Navigating Family Get-Togethers During a Flare up!

Family gatherings are a time to indulge in family favorites that may be more decadent than your usual fare. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed at the dinner table, especially if you are in the midst of a flare-up. Rest assured that there are ways to enjoy time with family and friends while being kind to your body—it just takes a little bit of mindfulness.

First things first: avoid trigger foods. This is the most effective way to avoid any further upset. While soda, greasy foods, or alcohol may be present at the gathering, comfort yourself by knowing that you are being kind to your body by avoiding them. Plus, you’re making a healthy decision by choosing nutritious items that heal and nourish your body. Instead of feeling deprived, come prepared by bringing fruit-infused water (or make it there) and chilled unsweetened coconut water with no added artificial colorings or flavoring to keep you hydrated and satisfied.

Speak up. Remember you are with family who care about your well being, so do not be afraid to speak up. If the menu items require deep-frying, heavy spice, or buttery/creamy sauces, kindly request that yours be made simply grilled or offer to help in the preparation. Family and friends will be happy to accommodate you!

Make your meals small and frequent. Typically, when we go to a family gathering we end up eating one large meal, which can lead to abdominal discomfort and cramping, particularly if you are in the midst of a flare up. Instead of keeping up with the pack, pace yourself and allow yourself the freedom to do what works best for you. If your gathering is a full-day event, plan to eat fist-sized amounts of food every 3-4 hours and hydrate with water and/or coconut water in between (1). You can also bring snacks that you know will not aggravate your condition. These can vary greatly between individuals. If you only plan to be over for one meal, offer to bring a dish that most people enjoy that also sits well with you!

Pack your own food. Bringing a dish or two will help alleviate your stress and also provide you with a great opportunity to include some vegetable dishes that will be easy on your stomach. Try a butternut squash or sweet potato mash. You can easily steam the vegetables, whip them with almond or coconut milk, and flavor them with cinnamon and a sprinkle of coconut sugar. Or, offer to bring a heartier crowd-pleaser, like lactose-free lasagna rolls—no one will know the difference! You can also substitute some of the lactose-free cheese for tofu to pump up the protein content.

Focus on the cans, not the cant’s. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on the wonderful variety of foods you can eat. Check to see if there is a fruit platter; if there is one, enjoy small portions of melon or honeydew. These fruits will be easier on the digestive system and provide nutrients and hydration. Is there a cheese and cracker tray? Snack on a few plain crackers, and try avocado instead of cheese for a dose of healthy fat, potassium, folate, and vitamins E, Bs, and K.

Focus on fun. Take your mind off food and enjoy some fun!! If guests are up for it, put together a fun game of volleyball or flag football, or try something guests of all ages can enjoy like a big puzzle, a board game, or a game of cards. This will get your mind off food and help to ease any stress or feelings of deprivation.

Don’t deprive yourself of dessert! If you are worried about finding one that you would feel comfortable to eat, here’s an easy dessert you can assemble in minutes and bring to share!

Dairy-Free Rice Pudding (adapted from sodeliciousdairyfree.com)

Ingredients
2 cups coconut milk (try: So Delicious®Original Coconut Milk Beverage)
2 cups water
1 cup medium-grain white rice (sushi rice)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
Ground cinnamon or nutmeg

Method: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine water and rice and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Add milk and sugar to cooked rice, stirring well. Return saucepan to stove. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 15 to 20 minutes or until very thick and creamy. If pudding is too thick, thin it out with a little more milk until it’s reached desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract or paste. Let rice pudding cool slightly before serving. If desired, sprinkle with ground cinnamon before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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