What to do when others don’t eat like you
- Jul 07, 2020
- 8 min read
You’ve been working towards eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. You’ve been cooking meals from scratch, reducing or eliminating animal products and processed foods, you’ve been reading food labels to make informed choices and now you’re going over to someone’s house for dinner. What on earth are you going to eat! Are you going to tell your hosts that you won’t eat what they are serving? Or will you just eat what they offer and potentially de-rail all the progress you’ve made to change your habits?
We are all continuously faced with these situationswhere we are outside of our normal eating environment and don’t have complete control over what we will be eating. This can be a very stressful situation!
Below are some strategies to help relieve the stress associated with social events that involve food.
Strategy #1: Find outwhat will be servedand adjust
If you’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner, the host will most likely have the menu planned at least one day in advance. Don’t be shy to ask them upfront what they will be serving so that you can decidewhich items or dishes you will haveahead of time.Doing so can give you a better idea if there will be a decent amount of options available or if it would be better to bring something along with you.This way you can go into the meal feeling slightly less anxious.
What happens if the options aren’t great? Consider asking the host if you can bring an extra dish to the party.Phrase it in a way which highlights that you are only bringing an “extra dish” as to not make the host feel as though their options are not good enough. Rather, you’re just adding to their already great menu!Bringing your own appetizer and fruit for dessert is also a good option if you do not feel comfortable bringing an entrée.
Another benefit of knowing what will be served is if you know the meal choices are not desirable, you can make surethe last meal you had before the party was very hearty and nutritious as to not feel tempted into indulging. When we are feeling extra hungry, the less nutritious food options become very desirable.
Strategy #2: Be open with your guests about your food preferences
Are you trying to reduce the meat in your diet?
- Choose the fish option if available
- Let your host know that you don’t eat meat and ask if they will have any vegetarian options available
- Offer to bring your own vegetarian dish. Some people may not feel comfortable cooking a vegetarian dish for their guests and may be happy if you offer to bring something
- If you do end up bringing your own dish to the party, try not to draw too much attention towards it. You want to avoid making your host feel as thoughyour dish is superior to their offerings
Are you trying to reduce the processed items in your diet?
- Avoid the appetizers that are likely to be processed: instead, choose the vegetable or fruit platter, or have a handful of nuts if available
- The dessert option will likely be processed: choose to have fruit, if available, or bring your own fruit to the party
- If your host or other guests try to convince you to have something that you do not want, politely refuse and stand your ground!
Strategy #3: Offer to help
Offer to assist the host in preparing the meal! If you’re in the kitchen ahead of time you’ll be able to see what ingredients are going into the foods you’ll be eating. This can also be a good time for connecting with your friend or relative. And who knows, maybe you’ll have so much fun together in the kitchen you’ll bond over it!
Strategy #4: Review your options
Sometimes you do not know what will be served ahead of time, so make sure you take your time to review all of the options before you fill your plate. Let others serve themselves first so you can take time to review your options and not have the pressure of others watching you fill your plate.
If the meal is served buffet-style or Family-style, choose to load up your plate with veggies first. By filling your plate with the nutritious foods first you won’t be as tempted to choose the highly processed items.
Foods to look for:
- Are they offering fruit with the meal? This is another item you’ll wantto fill your plate with.
- Grains: Choose the whole grain options, if available, and avoid the dinner rolls. If only processed grains or starches are served – suchas white rice or mashed potatoes – takeonly a small spoonful or avoid altogether
- Condiments: avoid any sauces, gravies or condiments that are served with the meal as they are going to be highly processed and add little to no nutritional value
- Salad dressing: if a creamy dressing is offered ask the host if they have oil and vinegar available or a balsamic dressing and use it sparingly
Finally, don’t feel the need to finish your entire plate. If components of a dish are healthy, just eat the good stuff and leave the remainder on your plate. For example, eat theveggies and beans only in a pasta salad or scrape off the cheese of an otherwise healthy dish.
Strategy #5: Prepare your reasoning in advance
If you’ve always been known in your family to be a meat-eater or a person who loads their plate until overflowing, think about how you are going to explain to your family and friends why your plate might look a little different if they make a comment. It’s important to make sure you do not come across as judging others for their own food choices as this will most likely lead to some unwanted commentary. Instead, say something along the lines of “I’m working at being more conscious of what I eat for my health and longevity” or try to make light of the situation saying “doctor’s orders”. You can decide how comfortable you are with disclosing your health concerns with others, but in general if you relate your food choices to your health vs your appearance you will likely have a better response from others.
What happens if your family makes comments along the lines of “I wouldn’t want to eat boring, bland food” or “my health is important to me too but I also want to enjoy life and not be restricted”?
- Let them know the new cooking skills and techniques you’ve learned to make the food you prepare taste good
- Try to phrase your responses with “for me personally…” as to not come across as trying to convince others that you are right
- Remember that when others see you making healthy choices they may try to justify their own food choices (it’s a human reaction to self-protect)by finding the negatives in yours. Try not to be discouraged!
- Try your best not to stress about family outings by either coming prepared or acknowledging that we can’t always control our situations and that is okay!
- Focus on being present with your friends and family instead of worrying about the food aspect of your gathering – think about these strategies and have a game plan before you attend the gathering
- If a dinner party you attended was stressful or was a set-back for your new-found habits, try to let go of any guilt you may be feeling and move on with the new day
Attending dinner parties can be a source of fun but also stress as you are transitioning to whole food, plant based diet. Using these strategies can help you feel in control, make the best possible choices and still enjoy social gatherings with ease.
Aroga Lifestyle Medicine
Aroga Lifestyle Medicine is a trail-blazing clinic with an multi-disciplinary team that believes that most, if not all, cardiac and metabolic illnesses can be prevented and treated with intensive lifestyle modifications. Using evidenced-based therapies, patients are empowered to experience true healing and wellness.