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Navigating A Holiday Party Without Sabotaging Your Health

I have to be honest, during the holidays it can be hard for me not to give into nostalgic cravings and indulge on foods I typically try to steer clear of throughout the rest of the year. It’s the holidays for goodness sakes and I want to celebrate like everyone else!

Unfortunately, many holiday parties in the past consistently resulted in post holiday bulge. Every January, I used to find my “skinny jeans” tighter and my waist line generally uncomfortable when I sat down. Do you know the feeling? And let’s not even talk about how I felt mentally – tired all the time and not self-confident at all. I hate those feelings!

Navigating Holiday Party

After I started learning about what was really in my food, I made a conscious decision not to eat toxic chemicals in processed food regardless the time of year because I knew they were responsible for making me gain weight and making me want to eat more. If there was something I really wanted to eat that I knew was filled with additives, artificial ingredients or other questionable substances, I vowed to myself to make it at home with my own organic ingredients so I could indulge. And oh boy, do I indulge with my own homemade treats without the weight gain!  🙂 

I have received so many letters from you lately about navigating holiday parties and how to handle them – this letter from Barbara really hit a nerve and inspired this post. Barbara writes: 

Vani,

With the holidays approaching, as a non-GMO organic food eater I (and I’m sure many of your readers) could use some food etiquette advice. I’ve been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friends and I’m sure they will not be serving one single food item that I feel comfortable eating. At this point I feel my only option is to “call in sick” which is rude but no more rude than showing up with my own food or not eating the food so graciously being offered. Any helpful advice on how to handle these dilemmas over the holidays? I would humbly appreciate your advice.

– Barbara R.

Because we live in an overly processed food world, it’s so important to prepare yourself for navigating holiday parties, whether it be during a conventional family meal you may share with loved ones or the annual cocktail party your neighbor generously hosts. Whatever the occasion, here’s what to do: (Barbara I hope this helps!)

Eat before you arrive

Before you arrive to a party or get together, have a healthy meal at home. Fill up on a green smoothie or a green salad with a good source of organic healthy protein and fat (think avocado, raw nuts or wild fish) so that you don’t arrive to the party feeling ravenous. This tip saves me every single time I am put in a situation where I wouldn’t touch the food being served with a ten foot pole. 

Don’t sample everything

Just because it’s there or free, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. When choosing what to put on your plate, stick to foods you typically enjoy while avoiding the foods you wouldn’t choose to eat outside of a holiday party. I love loading up my plate with whatever plant based foods I can find and choosing one or two other items, keeping it simple. 

Sampling the entire buffet is guaranteed to cause you to overeat. According to Susan Roberts, a Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, studies have shown “The higher the variety of items you are confronted with, the more people consume without even realizing it.” 

Sometimes the appetizers are the best part of the meal

If you see lots of vegetables and fruits on a tray being served as an appetizer, go for it! Load up and eat the most real food options first, even if that leaves little room for the main course. You’ll always have an excuse not to eat dinner if there are less than stellar options being served later in the meal. One particular appetizer to be aware of is nuts. Literally. I used to think choosing the nuts was a good idea, until I learned most party nut mixes are doused with GMO oils, MSG, and other nasty additives. See below. No thanks!

Planters Peanuts

Bring your own dish

They say you should never show up to a party empty-handed. Use this rule to your advantage and bring along your favorite, healthy holiday dish. This will give you the option of eating at least one healthy item while you’re at a party. It will also let you share a real food holiday dish with friends and family and teach them healthy food can be delicious! Remember to be generous on the portion sizes you bring, so it doesn’t look like you are taking back everything you brought! 

Socialize more and snack less

To keep your mind off of all of the dangerous goodies and temptations, move away from the buffet table and socialize elsewhere. Keeping your mind focused on something other than food will help you to avoid overindulging. I love spending parties socializing rather than eating. If I’m still hungry after, I know I can always get a clean meal out at my standard go-to restaurant or at home later. Besides, sometimes it’s fun to grab a group of people for a late night meal or after party. 

Keep count of your drinks

Your liver is your main fat-burning organ. If you are trying to lose weight or even maintain your ideal weight, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies – so slow down and keep your alcohol intake on the low-end, especially if you have multiple gatherings per week. Just remember, a sparkling water with lime looks like a vodka tonic. There’s no need to bring a lot of attention to yourself if you choose not to drink alcohol. Personally, I love to bring wine to a party, so I know I have organic red wine available to drink and share. I also don’t mind the occasional tequila on the rocks with a lime (it’s one of the cleanest liquors!). And don’t forget to check out this beer investigation, reading this might help you stay away from the Bud Light & Miller Lite (for good!). 

When all else fails, eat when you get home 

I promise you are not going to starve to death waiting a couple of hours to eat! And if you have special needs (diabetic or hypoglycemic), you already know what you need to do to make sure you stay steady. Just not eating has been my saving grace in many situations – not just at parties, but in airports and other tricky places. Later on I always thank myself for putting health first over my desires. 

Lead by example 

Most importantly, while attending a holiday party it’s important to go in with the understanding that not all of the other attendees will share your sentiments regarding your real food lifestyle. Friends and family members who follow a conventional diet may not understand why you make the eating decisions you do. If you’re the person who is typically questioned about your diet, simply try to give your friends and family an honest and informative reason for your choices, without berating them about their own decisions (maybe share this post with them too!).

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” 

~Mahatma Gandhi

Leading by example is very powerful and it’s what ultimately got my friends, family and co-workers to slowly convert over. You never know who you might inspire with your own actions.


Now I’m curious, how many more of you out there are going to a holiday party where you are worried about what you might be served or eat? I’d love to hear your stories and strategies in the comments. Let’s help each other navigate this over-processed food world together! 

Cheers, 

Food Babe 

 

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152 responses to “Navigating A Holiday Party Without Sabotaging Your Health

  1. Love these tips! On the flip side, I’m hosting a party this year and am looking for several finger foods but every idea I come across is breaded or fried. Non-GMO hummus, fruit trays & veggie trays are all I’ve got so far. Other suggestions for fresh, good eats to share??

    1. Sounds fun! Here are some ideas on the top of my head – Dates stuffed with goat cheese, tomatoes wrapped with basil and dipped in balsamic, Hillary’s Eat Wells Veggie bites topped with a garnish, flat bread with fig jam, caramelized onions, mini avocado toasts… how is that?

    2. Homemade mini quiche are a great option and so easy. The pastry is simple to make or you can get a pre-made pie crust from Earthfare or Whole Foods that doesn’t have a bunch of scary ingredients. Add your favorite ingredients (I love green chiles and cheese or spinach and cheese), local eggs, and whole milk or cream. Easy and delish! I’m also a big fan of a seven layer bean dip which you can make with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and organic beans and veggies.

      1. I just made my usual quiche, same temperature and cooking time, but skipped the crust entirely. Fantastic! Didn’t miss the crust at all. I guess this would work for mini-quiches, too.

    3. I love fruit dipped in dark chocolate for an easy appetizer. My favorite are oranges with a few grains of good quality sea salt sprinkled on top.

  2. I loved reading this! But I’m hosting Thanksgiving and would loooove some input on how to prepare the classic thanksgiving dinner but in an organic healthier way!!!! I don’t want to make everything completely different so that everyone notices a difference and not like it when they are use to eating same gmo infested classic dinner every year. Need help please!!!! I need to know what I should be buying as I’m preparing everything! TIA

    1. I make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner every year, and my general rule of thumb is “make it from scratch.” Use good bread for stuffing, flavor with orange juice, seasonings, mushrooms nuts, whatever you like (I also use cornbread and home made sausage). A quick easy cranberry sauce: whole cranberries, organic cane sugar, orange zest & juice: cook over low heat together until berries are “melted” and bubbling. Cool & serve. Use fresh green beans, real potatoes & sweet potatoes, real butter, make your own gravy, whole grain pie crusts, real pumpkins, apples, etc. Lots of it can be made ahead of time (I have pumpkin puree in the freezer, applesauce in sealed jars). You can find organic everything these days, but if not, or finances are strained, at least starting from scratch instead of canned or processed, you will have a better-tasting, healthier meal.

  3. One of the things served at my in-laws at holiday meals that turns my stomach is mashed potatoes in a plastic container that you microwave (I think it’s country crock). I looked at the ingredients one year and was sorry that I had. So this year I offered to bring (real) mashed potatoes, which I will make with local dairy and potatoes. As a vegetarian, I am used to bringing a few veggie items to any family meal so I will also have a yummy and healthy salad and a pie made from scratch by me. This makes me feel a bit better about my family’s options at these gatherings.

    1. I had the same idea with the mashed potatoes 🙂 but thought it might be offensive to our host to bring our own potatoes since there is certainly going to be a bowl on the table already. Then I decided to make some polish vegetable salad with homemade coconut oil mayonnaise which could be a nourishing meal by itself with a healthy fat, vegetables (cooked, raw and fermented) and protein from pasture raised eggs as well as some nice spices!

    1. Two recipes I have made time and again for the holidays that are always a huge hit (and are so easy to put together) are blanched green beans tossed with olive oil, toasted pine nuts and lemon zest; and fennel roasted with thyme, crushed red pepper, garlic and kalamata olives. Both are found on Epicurious. Bothwould be best prepared right before eating.

  4. Oh Yes!!! This came JUST IN TIME for me.. next week is Thanksgiving & we always go to my in-laws.. (my mother-in-law & her mother who are the cooks) are Aldi’s fanatics .. so yes, the cheapest sugars you can use, marshmallows, etc. I know what Aldi’s typically carries since I used to shop there too but no more! I know the majority of the dinner will be laden with bad ingredients & GMO’s, not including the turkey which I am 100% sure will not be ‘organic’. . so I figure I will eat before I go (which I know doesn’t sound ‘nice’ but… ) and I feel that I will be hovering over the raw veggie plate, olives, etc. and no desserts for sure .. I just know that I will be a conversation piece since none of them are keen on entertaining why you should avoid certain foods and/or pay more for ‘organics’.. I am going to be the ‘odd ball’ but at least I’ll be the HEALTHY odd ball. .LOL Thanks 🙂

    1. Donna, I feel your pain. I will be with family, non of whom (as far as I know) are concerned about GMOs and other ingredients in the foods they eat. It has been months since they’ve seen me, and I’ve completely changed the way I eat – eating clean is very important to me, and I, too, will be the oddball. I think the tips Vani gave are very helpful – eating before the event, etc. – and I’m hoping I can withstand the interrogations about my diet with grace. It’s nice to have a place (here) where we can encourage one another through these trials. peace~lis

    2. Donna:

      One of the best things I have found is not to be combative or lecturing. The worst advice to give is that which is unsolicited. I am always prepared that others will not understand our commitment to a clean non GMO lifestyle. Good for you for being the oddball.

      From one oddball to another…Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s to your continued good health.

  5. Hello,
    Thanks for all your posts!

    What do you say when people ask why you’re not eating at a sit down dinner where it will be obvious how much you’re eating (or not eating)?

    1. I get this a lot. I usually lead with this. “I’m so thankful to have the pleasure of spending this special time with all of you.” “As you know, I have a truly terrible family history and I have committed myself to making some real lifestyle changes to reduce my risk.” I’ve never had someone complain about it. I pick the healthiest choices and stock up on the salad.

  6. I totally understand how you feel, Donna! It’s very hard but we have to stick to our guns. Thanks so much for this advice Food Babe! As a newer whole foods/clean eater, you’ve been so inspiring to me. I’ve been so nervous about my first gmo free holiday and this post just helped me realize that I can be in control during the holidays!!

  7. Vani,

    Thank You for all your wonderful job!
    I was so sentimental, since I started your diet, a month ago. I feel great! I don’t miss meat at all!! when you said you wait until you get home… Thank You for saying that because I do that everyday, I am a college student, and I wait, and wait to get home and cook. It feels great to have the power over your body and not eat any of all the junk food that is served at my College’s cafeteria. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I have lost 8 pounds in 4 weeks! I LOVE YOU!!

  8. I’m dreading going to my inlaws for thanksgiving from Wednesday to Friday. I don’t even know what I’m going to do. I think I’ll bring my own salad dressing so I can eat salad the whole time. And my kids…oh I can’t stand to see them eat what they will. They are so young! I’ll have to detox everyone when we get home

    1. I feel your pain Jordan, that’s exactly what I’m dealing with too. We’ll be there Wed-Sun and I am so afraid of the food that will be served. It has me a little stressed out. No one (in my family) really understands this but me and it’s so hard to explain to my husband. Detox for sure on Monday morning!! ugh!!

      1. Same boat here, too. Does anyone have any “good answers” to the inevitable barrage of comments and prodding we face?

    2. Jordan, I know the feeling! We have started hosting Thanksgiving because of the same reasons. It is my favorite holiday and taking charge of it has allowed us to regain the ability to have a great meal on the very special day. It’s a lot of work, but I’m so excited to make and eat real food!

      1. I did host Christmas dinner last year, but leading up to me hosting we went to 3 others. But everyone here is right, no one gets it. I grew up very healthy, my dad cooked and bought everything from Whole Foods and still calls me when he goes and buys stuff for our family! What a great dad!! But he’s the only one who gets it. My mother and grandmother don’t think a little treat will kill them, the problem is, we see them daily so it’s not like a once a month visit. Then my inlaws don’t get it either.

  9. I have a few dishes that are easy to fix and bring along to share. Waldorf salad and homemade applesauce are two that I use quite often.

  10. Thanks for sharing this timely information! It can be so difficult to eat at other people’s houses when you’re avoiding certain foods and know they won’t be preparing things in a healthful way. I always feel very rude if I don’t eat what someone prepares for me. I think the idea of bringing your own dish is the best way to go. That way you know you at least have one thing you can fill your plate with, and then maybe just add little bits of other foods to complete the meal. That way you’re not being rude and still enjoying a meal with your family and friends.

  11. The thing I am most worried about is that we’re going to spend a week at my in-laws house and they don’t really have any idea about the processed food they eat and how terrible it is. They don’t sit around and eat cookies all day but they make lots of meals from a box or a can and lots of bread and white potatoes… They know that we are eating cleaner but I don’t think they really understand to what extent the whole/clean eating is like for us. My kids know what junk food is and they call it out but I’m just afraid of the whole week getting us off track and making us feel sick, etc. Not sure I can ask my kids to not eat for a week…it’s a little longer than a two hour party. I don’t want to offend my in-laws or seem pushy/rude because this has been somewhat of a struggle to get my husband on board with as well. Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. I am going through the same thing, but my issues are food sensitivities along with eating clean. My MIL asked what she should have at the house for me and I politely said that I would be shipping a box of food to her in advance (I will do the same at my parent’s house) and that my husband and I would be going grocery shopping when we got there. I also offered to make a dish or two for the big meal if she didn’t mind me using her kitchen (she is a little OCD). To be honest, it reduced the anxiety for both of us!

      1. That’s an awesome idea, Kristi. It is a touchy subject unfortunately and I think shipping your own food is the perfect solution for the problem! Thanks for that!

  12. I’m bringing your Mac&Cheese with cauliflower and mash potatoes with Cauliflower, too. I know that I’m not the only who will be eating my Organic Dishes. I am prepared for the questioning as well 😉
    I threw it out there that all dishes should be non-GMO & organic. We will see.
    Thank you, I will be loading up on Organic Avocado and Raw Almonds.
    You’re the best!!

  13. I follow Dr. Mercola’s intermittent fasting rule, and if a social gathering is at night, I just don’t eat at all. (Of course I eat before 6-7 PM at home.) People don’t always notice that I’m not eating, but if they do, I just say it gives me indigestion to eat at night, and that I can never fall asleep after eating late. No one seems to be bothered by this. Truly, even the times I did eat at night (like a simple fish dish), I DID regret it. I felt like a had a rock in my stomach when I went to bed. By day, I just do what you said and eat what is on my diet. I don’t dare touch sugar or mayonnaise! No matter what!

  14. you are amazing. your passion is highly contagious. 🙂 I love reading your blog. I look forward to your emails

    i haven’t yet gotten there to implement these habits. but for folks who do, i am curious on how you manage to know which one is gmo and which one isn’t and which brand peanuts are they serving. i am curious.

    1. Once you get into it, you can really tell by the look. Quality foods look fresh. Even peanuts look fresh. It’s a weird way to describe but there really is a difference. Sometimes I catch myself making faces at supposedly healthy food at the store like premade salads because the lettuce is so light it’s more white than green!

  15. Hi, LOVE your website! And all of your emails – they are great. Just one comment… You said, regarding drinking alcohol at parties: “Just remember, a sparkling water with lime looks like a vodka tonic. There’s no need to bring a lot of attention to yourself if you choose not to drink alcohol.” Many people don’t drink. Period. For a variety of reasons. You made it sound like it may “look bad” if you don’t drink alcohol and that will bring unwanted attention. Why? I say drink water or whatever you want with pride! Who cares if you are obviously having a soda or other obviously non-alcoholic drink? Do people feel the need to look like they are holding a vodka tonic? If anything, it shows responsibility not to drink, as many people are driving home after the party. You made it sound like it will look bad if you aren’t imbibing with booze. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ok, my two cents. Love your website, keep up the great work.

    1. Hi! I also love this website, and thought I would share my interpretation of Vani’s comment, because I interpreted it slightly differently. My dad has not drank at all for the past 11 years – after combatting with a closet alcohol addiction. He has told me on occasion how uncomfortable it is for him to be the only one not drinking in a room, because he is not comfortable sharing his former problem from people outside of his immediate family. It is just a social taboo in many settings to not enjoy alcohol without an explanation – for example it can be difficult for people with former drinking problems to explain at a table full of people why they don’t want to have a small glass of wine with dinner. My dad often brings his own non-alcoholic drinks to parties/gathering specifically to not stand out or share personal information.

  16. In Canada we had our Thanksgiving last month. As hostess I was able to make the entire meal from organic, non-GMO products. Still made basically the ‘same’ food/recipes just with better ingredients. After hearing everyone saying how wonderful it was I dropped an ‘and it’s all organic & healthy’ for you too in my ‘your welcome’. Sometimes volunteering to be the hostess can solve all the dilemmas and you can still make all the traditional dishes just without the junk.

  17. These are all great tips! Unfortunately we will be FLYING to our family’s place and staying with in laws who most assuredly eat overly processed, GMO filled snacks and food! We have an almost 2 year old who and I am worried that my in laws will be VERY offended if I turn down food and snacks the have bought for us and especially for our little man. Honestly, I can see the difference when my son eats healthy and clean and when he is fed “junk” (like I call it.) What should I do? Do you have any recipes off the top of your head that I could offer to make? How should I approach the food and snack situation for my 2 year old? I wish I could bring my own but we are flying there! Help food babe!

    1. tell them he has “allergies”…. that gets round you not wanting to feed him overprocessed snacks. Most people are so accustomed to children being allergic to peanuts that they will accept that. and go grocery shopping once you get there. Say to your inlaws that you don’t want them to have to buy the special food your son needs, and you are more than happy to do it yourself.

  18. The only thing that I will add is that it can be an unwelcome surprise to the host if you show up with your own food. It is wise to call ahead and briefly explain that you must stick to certain foods for health reasons. Let them know that you are so appreciative of being included, you can’t wait to be with them, and that you don’t want to inconvenience them at all. Then strongly, and diplomatically, suggest that you can bring a dish for everyone to share. Always be cheerful and express gratitude. When asked about your style of eating during the meal, make your answer simple and straightforward. Any more (especially during this traditional time of excess), and you risk appearing as though you are judging the others who are enjoying the generous food provided for them. Most of all, avoid lecturing about fats, meat, dairy and GMO’s. It’s fair to say that healthy eating is a topic that really interests you, and you’d love to discuss it more another time if they are interested. It’s so easy to highjack an otherwise pleasant social meal and make everyone uncomfortable. Been there, done that, and regretted it. As Vani says, lead by example.

  19. I’m confronted with this problem every week. We have a Pizza/potluck dinner once a week and everyone knows that I am WFPB and yet there is nothing for me to eat 90% of the time. Someone always brings salads but puts cheese on it. “o you can just pick it off’ I generally bring something to eat and share and it’s always gone by the time we leave

  20. These are great tips. I am going to my partner’s parent’s house and will be staying there for a couple of days. They already call me “rabbit” because I eat tons of veggies, and his mom is planning on having a side dish or two for me (she is a sweetheart). I love the idea of eating a pre-holiday meal, but I am not sure how to do that in this case. I am also nervous about the rest of the time there (we are going for 4 days!). I already suggested to my partner that I would like to go to the grocery store and pick up some foods that I like for breakfast, etc. He said that would not be a problem, but is that rude?

    I am extremely nervous. I want to have a good time without going crazy about what I eat. Any help/suggestions would be much appreciated.

  21. I’m blessed enough to have in-laws that support our food choices. Though we wont eat perfectly all organic over the thanksgiving break like we try to do at home. My MIL makes it a point to make nothing from a box for us and she trys to get as close to the way we choose to eat as she can. Sometimes by trying new recipes and other times by simply telling me to bring anythign I want. So this year I will be purchasing the Organic free range turkey and making the cornbread dressing, and I’m even going to try my hat at making cranberry sauce, Southern style (which means it looks like the can!) Its more $ and work for me but it makes me feel better health wise and emotionally to be able to provie such healthy food for my family!

  22. Ba Humbug —- not really , A celiac with other health issues … Life is tough during holidays … I have all these wants but I get sick eating food that other people prepare … I stay with my safe foods and have learned by standing in the fire that its not worth it …. I eat a few vegetables a salad , nuts etc …. I don’t eat pork , detest turkey , and it seems most people think this is what people should eat / corn is a big no GMO and potatoes ,well there really not the best thing ,,,, I made dinner a few times for our gang / All organic ,gluten free , no sugar … no one knew! Grass Fed standing rib roast , asparagus, apple sauce , carrots , organic oven fried French Fries … with gravy ,,, It cost 100$ for 8 … Eating healthy is a big choice ,a choice we all need to do – Merry Christmas … At least I know –It only took a life time

  23. Since our family started eating healthier, we have been trying to lead by example but sometimes that can take time. It really is the best way to make other people more aware though. There are times when I start feeling like the message is not going through at all and then I’m pleasantly surprised by someone in the family who will announce they ate or made something organic. We usually celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband’s family and we buy the turkey because we feel like that would be hard for us to avoid during the meal and it would be good for everyone who is there. There are usually healthy-ish appetizers and side dishes — not sure if they’re organic and we don’t ask so we just assume they’re not — So we make sure the turkey is pasture-raised and then bring non-GMO desserts as well.

  24. Thank you Vani! This may be a little off topic, but you touched on it at the end of your article. Would you mind sharing some of your approaches to the ones who ask lots of questions or “poke” at you, really wanting answers, I try to keep light hearted responses, to not seem so “above” everyone 🙂 but….sometimes I get sucked in, you know what I mean. They really want answers, but not a long deep one lol It is SO HARD not to dive in, but on the other hand if I can’t, I wish they’d never ask , or even bring it up! :/ If you could help it would be appreciated so very MUCH! I know there is a lot to be said, but maybe the short, sweet, yet Solid responses would be nice. 🙂

  25. I’m with you on these recommendations. I follow nearly all of them and then try not to end up in a conversation about unhealthy foods at the party with anyone. The last party I was at I made an intentional plan to have unimaginable grace for many of the unhealthy people that were there (it was obvious or they spoke of their health issues) by sending each of them love and good energy in hopes that they would embrace a healthier lifestyle when they were ready and before it was too late. This allowed me to refrain completely from judging anyone for choosing to eat the food that I chose not to. I had a great time and I truly enjoyed socializing with everyone instead of worrying about them all. I too have some ideas on my recipe page that could work for appy’s for anyone keen for healthy new ideas. I luv the zucchini jam, roasted veggies skewers and the Mediterranean layered dip that serves a crowd. Thanks Vani for your endless efforts to share the wisdom that folks desperately need to know, I’m a huge fan! Luuuved your interview with Marie too:)

  26. Thank you for all the helpful suggestions! I love reading your posts and appreciate all you’re doing to make our food system a better place. I’ve received backlash even from stating that I’m allergic to certain foods (which is 100% true!) let alone that I’m trying to avoid toxins or GMOs. Almost fortunately (?) I’m allergic corn, soy, dairy, wheat, and even violently allergic to aspartame – which are many of the big ticket items. It can come in handy!

    Allergies aside, I will sometimes “go with the flow” and eat what is served to me in the interest of not offending my host or coming across as arrogant. Part of my reasoning is that if I eat super healthy the rest of the time at home, then my body should be resilient enough to handle the occasional science lab-worthy meal when necessary.

    That being said – how DO you humbly suggest that a friend re-think her food choices? I’m always labeled a conspiracy theorist for daring to question the system, so I tend to just keep quiet. Which destroys me inside watching my loved ones continue to slowly poison themselves. Thoughts anyone?

  27. Depending on how strongly you feel about telling the 100% absolute truth, a couple of strategies that can work for a single visit or an extended visit.

    For an adult – tell them you’ve been doing a cleanse lately. You’ve been working really hard at it and don’t want to give it up but you still want to come and attend their event. As part of your cleanse, maybe you can only eat organic, or maybe you can only drink your smoothie or whatever it may be. Lots of people are familiar with the idea of doing cleanses and would understand you don’t want to chuck, say 3 weeks of hard work out the window, and will be fine with you bringing your own food.

    For a child or an adult (this would work well for the question about the 2 year old above, though not maybe 100% truthful) – tell them you’ve been noticing some possible food sensitivities (maybe just upset tummy etc) and as part of getting to the bottom of it, you’re (not so) temporarily cutting out processed foods, non-organic foods (to determine if there’s a pesticide residue issue) etc. Because this has a more medical flavour, people are less likely to be offended.

    Not that I like to endorse lying, but I find if people cannot be respectful of my need to protect the health and well-being of myself/my kids, I would rather use the little white lie than toss it all away.

    1. Those reasons (not excuses) sound perfectly fine to me, and someone wouldn’t be lying to use them. As a host, I wouldn’t be offended at all if someone told me those things because you aren’t attacking what I’m providing, you’re talking to me about what your food challenges are at the moment.

  28. Thanks for the great tips, Food Babe. I definitely eat before I arrive at a party. Despite my family knowing about my choice to be a vegetarian and all of my allergies, it does not stop them from “food pushing.” My tip: Say “yes, I’ll bring this home with me.” On the way home, give it to a homeless person or toss it.

  29. Thanksgiving is always at my parents’ house, and it’s FILLED with bad food.
    Heh – em…Green Bean Casserole! Ugh!

    Now I just make my own healthy foods to share. Of course I get the “just relax” or “live a little”.

    I just continue to lead by example and hope one day my (very unhealthy) family will follow suit.

  30. I find the hardest part is explaining to family members why you’re choosing to eat like you do, as you mentioned above. It’s really irritating when you’re being questioned and criticized for making healthy choices. I just remind myself that it’s my life and my body and enduring a little pestering from uninformed family members the least I can do to lead by example. Maybe eventually I can changes their ways too, but for now I can simply show them a better way to live!

  31. I lost eighty pounds four years ago and have been able to keep it off by being prepared. My trick for holiday dinners is your first suggestion, eat beforehand. That allows me to pick over the food at the dinner and make healthy choices. I also bring a baggie of snack foods, in case I get hungry and there’s no good choices. I can’t eat wheat, due to a pain disorder, which gives me the ability to avoid a lot of unhealthy foods, as well as the whole “just try it” stuff that, while well meaning, derails goals.

  32. Great comments and suggestions here! If asked why I’m skipping the Chex mix or the Cool Whip, I say that I feel so much better when I avoid sugars and grains, and that I’m concerned about my family’s long term health and so try to stick with “real” foods and avoid GMO & chemicals. If interest is expressed, I’ll elaborate; if not I’ll shut up.

    One thing I think important to remember, is that if you’re healthy, eating some of the wrong kinds of foods over a few days or a week is not going to cause any permanent damage. Problems are with eating that way long-term. So I’ll eat a small slice of CAFO turkey, some potatoes with non-organic butter, some non-organic veggies and a lot of whatever I bring/make. Remember the many documented health benefits of social interaction w/family & friends. Enjoy and be grateful for that without stressing too much about your kid eating some Cheezits. Go back to your good real foods when you get home, and you and your family will surely recover quickly.

  33. Food Babe!
    What’s your take on wheat and wheat products? We have always chose organic options when it comes to bread, but all I keep reading is about how wheat is so bad for you. I live in Germany and can never find the sprouted or spelt bread I keep seeing as an alternative on health food websites. Help! Thank you for being AWESOME!

  34. Food Babe – Dear Vani – It is now a dream of mine to come and work for you. 🙂 I cannot even tell you how much I love and appreciate you and that you have become one of my mentors this year in the path to healing and activism I have chosen. This is such great advice. I’m pretty lucky – all of my friends know of my diagnosis this year, and my big healing plan to reverse my illness. They know I am soy free, corn free, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, and alcohol free, as well as Non GMO and organic. Wow. Every time I say it or write it, I giggle to myself the same as each person always reacts with a WOW response to my willpower. Because of this, I have the type of caring friends who know what I’m doing and ask me, “can I make a special meal for you” or..”we will make sure to get some organic chicken just for you, or “what can we feed you, I will buy something and make something you can have”. NOW – while all this is wonderful and nice, it’s still impossible that it’s going to be totally GMO free and it’s a lot to expect of my friends as well. Even the ones who are choosing to eat all organic, they still have the processed GMO filled items that are slipping through, the same as I used to until I became educated in this area. And what I find is this – I don’t have to lecture. Even though when I see someone eating something that I used to think was healthy – something as simple as the peanuts you have listed in this blog, and in my head I have a vision of myself going around and slapping the food out of peoples hands and saying DON’T EAT THAT, and TRUST ME I’M SAVING YOUR LIFE! Well, that’s just not the approach you can take if you’re going to be able to spread awareness in a one on one conversation. What I find works best is to lead by example. I find that people are very curious as to what I am doing and why I am eating the way I do. They come to me, they ask me, and I tell my story, and how I know that GMO’s were a big part in being diagnosed with MS this year. Then I tell them that if they are interested, I can help them remove these foods from their diet too and to just give me a call anytime. You’d be surprised how many of my friends actually do call me now and turn to me as the expert on this matter. It makes me so happy, because every time that happens, I do feel like it’s just one more person to spread awareness, and maybe one more life saved from a scary diagnosis. I don’t make excuses, I am just authentic and honest and I explain and do everything from a loving place. This brings people to me, wanting to know the information, instead of feeling they are being lectured on something they don’t want to hear or care about. Thanks Vani, for being such an inspiration to me. I just want to meet you and hug you!

  35. While suggesting to steer towards the “healthier” appetizers such as fruits and veggies, those are some of the main culprits of non-organic and non-GMO foods. I don’t quite understand this advice?

  36. I love reading all these comments. Now I don’t feel I’m the only oddball that stresses over family gatherings especially with my children eating all this awful food. This year we are staying for the entire weekend-Wed thru Sun! My kids and I are thinking of some good ideas to take but knowing my in-laws they will not try a single thing that is different from their own traditional food list. One year I brought homemade biscuits, all organic and delicious, they turned up noses and sent someone to the store to get some of their regular packaged rolls. Another time I brought an untraditional dessert with chocolate, nuts and coconut. One family member gagingly tried one and then spit it out…we had lots of leftovers coming home again. We haven’t seen this side of the family for a while now, but since we are staying this year I am really afraid to bring anything or what foods we will all have to eat! Definitely a major family detox the following Monday!
    To all–a very blessed Thanksgiving!

  37. I’m rather new at eating clean. I will be hosting 2 holiday parties, and would love some ideas for tasty, healthy offerings.

    Thanks

  38. We always buy the turkey now. I tell them I’m getting it from a farmer and like supporting these hard working people

    U need to find a dish that fits ur criteria and make sure it is amazing. Every year they will ask u to bring it 🙂

    I do a healthy scallop potato. Well lots of healthy fat. My diet is based off the book deep nutrition

    I try and have a banana and glass of raw milk just before leaving the house

    Just be creative and u will be fine

  39. I will be bringing a family sized version of your Cheesy Broccoli Mushroom Bake (from the August Eating Guide) to Thanksgiving with my family this year. It is one of my favorite dishes and I am so excited to share it with everyone. I know they will love it and will be surprised when I tell them it is vegan.

    Thanks so much for all you do, your eating guides have changed my life!

  40. I’ve always been an organic and very conscious cook, hostess and eater. However, this year we are off to a friend’s dinner. I’m already planning to take foods along that I know are safe! Love this blog post. Reminded me to take some appetizers too!

  41. I dread going out for holiday parties because no one has the same food lifestlye that my daughter and I do. So, we always eat before we go out and as not to offend anyone I always drink a cup of coffee or have 1/2 glass of wine, and my daughter will have a plate of raw veggies that we bring with us. It is hard for my 10 year old daughter to see her cousins eating the absolute junk but as she gets older, and I educate her, she is able to feel better about eating the way she does.

  42. I have been eating a local seasonal organic diet for so long, that all my friends and family know that I will be bringing my own food to any party or get together, because even during the holidays I don’t stray. And everyone now looks forward to what I bring, so I have to keep my portion aside so I get to eat.

  43. I’m guilty of not even realizing I’m popping food into my mouth. At Halloween I couldn’t believe how much I ate and how sick I felt at the end of the night, simply because I wasn’t paying attention.

    Each year I try t o get my family to make a few more healthy options, so we’ll see if I make any headway this year.

    Thanks for the tips!

  44. LOVE this! Thank you.
    Also – do you know a good recipe for home-made eggnog? It’s my guilty-pleasure this time of year. I HAVE found that Organic Valley has created one without “natural flavors” or Carageenan! So excited to have found it at Whole Foods!!

  45. Hi Foodbabe.

    Maybe i am the only one who joined in a bit late. But is there a kind of dictionary for Your shorts like GMO and MSG.

    What makes peanuts bad, just because made by Kraft ? :-).

    Sincerely
    Klavs.

  46. I was startled to see the picture of Planters Unsalted Dry Roasted Peanuts and the accompanying ingredient list. I keep a jar in my cube to snack on during the work day. I grabbed my jar, and took a look at the list of ingredients, and it says “Peanuts.” Nothing else.

    Are they hiding something from their customers?

    Thanks very much for all your work keeping us informed about our nutrition choices.

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