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What happens when one of us changes?  There’s something about a person shifting eating habits that seems to scare the crap out of loved ones—especially during the holidays.  Gathering with family and friends to celebrate and reconnect, the boding we do over food is rich with ritual and tradition.  We look forward to getting together to do that thing and eat that dish.  When one of us changes what and how we eat, the community is pushed to re-evaluate.  Our gatherings are so deeply rooted in food and similarity that noticing difference challenges our communities to redefine themselves and the connections we share.

A community, at its best, works to include.  It honors shared similarities while welcoming the nuances that show our diversity.  Communities challenge themselves to ask hard questions.  How are we loving each other?  Are we making room for all of us—in word and in deed?

At this year’s celebration, challenge yourself to make sure there’s space for everyone! Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

 

Different eaters are referred to below as DEB (differently eating beloved).

 

Who’s At Your Table?

Vegan

One who eats fruits, vegetables, legumes and a host of other foods while refraining from consuming animal flesh and animal byproducts including, but not limited to dairy (milk, butter, cheese) and eggs.

**Feel free to ask the DEB in your life if they include honey as some folk do and some don’t.

 

Vegetarian

One who eats fruits, vegetables, legumes and a host of other foods while refraining from consuming animal flesh.  Depending on their version of vegetarianism, a DEB may or may not eat some animal byproducts like eggs and dairy (milk, butter, cheese).

**If you don’t know what kind of vegetarian the person is, ask.

 

Pescatarian

One who eats fruits, vegetables, legumes and a host of other foods while refraining from most animal flesh.  Pescatarians eat fish and other sea creatures.

 

Lactose Free

One who may eat meat, fruits, vegetables, legumes and a host of other foods while refraining from consuming dairy and dairy products.  A person may willingly choose to reduce or eliminate lactose from their diet or do so at the encouragement of their healthcare practitioner. 

 

Gluten Free

One who may eat meat, fruits, vegetables, legumes and a host of other foods while refraining from food or food products that contain gluten.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley (including malt) and rye.  A person may willingly choose to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet or do so at the encouragement of their healthcare practitioner.  Gluten is pretty pervasive and is found in many processed foods.  When using processed products, be sure to check for gluten-based ingredients. 

 

Sugar Free

One who may eat meat, fruits, vegetables, legumes and a host of other foods while refraining from food or food products that contain sugar.  People who have sugar free diets may use fruits and vegetables as natural sweeteners.  Check with the DEB in your life to learn about what sugars they welcome.  A person may willingly choose to reduce or eliminate sugar or do so at the encouragement of their healthcare practitioner.  Sugar is present in most processed foods—even the ones you might not imagine.  It’s important, when using processed food products, to check the ingredients for sugar in all forms. 

 
REMEMBER
 

Everyone loves a classic.  The DEB in your life might have changed their diet, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on ever tasting those classic holiday dishes.  Some of the ingredients might have to change, but there are often simple substitutions that can be made to accommodate your DEB.  Your classic just might be ready for a remix!

 

A good, sincere try is always appreciated.  If you happen to offer something a DEB doesn’t eat or like, it’s still likely they appreciate your effort.  We all want to feel like we matter.  Your intention and attempt to include them is not lost.

 

Don’t be the food police.  People are full of inconsistencies.  Just as you might love baked potatoes and dislike boiled potatoes, the DEB in your life gets to pick and choose as well.  Don’t assume that the vegetarian loves all vegetables or that the lactose free person might not want to taste a bit of ice cream.  Give your support by offering multiple options, allowing folks to choose and refraining from being judgmental about their choices.

 

Everyone is a whole person.  The DEB in your life might be open to chatting with you about food, food choices and their diet, but no one wants people to only talk to them about one subject.  Take a break from picking their brain about all things food; they probably have another interest or two.

 

 

Happy cooking and happy holidays!

 

Jacqulyn Hamilton is a massage therapist, wellness coach and educator.  She offers body therapies and wellness services designed to support and encourage joyfully, healthy lifestyles through Ashe: Massage, Bodywork & Wellness (http://www.ashebody.com).

This post is part of the MomsRising Healthy Holiday Food Blog Carnival.

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