Whatever your Holiday traditions entail, surely they include food. And if you are anything like our family, you spend lots of time preparing your holiday menu. In our home we live in our kitchen and love to cook. The past few Holidays we have been experimenting with new and different themed menus.
Despite all the excitement associated with food during the holidays, it’s important to remember lots of special needs individuals have to adhere to special diets for a variety of reasons. Just a few reasons include lack of oral motor ability, sensory issues, food intolerances, and medical related allergies.
In some cases, due to the extent of these restrictions the entire family adopts the diet out of convenience. This can make things a bit more complicated when they are invited to other people’s home for the holiday season. Here are some tips and tricks so you can accommodate a special needs diet in your home during the holidays. Let’s get cookin!
Just changing some basic ingredients can make a world of difference. We have to be careful about ingredients we use in our everyday foods. Due to a gastrointestinal medical condition, if our son eats foods with lots of gluten and other fillers (like chicken nuggets, which he loves) it makes his stomach hurt and causes him lots of gastrointestinal distress. When this happens, he struggles to process the pain he is experiencing. It makes it harder for him to communicate his wants and needs to us. It can leave him running around the house like a maniac, swiping things off counters, slapping people as they walk past him, or hugging you so tightly it's like he’s squeezing you to death.
Talk to the family and ask what type of ingredients they use when creating specific dishes. I bet they will be so flattered you are taking the time to care, they might lend you the 1cup of their special gluten free flour or non dairy coconut milk their child needs, and it really becomes no inconvenience to you at all.
Ask about how to prevent cross contamination, as this can be a real issue for some families because of their child's allergies or other related medical conditions. Our family has adopted “clean eating” as a way to accommodate our son, and it makes eating at other people’s home tricky at times, and can leave us all feeling sick when we leave. Don’t be that Grandma that insists her cooking is just fine, and the child can handle it for just one day.
Lastly, the family might find it safest to bring their own prepared food for their child. Please don’t be offended, as it isn’t personal, and we are not trying to hurt your feelings. We are trying to do what is best for our child, and it has nothing to do with our thoughts about your cooking abilities.
Our son spent 3 whole years in a feeding clinic due to a feeding disorder that was a combination of both lack of oral motor ability and sensory issues. We basically brought our magic bullet with us to every dinner party and family celebration for three years straight. You haven’t lived until you’ve pureed Thanksgiving Turkey dinner in a magic bullet and served it to your five year old child because they are literally unable to eat solids.
So let’s recap, changing some basic ingredients, talking to the family about cross contamination, and allowing them the flexibility to bring their own prepared foods without judgment. These are all great ways to accommodate a family with special needs in your life at your next holiday celebration.
Happy Holidays Everyone!