How to Stay Healthy at the 3 Big Summer Activities: Dinner Party/Cookouts, Weddings and Festivals
Summer has finally arrived! Along with the beautiful weather comes wedding, dinner party/cookout and festival season. Although tons of fun, eating at unknown venues can cause a lot of stress on people trying to lead a health lifestyle. With a little training and preparation, you can avoid this negative stress.
I found out 3 years ago that I am sensitive to both soy and gluten and it’s been a long journey since. One of the hardest situations for me was going to a social event where I would not have control over the food options. I wanted to share some of the tricks and tips I have used over the years to help take food out of the equation so I could focus on the special occasion.
Cookouts, weddings, and festivals are a time to celebrate or enjoy the company of family, friends, and loved ones. There is no reason to spoil the fun just because you have special dietary needs due to food sensitivities, being on a detox program, or trying to lead a healthier lifestyle! All it takes is a positive mind-frame and a little preparation.
If the party is at a restaurant, always start with going to their website to view their menu. Most restaurants offer a separate Gluten Free menu online that the restaurant itself may not offer.
Call the restaurant ahead of time. This gives you a chance to ask all the questions you need to know without feeling like you are taking up too much of a server’s time while they are busy with other guests. Talking to the cooks or managers over the phone will increase your confidence that the food prepared will be exactly what you need. It also helps avoid feeling awkward in front of other people who may perceive you as being “such a picky eater.”
If you eat bread before your meal at restaurants, you have options. I know patients who will bring a small container of their favorite gluten-free bread and put it on the table. [Click to Tweet] You can still dip it in the oil and pepper or butter (if you eat dairy). Or you can do what I do, which is to ask them please not to tempt me with bread and save it for someone else.
If you decide to order a salad, most restaurants will include an option for just oil and vinegar as your salad dressing option. This is the best option for almost any healthy eating plan. Another option (I do this on occasion) is to fill a small sandwich baggie with salad dressing you have at home that fits your dietary requirements. [Click to Tweet] Tie the baggie in a knot, with a rubber band, or twisty tie so it won’t spill in your bag/pocket. When you are ready to use it on your salad just tear off the bottom corner just enough to pour out the amount you need.
If the meal is at someone’s house, ask the host about the menu in advance. If it is a potluck, guest will usually ask for approval for side dishes they may want to bring so the host will likely know at least most of the foods being served. If you have a better idea of what will be available you will know whether you can eat the party or if you should eat before going.
Another option is to bring a side dish that you can eat. One trick is to make an easy side dish that I love. This way, if it is the only dish I can eat at the dinner party, I won’t go hungry. I make sure the dish is enough to share with everyone if they decide they like it as well! This also helps the host feel more comfortable because it won’t look like you are rejecting their food and bringing your own personal dish.
Wedding menus usually offer a meat and vegetable option. If you are on a no meat detox/diet be sure to select the vegetarian option. If you know the bride or venue well, you should try to contact them and let them know your dietary needs. Make sure to express that these needs are not to inconvenience them but rather to prevent you from getting sick. Chances are, since they invited you to share the couple’s special day, they will want to do what is in their power to accommodate you.
If it is not possible to get a customized meal or select an option that is within your health routine, it’s ok. Just prepare yourself to eat before the event. You can still eat the salad and vegetables they serve but you will be on your own for the main meal. If this is the case, be sure to let them know when you RSVP that you will not need a meal. This is important because venues usually charge per plate.
The cake is one of the biggest challenges. If you can resist it you should! We all get a sweet tooth but cake is not the answer. It is full of sugar, carbs, dairy, and flour. For almost any healthy eating program, almost every ingredient in cake is on the avoid list.
Along with fairs come the junk food – fried veggies, funnel cakes, cotton candy, french fries, etc. I have two pieces of advice for encountering fair food: (1) do NOT eat it! and (2) go ahead and cheat. Ok, I know these are the exact opposite, but bear with me.
It is not worth it. As Dr. Ungar reminds us regularly, inflammation caused by food can last up to 6 months in our bodies! [Click to Tweet] I love fairs and festivals, but the thought of eating something this weekend that is going to cause my body harm and discomfort for the next 6 months is enough to detour me. I want to feel great the next 6 months to enjoy the company of my family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas!
For those who simply cannot resist the urge, go ahead and eat it. That’s right I said it. Go ahead and cheat. I promise that after you do it, you will learn your lesson and never do it again. Most likely you will get a sick feeling in your stomach from all the grease and sugar. The next morning, or few days, you will start to relive all the symptoms you worked so hard to eliminate. The brain fog, fatigue, swollen hands/feet, irregular bowel movements, and irritability will come back. On the other hand, you may have built up your immune system so much with your healthy lifestyle that cheating one time may not affect you. This is great but do not take it for granted. You should cheat sparingly and be mindful of the consequences.
The most important rule to remember is be happy and healthy; they pair well together! Enjoy these social occasions. Please do not seclude yourself just because you need to eat a little differently than your company. The best way to encourage others to lead a healthy lifestyle is to lead by example! Soon you will not feel like an outcast. Instead you will surround yourself with like-minded people who support and embrace a healthy lifestyle just like you!
Did this blog help you feel more ready for a social event you will be attending? Tell us about it. We would love to hear your comments or stories below.
May 31, 2015
Functional Endocrinology of Ohio
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330) 644-5488
Cleveland: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd., Ste. 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216) 236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, Dr. David Starkey and Dr. Andrew Kender, Chiropractic Physicians