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Family Plans: How to Celebrate the Holidays When You Eat Differently

The following post is from Kate of Modern Alternative Mama:

source: cletch

Thanksgiving is coming.

For most people this will be a joyous time, a time to gather with family members that maybe you don’t see too often, and give thanks for all your blessings.  This is great.

However, for some, there’s a bit of anxiety involved.  Families who choose to eat “real food” or “traditional food” may be wondering how they can still eat well when they’re away from home…or what they can serve so their families who aren’t so used to real food won’t turn up their noses.

Thanksgiving is so centered on food that it can be hard to celebrate when families have different eating styles.  What’s a family to do?

Give thanks for family.

The bottom line?  You love your family (I hope!).  Whether you eat differently or not doesn’t have to be the focus on the day, despite the abundant food.  Spend most of your time focusing on playing games together, talking, laughing, watching football (if you’re into that) or other non-food-related activities.  After all, the meal will last a half hour…and you’ll probably be together for several. Right?  Spend your time enjoying your family apart from the food as much as possible.

Host the meal at your home.

If you really need to control the menu (for example, if your family has food allergies and it is a serious matter), offer to host the gathering yourself.  This way you can write the menu, select the ingredients, and prepare what works best for your family.  If others offer to bring dishes, let them — just quietly give your family what you prepared, if it’s really important to you. In many cases, traditional holiday foods can be prepared with real food ingredients and many guests won’t even know the difference!  (Or they might even like it better!)

Offer to bring food to share.

If you won’t be at home for Thanksgiving, offer to bring some dishes to share.  Plan to bring a side dish and/or a dessert that your family can eat.  I chose to bring some dried fruit and a pan of scalloped potatoes to a recent family gathering, and this worked out well.  Bring more than a couple options if you’ll be out of town for more than just a day and simply say, “You’re doing so much work to host us, let me help!”  Don’t make it about food choices; make it about your desire to contribute because you love your family.

Answer questions only if asked.

I know how it is.  Sometimes if you’ve just discovered a new way of eating, you’re super excited about it.  You feel better, you’re saving money, it’s really not any harder than opening a can was…. And therefore, you want to share.  Food, however, is a very personal choice, and a lot of people will take offense if their food choices are questioned — even in love!  Unless you know your family is open to new ideas and/or they ask, don’t make a big deal out of it.  While your curious friends may appreciate hearing “These brownies have no refined sugar and I even made them with almond flour!” your family may not. That’s okay — see point #1.


If you don’t have food allergies or a serious health concern that means you must avoid certain foods, compromise a little. It’s the holidays and one meal of less-than-ideal foods isn’t going to permanently damage your health.  Pick and choose among the offerings, knowing that there are certain things you’re okay with (say, white flour, too much sugar, etc.) and certain things you’re not (say, hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners).  Do the best you can with what there is and don’t make an issue of it.  Be prepared that if you’re not used to this, you might get sick after…and think about a nice detox when you get home!  (We found ourselves in just this position last week.)

Don’t let the holidays become about differences, over food or anything else.  We all have our passions and food may be yours. Family’s important too and we can work around food differences.  If your family’s on board with the way you eat, or even sympathetic to it, count your blessings!  Enjoy your holidays. 🙂

How do you handle eating at the holidays when you and family don’t see eye-to-eye on food choices?

Kate is a wife and mommy to 3 and is passionate about God, health and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and is planning to release more in 2012. When she’s not blogging, she’s in the kitchen, sewing, or home schooling her children. You can find her at Modern Alternative Mama or contributing to Keeper of the Home.