Survival Guide: Managing Dietary Restrictions this Season

by Ariela Paulsen
Survival Guide: Managing Dietary Restrictions this Season

It’s that time of year again — traveling, running around to get everything done when you’re not traveling, feasts, gatherings with family members who just don’t yet “get it”… ample opportunities to use up your limited spoons.  If food is a particular stressor for you, here are some tips to keep this season’s eating stress-free!

Finding Food at Airports

I’ve been there too many times; staggering into a crowded food court, exhausted from a long flight, brain fog setting in, nervous about finding my connecting flight, and a second away from a blood sugar crash disaster.  There’s no way that this ends with patiently waiting in lines to purchase an affordable meal that won’t set off more symptoms.

So, what can you do?  For starters, plan ahead!  When choosing flights, consider if you’ve left enough time to take care of your body (and eat!) throughout the day.  If you can, pack a full meal to skip the airport food altogether. If not, bring snacks so that you can avoid a crash while waiting for the inevitable delay or food court line.  Better yet, plan ahead of time what you plan to purchase. If you know the terminal you’ll be in, you could find out which restaurants are available and look up their menus. Simply making yourself a list of commonly served foods you can eat will alleviate some of the decision fatigue and stress.  

Also consider budgeting for a more expensive meal — healthier ingredients and a calmer environment may minimize stress and symptoms enough to be worth the extra bucks. 

Eating on the Road

I’ll say it again: planning ahead is your best tool!  Figure out how many hours you’ll be on the road, and how many times you’ll need to eat.  Overestimate so that you’re not stuck in the lurch without enough food.  Have your food packed in an easily accessible bag. Make sure to include types of foods that will fit your various needs — protein, whole grains, and fat for even energy, carbs for a pick-me-up, salty snacks if low blood pressure is likely to be an issue, etc.  And don’t forget to bring plenty of water! 

Schedule in times to pull over for self care, whether using the bathroom, eating a meal, putting your feet up… getting to your destination 30 minutes earlier just to crash for four hours isn’t ideal.

Consider researching the route ahead of time and figuring out where the restaurants you can eat at are located, and bring the list with you.  That way, should you need something more substantial, you can avoid a frantic brain-fogged and hangry search for sustenance.

Navigating Holiday Meals

Showing up at a celebratory feast just to find out you can’t safely eat any of the food is never fun.  We explored how to make the best of foodie festivities in our Summer BBQ Guide.  Make sure to communicate ahead of time with the cooks so that you know what to expect.  If it’s potluck, however, you may not be able to speak with every cook. The good news is, you’ll at least be able to eat one dish — your own!  Make sure you volunteer to bring an item that could fill you pretty substantially, or bring multiple dishes.  If you know a few of the guests, reach out to them to find out what they’re making.

Don’t be afraid to suggest small tweaks to make it more spoonie-friendly!  I find it helpful to remind myself that I deserve to feel included, and that I don’t need to apologize for being high maintenance, just for asking the cook to leave a little potato on the side before adding seasonings.  If you need some help in that area, here’s a post I’ve found helpful!  You could also ask the host to send out an email to everyone at once saying “We will have guests with the following sensitivities: _______________. Please label ingredients and/or leave out these foods when possible!”  

Do you have a trick?  Let us know on the Friends in the Fight group!  And stay tuned for an upcoming post about how to host a more inclusive feast!

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