8 Holiday Food Tips for IBD Warriors

The holiday season can be a stressful time for people with inflammatory bowel disease. If you’ve been feeling confused around what to do, know you’re not alone!

If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, please find some general suggestions that may be helpful to get you through a family gathering or party!

Ultimately, consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist is recommended to develop a personalized eating plan that considers your particular food triggers, taste preferences, nutritional needs and goals, and lifestyle.

Reach out to the host, if possible

  • If you feel comfortable reaching out to the host before the event, you could ask what dishes he or she is planning to serve. This will give you an idea of the options you’ll have at the event, which will help you make additional decisions beforehand.
  • Depending on the host’s response, consider bringing a dish to the event that you know you can tolerate.
  • Here’s a potential way to assert your needs when communicating with an event’s host:
    • “Hi ____(host’s name). Thank you so much for inviting me to your holiday party. I’m really excited to attend. Would you mind sharing what dishes will be served at the party? I have a few food sensitivities related to my _____ (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), so am hoping to get a feel for what options will be there.”
    • (host will list off different dishes planning to be served at event)
    • “Wow, that sounds like an amazing spread! With my food sensitivities, would it be okay if I brought ______ (food dish)? It’s gut-friendly and I’d love to share it with everyone!”

Try having small, frequent meals day-of

  • Smaller portions consumed at more frequent intervals throughout the day are usually better tolerated by the gut
  • Having a small meal before you head to the event will also help stabilize appetite, preventing you from feeling like you’re starving when you get there.
  • If the event is earlier in the day (like 2pm), plan to have an additional small meal after you get home.

Eat slowly and chew, chew, chew!

  • The brain needs about 20 minutes to realize your body’s full. Therefore, eating slowly could help prevent eating a very large meal during the event.
  • Digestion begins in the mouth, so chewing foods thoroughly makes it easier for your gut on the way down.

Consider low-fiber if you’re having a lot of symptoms

  • A low-fiber diet can be useful for short-term control of gastrointestinal symptoms and to reduce the amount of stool output.
  • Fiber is found only in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts or seeds.
  • If severe strictures are present, consider avoiding nuts, seeds, beans, and kernels.

If lactose intolerant, consider limiting dairy foods

  • Lactose intolerance causes gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea 30 to 90 minutes after eating dairy products, especially in larger amounts.
  • Examples of dairy products that may be found at parties could be: cheeses, casseroles, heavy sauces, desserts (pies, cakes, cookies)

Consider limiting concentrated sweets

  • Foods such as juices, candy, and soda can pull water into your intestine, which may contribute to watery stools and diarrhea. 

Consider limiting alcohol consumption

  • Alcohol causes the majority of people with IBD to experience worse symptoms.
  • Side effects of even moderate alcohol consumption may include gut irritation, diarrhea, and bleeding.

Value Non-Food Activities

  • Depending on the nature of the event, take moments to focus on non-food related events like spending quality time with family or friends.

Want more personalized recommendations?

Still feeling confused around what foods to eat? I help my clients implement a highly personalized nutrition plan that brings clarity around which to foods to add that may be beneficial, reduces fear and anxiety around eating, reduces inflammation, and ultimately helps them to get their lives back.

Want to chat more about your specific situation? Let’s get in touch!

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