How to Eat Clean with Family and Friends

This is a question asked by Melissa on my Facebook page:

“I love your book! I am able to workout and enjoy the time spent in the gym. I struggle with the diet. How do you handle eating out with the family and social events based around food and drinks?”

Oh look...nachos
Oh look…nachos

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for reading my book!  You bring up a situation that everyone trying to follow a healthy lifestyle faces at one time or another – how do you stick to your meal plan around other people who aren’t eating clean?  Here are several strategies based upon the circumstances.

Situation 1:  You live a mostly healthy lifestyle and your best friend you only see once a year is getting married.  My suggestion:  #CheatMeal Congratulations!  Savor the meal, indulge in a piece of wedding cake and enjoy a champagne toast.  Go back to healthy eating tomorrow.

Cheat meal!!!
Cheat meal!!!

Situation 2:  You are at a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese for some kid in your son’s kindergarten class you didn’t even know existed until the invitation arrived.  Everyone is eating cold pizza, soda, chips and cake.  My suggestion:  Don’t eat that crap.  The kid won’t care, he’s too busy playing laser tag.  Eat before you go the party so you’re not hungry and bring some healthy, portable snacks in your purse like almonds, apples and maybe a protein bar.  (I like Quest Bars, personally.)

Situation 3:  It’s Friday night and you’re invited to go to a bar with your friends.  You’re trying to lose weight and are afraid this will throw you over the edge into a plate of nachos and beer…and a giant cookie with ice cream.chocolate-chip-cookie My suggestions:

  1. Remember that you have options.  Instead of going to a bar, suggest doing something fun and non-food related, like roller skating (why should kids have all the fun?), going to a museum, watching the sunset over a lake, playing at an arcade, or watching a comedy show.  Not going out is another option too (albeit a stick-in-the-mud one.)  Full disclosure here:  If I’m less than a month away from a competition I will totally pull the “let’s do a raincheck and eat out another night” option.
  2. If you DO decide to go to the bar, you can always order a drink and not drink it.  This works for the person who wants to eat clean, but in stealth mode.   By ordering the drink no one is going to do that peer pressure thing, and when no one is looking you can have your significant other drink it for you to keep up appearances.   (This also works when you’re pregnant and at the office Christmas party but haven’t told your boss the big news yet because you don’t want it to affect your Christmas bonus.  Hypothetically.)
  3. Instead of ordering a salad which screams DIET!,
    Eating a burger during show prep
    Eating a burger during show prep

    order something like a hamburger (which looks unhealthier than it is) and ask for a baked potato instead of fries.  Eat half the potato and skip the butter.  Put mustard on the burger instead of ketchup or mayo.  So you’re making healthier choices but it still looks “normal”.

  4. Go back to clean eating immediately after.

Situation 4:  Same situation as above, but you really, really don’t want to go off your meal plan; you stopped caring what other people think because it’s your body, not theirs, and if they can’t be mature enough and supportive enough to let you eat healthy without teasing you about it, then maybe this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them and their own food issues.  So there, Becky!  If this is where you’re at mentally, then here are my suggestions:

  1. Pack your pre-made healthy food in Tupperware and bring it in your purse or backpack and just order a drink like bottled water from the menu.
    Pack your own food
    Pack your own food

    I’ve brought Tupperware with chicken, rice and green beans to Disneyland, weddings, school trips and church picnics.  People ask me about it and I just say I’m a bodybuilder.  At first I’d thought people would think I was weird; I’m sure some do.  But mostly people think it’s cool that I’m dedicated.  My friends and family expect it from me and are confused when I order off the menu now.

  2. If you are placing an order, try saying it like this:  Tilapia-meal“Hi.  I’d like to apologize in advance for placing a weird order; I’m training for an event and have to follow a meal plan.  I’d like 4 oz of tilapia grilled with no butter, please.  I’d like half a cup of brown rice with no salt, please.  And I’d like steamed vegetables.  Thanks for working with me.  I tip well.”  Pretty much waiters and waitresses have heard everything and as long as you’re polite they will work with you.

Whatever strategy you go with, just remember that you are in control of what does or doesn’t go into your body, not your friends and family.  Also, once they see that you are truly dedicated to a healthy lifestyle they will most likely be supportive.  Heck, they might even ask you for some advice about getting healthy!

Hope that helps!

Lisa 😉

Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two.

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4 thoughts on “How to Eat Clean with Family and Friends

  1. Lisa, you’ve shared some great advice. When I’m going to a restaurant, I often will go online ahead of time, predetermine my order, and write it down on paper so I won’t draw attention to myself and they’ll get the order right! I’ve had too many experiences where waiters have not followed directions.

  2. Effective and doable tips. I like it! What especially resonated with me was all the crap I ate at these events where people could care less (the kids party.) For my best friend’s wedding, baby shower, Christmas Day, by all means indulge within reason. But for other events like the school funfair, why waste your time, energy and hardwork?

    1. I know – it’s so easy to get sucked into eating chips and stale cookies at school events. Why not save your cheat meals for a good steak dinner and wine, right?

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