I think everyone knows that it is easier to stick to healthier food choices when you mostly eat at home but with the festive season approaching that means invitations to dinners and functions.
While it can be lovely to catch up with colleagues, friends and family these functions can be a minefield when you are trying to eat healthy, nutritious food.
Fortunately it is summer for us in Australia which means that salads are a great option at most functions.
I have also developed a few strategies that help me to avoid some of the food pitfalls at these events and thought I would share some of them with you so you could try them out.
There are three main situations I encounter. Meals with friends and family, restaurant dinners and food trays at events with ‘finger food’. The meal situations are nearly always easier to deal with than the events serving canapes.
Offer to take something.
For most of our family events everyone brings part of the meal which helps to reduce the stress of the whole event and means that you can choose to take something nutritious and healthy.
If no one else eats it then you get to take home the leftovers and if everyone eats it you have shared with them a great dish and hopefully they will be prompted to make that for themselves. Win/win.
When you choose what to put on your plate from the other offerings, try to stick with whole food over processed food.
So, have steak or chicken instead of rissoles or sausages, for example.
Try to choose home baked instead of store bought. For example, the ingredients used in a cake made at home will nearly always be better and fewer than a cake bought from a supermarket. So, if your choice is between home-made Christmas pudding and store bought Christmas cake, opt for the pudding.
For restaurant dinners
Choosing a healthy option at a restaurant can be tricky to navigate sometimes. There is definitely a theme where the more expensive the restaurant, the better the food. This makes sense because if a chef is buying good ingredients then they will cost more.
So my first tip is, if you can, try to steer your friends or family to a restaurant you know which cooks better food.
That said, it is not impossible to have a good meal at an affordable price when you are out.
Try to keep away from the fried food options, often they are cooked in poor quality oil which means your body won’t be able to process the food properly.
Try to avoid things with lots of ‘sauce’. Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, pepper sauce, satay sauce – you get the picture. Unless the restaurant makes their own sauce on the premises, and even then sometimes, sauce has a very high sugar content.
Functions with finger food
These are usually some of the most difficult places to find good food. I think that is because usually the timing is outside a ‘meal’ time so they are not serving a ‘meal’ but are serving ‘snacks’.
Mostly if I am heading to something like this I will try to eat first so that it is easier for me to avoid eating any of the offerings.
Too often they are fried and come with a sauce. Both of which I have already discussed.
And, because you have not had a meal, by the time you leave you are often still hungry which then means you might pick up a take away meal on your way home or just eat another meal entirely when you get home.
There are no hard and fast rules to navigating the party season but if you can keep in mind that less processed is better then at least you are off to a good start.
Remember, if it all goes pear shaped at one event, don’t beat yourself up about it, just try again at the next one!
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You may also be interested in my Healthy Eating Is Easy! course which supports motivated people to choose healthy food without being overwhelmed and without fad diets. You can check it out here
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