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4 Tips to a Successful Holiday Meal with Dietary Restrictions

It’s that time of year again. Time for the get togethers, holiday shopping, and most importantly, lavish meals. But, family feasts can be difficult to manage with the dietary restrictions of a child with ADHD or Autism. 

Many children with ADHD or Autism feel and behave better when they follow diets that restrict gluten, dairy, processed food, and food dyes. Here are a few easy tips to follow to have a safe meal for everyone!

  1. Make A Plan with the Host: 

Hosts usually like to plan their meals early on, so before it gets too close to the holiday, send an email explaining the foods that you are concerned about. 

In your email, include:

  • A list of foods to stay away from

  • Alternatives the host can use. (For example: No butter, but Earth Balance buttery spread)

With enough time, the host might be able to prepare the dish with alternate ingredients, prepare a different dish, or you can offer to make the dish and bring it yourself. 

  1. Discuss Safe Foods With Your Child:

Depending on the age of your child, it’s important to discuss food safety with your child. It can be helpful to discuss:

  • Why are we staying away from certain ingredients?

  • Which ingredients should we be cautious of? 

  • What dishes are not safe dishes to have?

  • Which dishes are safe dishes to have?

One easy way to make sure your child will have something to eat is to bring a safe dish from home. Show your child the dish that you have prepared, and explain that it is a safe dish to eat.

  1.  Have Guests Bring a Non-Food Item:

Even if you are hosting the meal, many guests will offer to bring a dish for the table. If you’re concerned about what ingredients might be in their dishes, feel free to ask your guests to contribute non-food items, such as:

  • Flowers for the table centerpiece

  • Their own beverages

  • Cups/ napkins

  1. Become a Safe Food Trendsetter: 

If you are hosting, become a Safe Food Trendsetter by including an ingredient list with the dishes that you make. This helps to create an inclusive meal where everyone can see the ingredients in the dishes. It’s also great to model this safe-food practice, which others might start doing when it's their turn to host a holiday meal. 

With a little planning, attending and hosting a dietary-friendly holiday meal is possible! Just remember that communication and education is key. Work together with the host to make a plan for the meal, and communicate with your child about safe-food options. 

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