14 Ways to Dine Out & Socialize on a Low Histamine Diet
Having trouble balancing your low histamine diet and social life?
Do you find it hard to balance social events, work and dining out?
If so, rest assured that you’re not alone, and today I’d like to share a few strategies and lessons that I’ve learned to help enjoy my social life while respecting my low histamine diet.
The Underestimated Challenges Of Being On A Low Histamine Diet
One of the hardest parts of sticking to any particular diet is attending social gatherings – and this can make all the difference in deciding whether you leave with a happy tummy, or are left riddled with symptoms that you have to face for days following.
One of the worst parts of being on a restrictive diet - especially something so uncommon as a low histamine diet - is that people rarely understand what you’re going through. Unless they’ve experienced it themselves, they’re often are very quick to judge and belittle your food choices.
When I was living a low histamine lifestyle I got put down a lot! Not only was I on a restrictive diet, but I was also living abroad for a large portion, so the language barrier at restaurants added a lot of stress to the situation.
In the few instances that I didn’t cook at home, my attempts to order restaurant meals that were well-cooked and sauceless while making a few substitutions would elicit every negative response from groans to eye rolls to verbalised frustration from others at the dinner table. I even once got called “selfish” in front of a crowd for not eating the Chinese food at a friend’s wedding.
It made me sad, embarrassed, and anxious, driving me to the point where I would purposely abstain from attending social events in order to avoid feeling those negative emotions.
Unfortunately, this abstinence did more harm than good, as I ended up confining myself to my own home, allowing my friendships and family relationships to slowly wither away, while also preventing the possibility of forming new, valuable connections. I was left feeling more alone in my histamine battle than ever before, and the stress of loneliness and isolation was definitely not good for my mentality.
Dietary Restrictions: A Common Hidden Struggle
In a world where food additives and preservatives run rampant, it can easily become a bizarre concept to follow a low histamine routine all the time, especially when you have added restrictions to certain natural foods as well. But, one of the most life-changing things I wish I had known back then was that there is a massive community of people who have some level of dietary restrictions, and that I didn’t have to be alone in my journey to better health.
For example, one in every five North Americans experience regular digestive symptoms in response to foods, which is far from a “socially-acceptable” topic. As a nutritional scientist, I can tell you with confidence that, at every social event I attend, there are plenty of others who are trying to find this same balance between sticking to their diet while socialising and dining out.
I’d like to talk today about how to not only effectively navigate social events while sticking to your low histamine diet, but how to explore potential ways to support your journey to better health.
14 Ways to Socialise and Dine Out on a Low Histamine Diet
1. Find friends with common dietary habits
Finding people in your local community who are also histamine intolerant can be a challenge. However, if you find people who carry the same respect for how food impacts the body and perhaps are on restrictive diets themselves, you can accommodate one another and provide support for one another.
Join an in-person health or nutrition class or try websites like www.meetup.com to search for healthy eating groups in your area.
2. Cook for your friends
Cooking low histamine recipes for your friends allows you to take the driver's seat and doesn't take away any enjoyment from their dining experience. In fact, at nearly every one of my dinners, I’ve had people leave asking me for the recipes, never even realising they were eating a low histamine meal! Cooking for your guests also eliminates any potential fuss or questions regarding your diet, so you don't have to worry about being interrogated about your choices.
3. Bring a low histamine dish for everyone to share
If you’re attending a dinner party, bringing a homemade low histamine dish can come across as a polite gesture while strategically providing yourself with a safe dish to focus on. It may require bit of extra effort, but the time it takes to do this is likely going to be less than the time you will spend suffering from frustrating symptoms afterwards.
4. Call ahead at restaurants
This tip can be a life-saver for business dinners or events where you won’t be surrounded by people you’re fully comfortable with. Call ahead and ask to speak to a manager to ensure your dietary requirements are taken seriously, and once you arrive, ask the hostess to point you out to your server so when orders are being taken you won’t have to publicly explain yourself at the dinner table.
5. Choose the restaurant
Take initiative and choose the restaurant sometimes. It doesn’t have to be a super-obvious healthy hippie joint - do your research and choose something that you know has safe and simple options. I personally will take any restaurant with breakfast options and order eggs - or, go for restaurants that have build-your-own-meal options where you can select each ingredient.
6. Try new activities
Bonding over activities that revolve around eating can require some creative thinking, but the end result can be a super fun new experience for both you and your friend. Try browsing the activities section of websites like www.groupon.com to get inspiration and quick discounts to help persuade your friends. Believe it or not, these new experiences can be way more bonding than simply sitting at a restaurant. Try anything from trampolining to bowling to a calm night at the cinema.
7. Invite people to hang at your home
Hosting social gatherings can do wonders for your social life. People will come and enjoy their life in your space – which, if you’re comfortable with it, can be pretty great! All food, snacks, drinks, and even clothing and bathrooms are at your fingertips in case of unexpected symptoms. Even if people feel like ordering in, you’ve got a world of options in the next room!
8. Pack your own snacks
This works great if you’re headed for a day out with your friends. Attending festivals, sporting events, or even heading to the movies are all great examples of social scenarios in which it’s easy to bring your own food. If anyone asks, saying you simply want to be healthy, save money or don’t want to waste what you’ve packed are all acceptable excuses.
9. Eat before you go
If you can’t pack snacks and are headed to a restaurant that you know will be totally unsafe (cue Chinese food), just eat before you go. This option kind of sucks, and can still require some creativity, such as finding a plain side like rice or tortilla chips to nibble on without feeling singled out. The important thing is that eating before you go can ensure you don’t accidentally make poor decisions because of hunger and social pressure.
10. Find a partner in crime
On occasions where there’s a lot of social pressure (ie, birthday or holiday parties), it can sometimes just be easier to find yourself a partner in crime to eat/drink both their portion and yours. I've found many people who are happy to take on this job at a moment's notice. Every time people brought me a slice of cake or vodka shots, I'd pass it along to my understanding partner in crime to quickly devour everything when nobody was looking. Warning: this can be a hilarious inside joke but can also backfire if there is alcohol involved, and you may end up being a care-taker. Use this method wisely.
11. Use humour
Joking about your situation can be an effective way of communicating how you feel without being a buzzkill or eliciting a debate about food choices. Saying things like “I only eat delicious food on special occasions” or “I promised my butt I’d eat healthy this week” can help get your point across without coming across as defensive or preachy.
12. Acceptable excuses
Using false excuses like “I had a huge lunch and am still full” or “I’m feeling a bit sick today” may elicit a bit of guilt at first. But in reality, these excuses tend to resolve the situation quickly without hurting anyone. If people find out the real reason, they will generally be understanding about why you didn’t want to share the full story. Social situations aren't typically the best place to begin a long-winded explanation about your food sensitivities - so, if you don't feel like getting into it, that's alright, too.
13. Building up tolerance
In a perfect world, eating healthy, low histamine foods 100% of the time would be a simple task and everyone could cater their diet to perfectly suit their goals. Unfortunately, that's not how the food industry works and, unless you live in a bubble, it's inevitable you will be exposed to certain foods or ingredients that may not agree with you. The solution here is to improve your biological tolerance to histamine, so that during occasional unwanted exposures, your body doesn't freak out with such extreme symptoms. I discuss this in more detail as we progress through my email learning series.
14. Be honest
This option is my new favourite, but it took a lot of practice and, can be quite uncomfortable at times. Before I was open about my histamine intolerance, many people assumed I was picky, paranoid or weird. After years of this, I simply began being honest. “Unfortunately, I get a horrible headache and become itchy and fatigued to the point where I’m bedridden, so now I just avoid these foods”. If that kind of talk doesn't make people stop pushing you to eat unsafe foods, then it might be time to question the people you're spending time with. In fact, this honesty did quite the opposite and had people trying to learn more about my decisions, often even opening up about having similar symptoms or dietary restrictions.
You’re Not Alone
Remember, all of the best things in life require effort. Sticking to your low histamine diet while you help your body heal may seem difficult now, but allowing your sickness to progress and likely becoming even worse….well, that’s going to be way more difficult in the future. And at that point, it may be too late to turn things around.
The important takeaway here is that you’re not alone. Whether you're sticking only to low histamine or are on a combination of gut-repair diets, everyone who is working on their health can feel out of the loop at times.
The important takeaway here is that you’re not alone. Whether it’s being on a strict gut-repair diet, or simply wanting to lose a few pounds for an event, everyone who is working on their health can feel out of the loop at times. Always keep your end goal in mind, forgive yourself for making occasional mistakes and find people who will support you along the way, rather than bringing you down.
Now it’s time to help each other out! Share how you stick to your low histamine diet while socializing in the comments below!
Life's too short to let symptoms control you.
Anita Tee, Nutritional Scientist
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