How to Conquer Holiday Meals, Even With Your Child’s Dietary Restrictions

It’s that time of year again. Time for the get togethers, holiday shopping, and most importantly, lavish meals. But, the large family feasts can be difficult to manage with the dietary restrictions of a child with ADHD or Autism. Many children with ADHD or Autism feel and behave better when they follow diets that restrict gluten, dairy, processed food, and food dyes. Here are a few easy tips to follow to have a safe meal for everyone!

Make A Plan with the Host: 

Hosts usually like to plan their meals early on, so before it gets too close to the holiday, send an email explaining the foods that you are concerned about. 

Many family members are eager to be inclusive of dietary restrictions, but sometimes don’t know how to do this. Make a list of foods to stay away from, and alternatives that they can use. For example, if your child is dairy free, you might add on your list- no butter, but Earth Balance buttery spread can be used as an alternative. 

With enough time, the host might be able to prepare the dish with alternate ingredients, prepare a different dish, or you can offer to make the dish and bring it yourself. 


When attending a meal at someone else’s home, one easy way to make sure your child will have something to eat is to BYOSF (Bring Your Own Safe Food). Depending on the age of the child, it’s important to explain what ingredients they should be staying away from, and what dishes are safe for them. Show your child the dish that you have prepared, and explain that it is a safe dish to eat.

Have Guests Bring a Non-Food Item:

Even if you are hosting the meal, many guests will offer to bring a dish for the table. If you’re concerned about what ingredients might be in their dishes, feel free to ask your guests to contribute non-food items. Consider asking guests to bring flowers for the table centerpiece, their own beverages, or even cups and napkins. 

Become a Safe Food Trendsetter

If you are hosting, become a Safe Food Trendsetter by including an ingredient list with the dishes that you make. This helps to create an inclusive meal where everyone can see the ingredients in the dishes. It’s also great to model this safe-food practice, which others might start doing when they host holiday meals. 

With a little planning, attending and hosting a dietary-friendly holiday meal is possible! Just remember that communication and education is key. Work together with the host to make a plan for the meal, and communicate with your child about safe-food options. 

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Children’s Wellness & Developmental Center
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