We all know our food and beverage choices can impact our overall health and well-being, but what about the company we keep at mealtime? Our family, friends and coworkers can sway not just the food and drink choices we make, but how much we consume. It’s not easy being your own food authority, but it is possible!
Understanding Social Influences on Food Choices
Our relationship with food forms during childhood, and our surroundings have a big impact on how it takes shape. If our parents don’t like something, the chances of it showing up on our plate is not likely. The same is true as we age. We gravitate towards the foods our friends pick in the lunch line and later in life it’s the drinks our friends order at a bar.
It’s helpful to remember that as adults, we have autonomy on what, when and how much we eat. Who we eat with can be a deliberate choice as well. Here are a few suggestions for enjoying time spent with friends and family while also staying the course for your health goals.
BE the influencer!
Think back to your last night out with friends. Where did you go? What did you order? How did you feel after? It’s easy to let others decide where to eat, but this can automatically impact what food is available to you. It can feel like the right thing to let others decide where to eat, but your voice matters, and so do your health goals.
Let your friends and family know your food preferences when you’re going out to eat, or suggest alternative social outings that don’t include food. Try ax throwing, bowling or playing basketball as a group.
Use social media as a positive tool
What can also make achieving our health and wellness goals an uphill battle is social media. The likelihood of someone trying a recipe or beverage could very well depend on the claims associated with it, such as “magic detox” or “melt the fat away.” Fill your feeds with the right content. Follow credible individuals (like registered dietitians) who give helpful information about the lifestyle you’re interested in pursuing.
Balance your day
If you are going out to dinner with friends and know you will overindulge in pizza, plan to have nutrient-dense meals earlier during the day. Plan to have an extra serving of fruit with breakfast or pack additional veggies for an afternoon snack. This way, you can get in all food groups while also savoring the delicious flavors of pizza.
Bring your own food
Make one of the healthy recipes you saw on social media when winding down the evening. Maybe it’s fruit salad, black bean salsa or Greek yogurt artichoke dip. Don’t be shy! Chances are someone else will be happy you brought a healthy dish to share at your next family gathering or party.
Offer to host
Yes, there is more responsibility when hosting, but you are also in charge of the menu. Choose recipes that incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Guests will leave feeling satisfied and happy the food was good for them.
We may not be able to control every situation when it comes to the food put in front of us and who we share it with, but we most certainly hold power in choosing what and how much we eat.