Festive food

The holidays are tough when you have to follow a restricted diet.  I can’t believe I used to binge on After Eights, mince pies, Pringles and Matchmakers……I miss those days sitting in front of the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey stuffing my face with junk 😉  However, Christmas doesn’t have to be a complete let down and it’s still do-able to enjoy some festive food without breaking out in hives.

Here’s what I’ll be eating over the holidays, copied from last year.  I know many of you won’t be able to tolerate everything I do, but hopefully you can substitute the foods you can eat and still be able to join in with festive mealtimes.

Main Meal

I don’t eat turkey as I’m vegetarian so will substitute a Quorn ‘chicken’ flavour roast which contains only 7 ingredients all of which I can pronounce and I know I don’t react to, though if you’re a meat eater getting a fresh turkey at Christmas really shouldn’t be a problem.  I could also make my own nut roast or use store bought organic Felafels.  I can eat potatoes, so will have both roast and mashed, and love my yorkshires.  I also love root veg such as parsnips, carrots and squash roasted in olive oil in the oven, but will leave out brussel sprouts for no other reason than they’re the Devil’s own vegetable 😉  Apple sauce (home-made – see the Recipe page) is fine on a low histamine diet, though I’ll steer clear of the cranberry sauce (berries are questionable histamine-wise, plus it’s bought in a jar so probably contains all sorts of preservatives).  I’ll also make my own gravy (see Recipe page).

Photo of Quorn meatloafDessert

Dried fruit laden Christmas pudding is out, so we’re having a home-made sponge with a toffee sauce topping and home-made custard.  Job done.  Lots of desserts are fine to eat on a low histamine diet, however, see the Recipe page for inspiration.

If you usually have cheese and crackers after dessert that’s also do-able on a low histamine diet.  Carr’s Table Water crackers only contain 3 ingredients (flour, salt, vegetable oil) and although you can’t top them with hard cheese you can use a nice soft one like  Ricotta or Philadelphia (optionally mixed with herbs of your choice) or a cheese alternative such as Violife which is made from coconut.

To round off the meal us Brits often have a cuppa and an after dinner mint.  If you can’t find any with suitable ingredients make your own peppermint creams (see the Recipe page) which can be prepared well in advance of the day.

Photo of peppermint & carob creamsDrinks

Obviously alcohol is out on a low histamine diet, so you’re going to have to get used to being tea-total (I haven’t touched alcohol for over two decades and I’ve lived to tell the tale 😉 ), but there are some nice soft drinks you can have over Christmas such as:

  • ‘Belvoir’ Elderflower presse or cordial
  • ‘Bottlegreen’ mango & coconut presse
  • ‘Poms’ pomegranate juice
  • ‘Eden’ carrot juice
  • Apple juice or presse
  • Or, of course, you can make your own freshly squeezed fruit and veg juice if you have a suitable juicer and mix it with some fizzy bottled water.

Note: some of these contain citric acid as a preservative, but a little bit over Xmas isn’t going to kill you.

Snacks

We all traditionally eat crap over Christmas, and while you can’t tuck in to the Milk Tray or Bombay Mix there are snacks you can indulge in which, while not particularly nutritious, shouldn’t add to your histamine burden:

  • Plain tortilla chips (check ingredients) either on their own or dipped in mango or tomato-free salsa (see Recipe page).  Tescos lightly salted tortilla chips contain maize, sunflower oil and salt.  Gluten and dairy free.
  • Home-made plain or butter popcorn.   Gluten free, and dairy free if eaten plain rather than with butter sauce.
  • Home-made butter fudge (can be made in advance and frozen).   Gluten free.
  • Fresh nuts (if you tolerate them) which my diet allows but other diets restrict.
  • Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake (sugar, glucose, oil of peppermint).  Gluten and dairy free.
  • Ready salted or plain crisps (check ingredients).  Walkers only contain potatoes and vegetable oil and are scrummy.  Kettle and Hoola-Hoops are also fine ingredient-wise.  Or you can make your own vegetable crisps from thinly sliced beetroot, parsnips or sweet potatoes brushed with oil and sprinkled with salt then baked in the oven.  Gluten and dairy free.

My best advice is not to try anything new over the festive period.  Spending hours in A&E after you’ve reacted badly to something you’ve eaten is no-one’s idea of fun.  Stick to things you’ve tried or eaten before and know are safe.

Being invited to someone else’s home for a meal over the holidays is tricky.  I tend to just say no and, rather than explaining about my food issues which are met by looks of disbelief, whisper that I’m having some tummy troubles and having to be really careful about what I eat otherwise I end up on the loo for hours.  People just accept this, as talking about bowel habits is still thankfully taboo 😉  If you absolutely have to eat at a relative’s house you can always cook your own meal at home, plate it, cover it with cling-film and just re-heat it when you get there (even though reheating increases the histamine burden slightly – if you’re following a low histamine diet your overall histamine load should be relatively small, so doing this shouldn’t tip you over the edge and into a reaction).

We’re not the only ones who struggle to eat out.  My best mate is Coeliac and doesn’t even eat at my house, despite my knowledge of all things gluten, because my kitchen is contaminated by wheat particles.  She had a Christmas meal at her sister-in-law’s house a couple of years ago where she ate some cheese not knowing it contained gluten, which affected her Coeliac test 3 months later (we still can’t understand why gluten would need to be added to a bag of grated Cheddar!).

Parties or get-togethers where there are just nibbles rather than a full-on feast are easier.  You can just take your own snacks and take your own bottle of alcohol-free drink.

I hope, whatever diet you have to follow, you can find something nice to have over the holidays.  Bon appétit 🙂

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