Food: Blessing or Curse?

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Food is an integral part of our lives - starting when we are born and continuing through our senior years. It is not only a form of nutrition but also an important part of celebrations and holiday gatherings. When we are young, we don’t often think about our diet unless it involves ordering our favorite junk foods, like pizza or candy, or when we argue with our parents about not eating vegetables or healthy foods. Some young people unfortunately need to think about dietary restrictions due to diseases, including childhood diabetes, food allergies or stomach disorders.

As we get older, food restrictions play a more important part of our life as we may need to watch our salt intake, cholesterol levels and weight. As we continue to age, there are other food restrictions that may occur such as difficulty swallowing or lack of appetite. Food in many ways can be a blessing but it can also contribute to many difficulties and may be considered a curse to many.

As the summer barbecues end and the fall season begin, bringing with it many food-centric holidays, meals will play an essential part of our lives. During many holidays including the Jewish High Holidays season in the fall, we often get together with family and friends to celebrate the New Year. All families have their favorite customs, which includes cherished family recipes and savoring dishes together. Apples are dipped into honey symbolizing a wish for a sweet New Year. Food also serves as a symbol to commemorate struggles throughout history and to reflect on the past. During Yom Kippur, Jewish people refrain from eating to atone for their sins and ask for G-d to inscribe our names in the book of life so that we can live another year. Foods during many other holidays in the Jewish faith have symbolic meaning, especially at Passover where we eat charoset and matzahto remind us of our days as slaves.    

Holidays can be a time of remembering our past and celebrating our futures. At the same time, we often don’t think about individuals who either can’t eat the foods served or need modifications to their meal. It is unusual for a host or family members to think about guests who may have food restrictions. Unfortunately, many individuals can’t enjoy many of the holiday foods due to salt, carbohydrate and sugar restrictions. There are more than six million Americans who have swallowing difficulties, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. These individuals are often diagnosed with dysphagia, a swallowing disorder. It is not difficult to prepare or buy foods that have less salt, carbohydrates, sugar content or are easy to swallow for your guests on restricted diets.

Some guests may need their food choices altered with different textures to enable them to swallow safely. Their diet may require the intake of chopped, ground, and pureed foods. These restrictions may make it difficult for the individual to enjoy the holidays. There are ways to prepare pureed foods that are tasty and resemble foods that other guests are eating. Some companies make pureed food that resembles the holiday foods that other guests are partaking. Some of these companies include Elite Pureed Meals (pureemeals.com) and Blossom Foods (blossomfoods.com). You may also have guests that need to eat gluten free food or need to strictly avoid certain foods due to allergies. Even though this may sound overwhelming, different food restrictions can be observed and incorporated into the holiday meal.

One other facet to consider when celebrating the holidays are guests that worship a different faith or interfaith families. In today’s modern world, it is not difficult to incorporate customs shared by others. You can simply ask your guest to bring a food from their faith or share a family recipe that can be incorporated into your holiday meal. If you are observing a kosher diet, then ask your guest to respect your guidelines and bring a food that follows your diet. You can also ask the guest to share their favorite recipe and you can modify it to meet your dietary guidelines.

Holidays are often celebrated with food and shared customs. It is recommended to consider other’s health and dietary restrictions so that everyone can enjoy the holiday season. Let food be a blessing not a curse for your guests.