Festive Feasting on Restricted Diets: The Ultimate Guide
Going to parties and events can be tough when you have to constantly watch what you’re eating. Here’s how to navigate the festivities while keeping your dietary restrictions in mind.
The holiday season is about two things: people and food. It’s a time where you want to live and let live, making the most of every moment. It’s easy to forget about your diet when you’re too busy having fun, even when sticking to it is in your best interests. Whether it’s diabetes or hyperthyroidism, being on a diet also means another thing: you will inevitably be the odd one out at any gathering you end up attending.
31-year-old Sheela Singh, a mother and YouTuber based out of Pune, is very familiar with dietary restrictions. Diagnosed with PCOS two years ago, she has to consistently stick to a diet or risk weight gain that can worsen existing PCOS symptoms. For her, navigating holiday feasting becomes especially challenging since she has a neighbour who loves to cook. While her neighbour insists that Sheela try the deep-fried and assorted appetisers she’s so fond of cooking, Sheela has to say no each time.
But Sheela isn’t the only one. Truth is, with so many lifestyle diseases cropping up, many people are bound to be on some restricted diet or the other. You might be catering to a party where some are lactose-intolerant, and that means you need to look for substitutes. On the other hand, you might be attending a party where you can’t indulge in gluten, and that can be equally challenging to navigate.
Managing these dietary restrictions comes with its own set of issues. How can I ask the host to be accommodating of my needs? What can I eat here? How can I say no without being rude? Food is an important part of any event, but communicating your dietary requirements to others may be stressful for you. If you want to understand how you can navigate dietary restrictions at events, what to avoid and more, we’re here to help. We spoke to Bangaluru-based nutritionist, Dr. Nikita Suresh about the best way to feast while being mindful about your restrictions. Here’s your ultimate guide to holiday feasting on restrictive diets:
Tips To Feast On Restricted Diets
1. Keep an emergency stash
Confronted with sweets that everyone but you can indulge in? While that can feel alienating, it is best to prepare for these situations. Keep safe treats with you at all times so you can enjoy and feel included at any event. “If you are concerned that the event may not have food choices as per your health issues then it’s best to pack some snacks and food as back up,” says Nikita.
2. Eat beforehand
Showing up to any event when you’re starving is a recipe for disaster. You might end up eating something that is clearly not advised by your doctor, and suffer later for it. Eating beforehand can prevent mindless eating, and keep you on the right path. You also won’t have to deal with the stress of finding something you can eat, or asking the ingredients for every dish that’s presented to you.
3. Allow yourself a teeny-tiny bite
Having one bite or meal is okay for people with conditions that can be managed through medication, and where the side effects won’t be life-threatening. But, it might not be the best idea to indulge in kaju barfi when you know you’re allergic to cashews. Asking beforehand about what’s in the food so you don’t have to make an emergency visit to the hospital is crucial, and encouraged for those with allergies. Know what your forbidden food items are so you can steer clear of them no matter what.
4. Talk to the hosts
Even when your friends and family have your best interests at heart, their unfamiliarity with dietary restrictions can end up being destructive to your health. Telling the hosts beforehand that you have specific dietary restrictions that can’t be avoided i.e. being unable to eat gluten, can be the best way to handle the situation. Making others aware about the implications of you deviating from your diet can help them be more cautious in the future. It can also prevent any unexpected catastrophes from happening.
5. Host a potluck party
If you have dietary restrictions or want to be mindful of everyone’s eating preferences, a potluck enables each person to bring at least one thing that they can eat, and it can make organising festive parties easier too.
How to feast if you are on a restricted diet?
According to Dr. Nikita, dietary restrictions for specific health conditions are not general as it differs from person to person. You might find that other people in your social circle also suffer from lifestyle ailments, including PCOS, diabetes or food allergies. It can be a relief to know that someone else will understand what you have to go through during the festive season, and you’re not alone. You can even take tips from them about the best way to feast while being mindful of what you can’t have. Here are some general pointers you should keep in mind:
Diabetes: If you have diabetes, avoid juices laced with sugar, desserts, sweets, junk food, deep fried snacks etc. While having a bite won’t hurt you, it’s best to know when to stop.
Include a diet rich in complex carbohydrates - millet porridge, millet upma, brown rice with rajma, semolina halwa with nuts, panch dal, kadai paneer, and whole wheat paratha or pooris.
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PCOS: Women who suffer from PCOS should avoid carb-loaded foods, saturated fat, and sugar. Also, avoid dairy and gluten if you are also lactose/gluten intolerant. Keep your distance from deep-fried dishes like french fries, chowmein, biryani, samosas, spring rolls, along with processed foods such as cakes and cookies.
To combat inflammation and insulin resistance, go for foods like roti with kaali dal, moong dal kheer, shahi paneer, chole bhature/kulche, steamed rice with rajma, etc.
Related story: How To Manage PCOS With Diet And Exercise
Hypo & hyperthyroidism: People with thyroid have different requirements, and the restrictions also depend on medication. If you’re already on medication then there is nothing to avoid, just limit consumption of goitrogens (substances that disrupt production of thyroid hormones) such as in cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, soya and tofu.
A low-iodine diet for hypothyroidism can help manage the condition of thyroid and this can be maintained even in a holiday feast. Consume sprouts and beans salad, plain rotis with lentil curry (dal), bread omelette, moong dal cheela with coriander chutney, makhana chaat, and buttermilk.
Related story: Everything You Need To Know About The Thyroid
Depression: If you’re currently taking medication for depression, include foods rich in antioxidants, vitamin C foods such as guava, papaya, amla , oranges, lemon. Apart from these foods rich in magnesium& Omega-3 are beneficial. Try to have low sugar sweets like fruit parfait, custard, mixed fruit & low sugar ice cream, banana pudding, and almond barfi.
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