Navigating the Holidays and Food Allergies


by Caroline Moassessi, FAACT’s Vice President of Community Relations

Everyone seems to be bursting with excitement to gather with family and friends in a way that feels closer to “normal.” While we may never return to our carefree, pre-pandemic views of social gatherings, this year feels a step closer to that. How do we ensure our family’s food allergy safety amid all the holiday cheer to come? With a bit of preplanning—and a commitment to take care of ourselves as well as our loved ones—a great holiday season awaits.

Start with self-care. Airlines instruct us to put on our masks before helping others. The same theory works at home. Are you up for the challenge of hosting, cooking, or traveling? If not, be vocal about your needs and make your physical and mental health as a priority. Drop by FAACT’s Behavioral Health Resource Center to find tips on self-care, coping with anxiety, and stress management.

Rethink traditions. After several years of postponed celebrations, this could be the year to put a twist on your usual traditions! Instead of one or two people rising early to prepare a feast, have the whole family cook a meal together. Replace a large dinner with a group hike and hot chocolate by an outdoor fire. Make new traditions that truly celebrate the people in your life.

Write it down. Create a holiday checklist of upcoming events and related to-dos. Writing it all down will give you an honest glimpse into whether you are trying to do too much—or too little. If the list is too long, enlist children and others in helping you prepare for events.

Re-educate. It’s been a while since we’ve been together, and family and friends might have forgotten which allergens your family needs to avoid. Bring patience and dose of compassion to grandma’s house as you “refresh” everyone with your family’s food allergy management rules, including label-reading tips. Better yet, call ahead or email them information from FAACT’s Education Resource Center.

BYOF: Skip the sweat of supervising someone else’s kitchen and Bring Your Own Food (BYOF). We took this approach to an evening with family friends so we could enjoy being together and focus on the people, not the food. (It worked!) Or consider bringing a few safe dishes for everyone to enjoy together. Discover new holiday recipes in FAACT’s Pinterest Collection, and don’t miss our Cultural Allergy-Friendly Recipes.

Plan careful conversations. If you need to break the bad news that you are not traveling or hosting, prepare yourself for a potentially challenging conversation. Plan out your talking points and role play with a friend if needed. Set your boundaries with love and firmness, and find peace in knowing that you can say no when it is needed the most.

Fill your glass. Now is a great time to shift focus to the positive things in your life. Play the gratitude game when things feel overwhelming. My family will pause and share three items we are grateful for in that very minute, such as fuzzy socks, a tasty dinner, or a good night’s sleep.

The holidays can be a challenge—and bring us so many rewards. I hope the love of family and friends fills your heart and makes each holiday special.

Visit FAACT for more holiday tips. We wish everyone a healthy, safe, and happy holiday season!