, and enjoy. You’ve earned this!