Tricky Holiday Dining Event #2: Holiday Dining in Someone’s Home

Navigating a potentially difficult eating scenario at a restaurant is hard enough, but at least it’s doable. You’re at a commercial kitchen, so there is still a chance of having alternative foods to choose from, even if you are attending an event with a set menu.

But if you’re invited to join friends, or sometimes even more challenging, family, in their home for a holiday meal, how on Earth can you stay on course with your healthy eating? It’s doubly trying to attempt to avoid eating certain dishes that you well know are not going to sit well with you let alone doing so without insulting the cook.

And while food allergies and many different approaches to eating are growing more and more common these days, the likelihood of encountering at least one other guest, or even worse, host, who lacks sympathy and feels you’re just being particular.

Rest assured, there are ways to handle even the most pushy family member or friend who usually insists you’ve just got to have some of that stuffing, or feels compelled to convince you that since it’s the holidays, you’ve just got to indulge in dessert, even just a little.

The solution is not to give in.

Granted, this isn’t to be confused with planning a special occasion splurge (more on that later this week), in which you proactively decide when and what you’ll eat as a treat and balance out your eating and activity for the rest of the day accordingly.

Rather, below are strategies to implement to prevent being bullied into eating pastry-wrapped sausage rolls, deep fried onion ring topped casseroles and endless pies, cakes and cookies that you didn’t want in the first place.

  1. Call your host / hostess well in advance and explain that there are some foods you’re sensitive to and that you’d love to prepare a dish or two to bring to the dinner as part of what else will be served.   Emphasize that you do not expect him or her to go to any extra lengths for you and that you’d be more than happy to bring enough for all to share. Nine times out of ten, this does the trick. Sometimes, you may even be surprised to find out that others, possibly even the person doing the cooking, was already planning on a gluten free meal, for example.
  2. In the event that your request is not well received, set yourself up for success at the meal by not going hungry all day long (starving yourself leading up to a holiday meal in order to use up all your calories at one sitting does not equal proper intermittent fasting), getting in a solid workout and keeping hydrated. Depending on the time of day you’re asked to arrive, you may even want to consider eating a lighter meal prior to heading over if you’re fairly sure most of what’s being served isn’t going to suit your eating regime.   If you find yourself pleasantly surprised that there are one or two dishes you can have a taste of, enjoying a small serving will smooth out any social awkwardness to the situation.
  3. Spin the conversation positively. If someone asks why you’re not tucking heavily into the stuffing and marshmallow yams they’ve piled on their plate, rather then explaining to them in detail all the damage their doing to their GI tract and how they’re creating leaky gut, simply reply that you simply loved the salad and the turkey so much that you’re focused on those.   By focusing on what you are eating, rather than what you’re not, you can more easily segue the conversation elsewhere.
  4. If all else fails, get graphic.   I’m half-kidding here but in all seriousness, I would only recommend this as a very last resort. That pushy aunt who’s nearly force-feeding you a spoonful of roux-based pan gravy or the grumpy neighbor who’s muttering about your new-fangled diet may well be setting themselves up for an earful about what’s really going to happen if you eat those foods. It won’t be pretty, so do it discreetly, but if it’s the only hope left to quiet them down and stop their efforts, use it!

It’s the holidays; so it’s a safe bet that most tend to be more compassionate than usual, so with just a little planning in advance, you can successfully maneuver your way through a holiday meal, even one hosted by someone who may not be on the same page as you from a nutrition and healthy eating standpoint!