In many cultures around the world, eating is viewed as an opportunity to be social and share thoughts, ideas, and stories with others. When eating out, it can be more difficult to stick with your health goals, especially if the people around you don’t have the same eating habits you want for yourself. Sometimes there is peer pressure and the need to “fit in” by eating what everyone else is eating, even if it is not the best for your body. We want you to be comfortable and confident in making healthy choices in any environment, and so here are a few tips for how to remain healthy while eating socially and watching the big game.
Eat beforehand – If you are going to a large setting where there will likely be lots of food, eat a small snack or meal before you go. By eating before you go out, you will be less hungry and therefore less likely to make unhealthy food choices. Avoid going to events with lots of unhealthy food options on an empty stomach. Eat a nutritious snack before you go, so that you can stay motivated to stay on track with your healthy eating.
Focus on people more than food – While we definitely want you to enjoy delicious foods with loved ones, we also want you to try moving your focus from the food to people. Use social outings as an opportunity to be just that – social! Practice your social skills by talking to people at the gathering, asking them questions, listening to their responses, and connecting with those around you. Even with all the different foods on your plate, you may find yourself eating less if your focus is on others and the amazing conversation.
Look at your options – Whether you arrive at a restaurant, party, or picnic with loved ones, be sure to look at all your food options. Use the food knowledge you have to choose foods that are centered around fruits, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Go for the plant-based options first. Choose the dishes that are prepared in a healthier way such as foods that are steamed, sautéed, and grilled, and fewer ones that are fried or deep-fried. Do your best to pick the healthier option whenever possible by using all the information you’ve learned so far.
Don’t over explain – Sometimes you might be in an environment where it may feel strange to choose certain healthy food options, or to say “no” to foods that you love but know, may not be the best for your health. We recommend that you avoid oversharing all that you’ve learned right away when you are beginning your health journey. Wait until people show curiosity and interest by asking you why you are eating this and not that. If the ones around you ask you questions, feel free to share your reasons for choosing the healthier options. It can be stressful to imagine what others will think of you for choosing nutritious food options over heavily processed and fried ones. If you don’t mention it, however, others may not even notice! Be open to the possibility of others encouraging you and wanting to learn more so that they can start making healthier choices themselves.
Additional Tips For Dining Out:
- Look at the menu ahead of time to avoid getting overwhelmed when it comes time to order (that way, you can go in with a clear idea of what healthier options are available)
- Ask for half portions or share a meal with someone else
- Opt for grilled, baked, or stir-fried menu options vs deep-fried
- Choose leaner proteins
- Choose whole grains (examples: brown rice, whole-grain buns, quinoa)
- Ask for sauce on the side
- Request a box half-way through the meal so there is an option to pack it up and avoid overeating