Home for the holidays? Integrative nutritionist Jennie Miremadi is sharing practical and emotional advice for how to feel good, stick with your own eating plan and still get along with the whole tribe. Here’s a hint: You’re in charge…
If you’re going home for the holidays, you don’t have to resign yourself to a week of unhealthy eating. And, you don’t have to feel unwell just because your family doesn’t eat the way you do. By being proactive in how you communicate with your family and making sure you have food you can eat, you set yourself up for success and make it possible to stick to your healthy diet.
How To Navigate Eating Healthfully When Home For Holidays
Explain your “why” | You have the ability to make your family more receptive to your eating just by changing the way you talk about it. If you criticize the way they eat, you put your family members on defense and potentially make them feel like you’re rejecting them. If they’re feeling hurt, it’s unlikely they’ll have any desire to support your efforts to eat healthy while you’re with them. So, it’s important to explain why you eat the way you do without placing judgment on them.
For example, instead of saying, Mom and Dad, how can you eat that, it’s so bad for you, say, I’m sure it’s really delicious but whenever I eat deep fried food, I get bloated and my stomach hurts for two days. By explaining how the food makes you feel in your body without judging them or the food, you enable them to understand where you’re coming from. Create a context that makes them want to support you in feeling well during your visit.
Take Responsibility | Whether or not your family supports your healthy eating, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you have food that you can eat during your visit, not theirs. Many people who changed to a healthy diet had no idea how to prepare delicious, nutrient-rich meals when they first began to eat this way. It takes work to figure out how to remove the inflammatory ingredients that you used to eat and substitute them with new, healthy ones. And, if your family doesn’t eat the way that you do, it’s unlikely they’ll have any idea what kind of replacement food to get for you even if they want to help you. So be proactive! Go to the grocery store when you arrive and stock up on food—this will empower you to feel healthy and eat well during your stay.
Bring Back Family Classics | Are there any meals that you ate growing up that you would still eat on your current diet? For example, if you don’t eat dairy or gluten, are there any dairy- and gluten-free dishes that your family ate when you were a kid that would work for you now? (Maybe roast chicken with vegetables or turkey and wild rice stuffed bell peppers.) Make life easy on your family by suggesting dishes they already like and know how to make that you can eat too. Not only will everyone be satisfied with the meal, you’ll also be educating your family on how to make food that meets your needs.
Make Modifications + Be proactive | Brainstorm dishes your family makes that could easily modify to accommodate your dietary preferences, then ask if they are willing to make tweaks to the dishes so that you can eat them too. Tell them that you’ll go to the store to get all of the replacement ingredients and help prepare the dish with them. Or, if the “problem” ingredients are only added at the end, ask your family if you can take out a portion of food for yourself before they finish off the dish. The key here is to be proactive.
Get Your Chef On | Give your family a night off and offer to cook them a meal. Upgrade a traditional holiday dish by substituting healthy ingredients or prepare a selection of your favorite nutrient-rich dishes. By taking charge of a meal, you get to show your family that healthy food can be delicious. And, the best part is that your gesture may inspire a deeper connection with your family. By making an effort to show them a piece of who you are, you give your family the opportunity to get to know you better, which may bring you all closer together.