Whether you are transitioning to a plant-based diet or are simply wanting to make more healthful food choices (shorts/bathing suit season is just a few months away- this always scares the ba-jeezus out of me to get my sh*t together), nothing can cause sabotage quite like a good ole’ fashioned picnic or office party. Social situations can derail you in a New York minute, robbing you of all your hard work like a thief in the night. Here are some tips to stay the course and enjoy these gatherings...that’s why we go right? To enjoy the comradery...the coming together in the spirit of a good game, to have meaningful conversation and catch up with friends or colleagues, to witness the love shared at a wedding or celebrate a loved one at a birthday party; and wouldn’t it be nice to do all that without being distracted by the food?
1. Make a RULE for Yourself:
Decide ahead of time what you are not going to eat at the event. That way when the tray comes around, your automatic response is “No thank you.” The decision has already been made and you’re not caught off guard, left to wrestle with yourself over whether you should have that one piece of cheese or not. (By the way it will never end up being just one piece. How will you feel on the other side of this slip?) Some examples of a rule might be: I do not eat cheese., I do not eat fried foods., I do not eat dips made with dairy. I do not eat chips…..see what I mean? Just pick one or two rules around a trigger food that you know will save you the most sabotage.
2. Don’t Stand By the Food:
How often are we engaging in conversation with people, yet the nearby food table is seducing us to refill our plates? The cheese ball just seems to have this neon arrow hovering above, getting bigger and brighter, relentlessly pulsating like a thunderous, thumping heartbeat in your ears. Maybe that’s just me. Fill a small plate and get the hell outta dodge. Standing by the food table is simply putting yourself through some useless resistance training that, if you’re new to these changes, will likely inhibit your success. Find someone to talk with, elsewhere or go outside for some fresh air to take a break until you’re feeling stronger. This last one also applies when you're seated next to that special someone whose political position is wearing out your last nerve. Just sayin'.
3. Bring Your Own Food:
This tip applies to informal parties and gatherings. Check with the host, if it’s appropriate, to give him or her a heads up that you’d like to bring a dish or two to pass. They will most likely be relieved to know they will not need to prepare something special for you. Some good examples of appetizers would be Cowboy Caviar, fresh salsa & chips or guacamole,
7 Layer Dip, vegan artichoke spinach dip, veggie or fruit tray...whatever it is you like to munch on, be sure to bring it! Chances are it will blend in with everything else on the table and everyone can enjoy.
4. Limit the Alcohol:
I know, sometimes we drink just to get through these things. A-hem. The thing is the calories add up, it impairs your judgement and there’s something about alcohol that causes us to munch. It’s like….you have a couple drinks, then you eat to sop up the booze so you don’t get a hangover or you're simply feeling gluttonous and just like that (blink) you’ve had an extra 1000 calories. Try setting a 2 drink limit for yourself or better yet see if you can navigate this thing without a buzz (??). Chances are your discussions will be more meaningful and you’ll wake up feeling empowered the next morning.
5. Don’t Talk About Being Plant-Based Unless You’re Asked:
Often, people tend to feel your healthy food choices automatically make them inferior. They will assume you are judging them and you may be met with a good measure of snarkiness, and even hostility. A good way to get out of the “hot seat” is to say you are experimenting. People generally accept this and you all can move on. Some people may find it very interesting that you’ve made some changes and will be inspired to ask questions. You’ll find sharing your experience with these people easy breezy...be sure to observe them while you're talking and know when to shut’er down when their eyes start to glaze over.
6. Call a Restaurant or Venue Ahead of Time:
When it comes to dining at a catered event or restaurant, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by calling ahead and/or checking the online menu. Explain that you have a limited diet and see what they can do for you. I have never had this conversation and been told…”Sorry, we don’t have anything for you to eat.” Chef’s are usually enthusiastic about offering a vegan dish or creating an entrée to meet your needs. And in a time when there are countless people suffering from food allergies, it’s just not that uncommon. Bottom line...Ask for what you want ahead of time. It will save you in the long run and leave you to enjoy yourself and not cave into ordering “the usual” in order to not be made to feel difficult. You can find more tips on dining at restaurants and eating on the road in an earlier blog post Traveling Plant-Based.
7. Assess the Situation:
Ok, you’ve got this thing coming up. If all else fails you can always eat beforehand. This will make it less likely to have a slip if you’re not actually starving when you arrive. Alternatively, you could pack food to leave in your car, excusing yourself periodically to chow down your veggie lo mein in the back seat along the floor boards. Look. It’s all doable, you just have to keep your eye on the ball. Revisit your goal and do what’s necessary to stay in alignment with that.
8. Remember why you’re going to whatever it is you’re going to:
Celebration is usually what our social gatherings boil down to. The coming together to enjoy ourselves alongside others at weddings, birthdays, bowl games, office morale boosters, holidays, friendships, anniversaries, love...even funerals. Remembering this will shift your focus (obsession) away from the food.
BONUS TIP#1 Phone a friend.
Or text. Or DM or PM, I don't care if you use ESP to reach out to someone who will support you and help you stay accountable. It might look something like this..."HELP! I'm dumping the entire cheese selection into my jacket pockets!!" Just typing that or saying it out loud should wake you out of your stupor...you'll put the cheese back on the tray and return to business as usual. You've got this!!
BONUS TIP #2
There’s no such thing as “Everything in Moderation” or “Cheat Days”:
These are cleverly worded excuses for going off-the-wagon, otherwise known as yo-yo dieting...and there you have it folks! You’re back on the hamster wheel. Look. We all slip. So if you screw it up, just call it what it is and move on with your life. Or better yet, make the decision that you’re going to eat off-plan and do it consciously, “I know this cheese is bad for me, but I’m going to eat it anyway.” That way, you’ve made a conscious choice that you can live with and not a mindless one that you’re going to beat-the-ever-living-heck-out-of-yourself for over the next few days. Simply start again with the next meal.
Listen. Come closer.
Not next Monday, not next month, or at the New Year. Start again with the next meal...this is one of the secrets. This is, in part, how it becomes a lifestyle and not just another diet.
Let me share with you one of my favorite, simple and more versatile appetizers that is always a win at social gatherings. I hope you enjoy!
Jeanmare’s 7 Layer Dip
1 15 oz can of fat free refried beans
1 15 oz can of black beans
2-4 Tbsp taco seasoning
¼-½ cup jarred salsa
Jalepeños, sliced (optional)
8 oz guacamole
12 oz vegan sour cream or plain yogurt
1 12 oz jarred salsa
Green onions, sliced
Black olives, sliced
2-6 corn tortillas, crisped or toasted
Other possible toppings: chopped tomato, bell pepper, pico de gallo, cilantro, vegan cheese
Note: To bake chips yourself, slice corn tortillas into triangles and bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until crisp, flipping halfway through cooking time.
Happy Herbivore’s DIY Vegan Sour cream: makes 1 cup
Per serving (1 Tbsp): 13 calories, .2g fat, 14g carbohydrates, 11g sugars, 16g protein
1 12.3 pkg Mori-Nu silken tofu
2-4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp distilled white vinegar
⅛ tsp fine salt
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Agave nectar, to taste
A light dash of garlic powder
1 tsp dried or fresh dill, optional
In a blender combine tofu with 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, vinegar, a pinch of salt, mustard powder, a few drops of agave nectar, and a light dash of garlic powder. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more lemon and/or sweetener if necessary or desired. Stir in dill before using.
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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