Nothing makes me happier than the fact that it’s officially summer. And with 4th of July right around the corner, it means that there are also barbecues, picnics, and gatherings with family and friends to attend. I absolutely love it!
However, it can also bring on anxiety and stress for those of us suffering from food allergies or just eliminating certain foods for our health. It’s totally understandable. I used to worry a bunch before these group events until I learned to how navigate them better. It’s actually quite easy to avoid certain foods and just eat the things that you CAN eat with some simple preparation and changing the way you deal with the situation. Here are 5 ways you can ease your stress.
1. Bring your own food.
This one’s an obvious one. If you are just simply gluten- and/or dairy-free, barbecues are quite easy to navigate. Bun-less burgers, bun-less hot dogs, steak, pork chops, grilled vegetables… You can just pile your plate with what you are okay with eating. Easy peasy. However, if you have a more serious condition (i.e. you are on an autoimmune protocol diet), or if you are worried that there may be gluten binders in the meat like white flour or breadcrumbs, bring your own food to eat!
I advise that you make enough to share with the group to make it less awkward about eating just your own separate meal. Plus, you may be surprised that they actually enjoy whatever healthy dish you do decide to bring! If you have a serious allergy and are worried about cross-contamination on the grill or the pan they are cooked in, make something that you don’t have to cook when you get there like a chicken salad or a potato salad, maybe raw veggies with guacamole, hummus, or dip, a salad, or even deviled eggs. The possibilities are endless!
I don’t have a serious allergy, just food sensitivities, so I’m lucky in that I can easily find things to eat at gatherings. However, my weakness lies in desserts and sweets. This is why I usually tend to bring a dessert that I can eat so if I do get a craving, I have something to eat without getting sick. Here are some of my summer favorites:
2. Talk to the host.
This really depends on the situation and how comfortable you are with the host. If you are okay with talking to them in advance, they can let you know what he or she is preparing and tell you what you’ll be able to eat so you can be better prepared. It also depends on what kind of gathering you are attending. If it’s a large group or a big party, it’s probably not necessary to connect with the host in advance. However, in a smaller group setting, you may want to let them know your situation so you don’t offend them by refusing to eat their food.
When I do talk to the host in advance, I communicate that I’m 100% a-okay with bringing something to share and then picking whatever I can eat from what they are serving. I know how stressful it can be to host even a small gathering so I try not to be a big pain-in-the-butt for them in the process.
3. Host an event yourself.
If you have the space and the means, this is the easiest way to enjoy your summer celebrations. If you are preparing everything yourself, you know exactly what goes in your food and you don’t have to worry about what you can or can’t eat, which is awesome! I’ve hosted several Thanksgivings, Christmases, and dinner parties before and I cook all paleo dishes with some gluten-free grains. The guests usually have zero clue that they are eating gluten- and dairy-free and only comment on how delicious the food is.
Good food is good food. As long as you use real, whole food ingredients with delicious spices and flavors, whatever you prepare will please the crowd. Need some healthy summer recipe ideas? Here are some to inspire you!:4. Focus on connecting with others and the fun activities.
Summer get-togethers are so much more than just food. It’s about connecting with the people you love while enjoying all the fun outdoor activities. Your life doesn’t have to revolve around food (although.. yes, food is the best). Take this opportunity to spend time with your loved ones, soak up the sun, and do some of your favorite activities like swimming, cornhole, and volleyball. Summertime means you get to feel like a kid again and run around care-free. Play is just as important as the quality of food you put into your mouth.
5. Don’t make a big deal out of it.
Seriously though, this is so important. People don’t define you by the food you eat and they don’t take notice at all if you don’t make a big deal out of it. I usually don’t tell anyone that I have any issues of what I can or can’t eat unless I really need to. As long as you feel and look comfortable about your decisions, no one will think twice that you didn’t grab the bread or that you didn’t go for the brownie.
If anyone questions your dietary choices, just confidently and matter-of-factly tell them that you have negative reactions when you eat specific foods. No biggie. Most of the time, they’ll understand. If they take on a judgmental tone with you while further probing, ignore it. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
And if you aren’t seriously allergic to the food, then it’s okay to try things that you normally wouldn’t eat. Not making a big deal out of it also means letting go of perfectionism. The more you stress out about the situation, the more a possible cross-contamination will affect you negatively. You need to be in a calm, stress-free mode to be able to digest your food properly. If you are feeling anxious, a food that is perfectly fine for you to eat can actually cause negative reactions in the body.
Enjoy the moment, don’t freak out, and you’ll be just fine. Happy Summer!