Desserts
How do you handle eating nutritiously at parties, both ones you host and those where you're a guest? We frequently host/attend get-togethers, and I find that I eat way too many high carb or junky foods.

Carrie

A couple weeks ago, this awesome question landed in my inbox. I've been wanting to answer it ever since, since I think it's such a relevant topic!

First, I have a couple of basic rules that I follow when it comes to eating with others:

  1. Relationships and people are more important than my convictions on eating, and even any special diets that I am on (unless they are crucial to my health, such as a food allergy or strong sensitivity).
  2. I willingly accept (almost) anything I am offered in most social situations where I am a guest or being hosted by another. This is a respect issue in my mind, and comes down to how I love people (a spiritual, moral issue with eternal consequences) vs. how healthy I am eating (primarily a physical issue with temporary consequences, though I hope you know by now that I view it as a spiritual stewardship issue as well).
  3. When given choices (ie. at a buffet style meal) I will chose the best options available, while eating enough variety to make sure that my hosts are not offended in any way.

This is an issue that I have had to deal with often, particularly in church situations, and also when sharing meals with family and some people yet to know Christ, whom we have been blessed to be able to spend time with.

I have struggled with many aspects of this issue– my concerns (over eating foods I consider very unhealthy), my arrogance and pride (considering myself better than others, or judging others), my lack of self control (using these situations as opportunities to load up on foods I otherwise wouldn't eat, and be able to justify it to myself).

Over time, I have become convicted that the best response in these situations is to make it a priority to first serve and bless the people that I am with, and secondly, discreetly seek to find the best balance or compromise I can make in my food choices.

I actually found out recently that two of my friends are actually somewhat intimidated or worried about what they are serving to me, and I wonder how many more feel that way. Though I have tried to always graciously accept everything I am given, many people know of my strong convictions regarding what we personally buy and eat in our own home, and this creates an invisible hurdle that they feel they must jump over in order to have us over to their home.

I so strongly desire to communicate quite the opposite- that we see their generosity and friendship as far more important than what they might serve us (I hope my real life friends are reading this!), and that although I am sinful and sometimes fail, I try very hard not to pass judgment, but to recognize that not everyone's journey will look like my own and that's ok.

I mention this just to remind us all of how very careful we must be in our relationships, and that our zeal and passion for good health must be tempered sometimes. Though I believe nutrition and health are very important, I must often remind myself that it is certainly not of the utmost importance, especially when compared with the centrality of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God in my life, and how I love and serve others (both in the Body as well as the lost).

A phrase that is used in our church which I would do well to remind myself of more often is to "keep the main thing the main thing". I so often get lost in the peripherals.

I should also mention, as it was part of the question, that when I am serving guests in my own home, I try to find that fine balance between serving healthy food that I might normally serve my own family, and serving things that are familiar and appealing to others.

I will confess, I have not found the balance entirely yet. Sometimes I forget just how differently we eat. Sometimes things that I think are fairly normal are not well accepted. It can be challenging to figure out what to feed to other people's children. And it's tough to stick within my budget in the midst of all of it. I am still learning in this regard, for sure!

As for when I am hosting a party or potluck of some sort, I will try to make sure that there are at least a few really healthy dishes that I know that I can freely eat from, and then I will feel less tempted to sneak a couple bites continually stuff my face with all the yummy, sugary, carb goodness (badness?) in front of me.

When it's hosted by someone else, I will try to be the person who brings the healthy dish, and I'm often surprised by how well it goes over!

Hummus, veggies with a dip, deviled eggs, fresh salsa and guac with organic corn chips, a fruit platter or salad, homemade mini meatballs, healthy date bars, etc. have generally been winners for me.

One last thing to remember- if we are eating well most of the time, there are occasions where slipping up a little or just plain old indulging in celebration foods may be acceptable. Many people say to aim for the 80/20 rule, where you eat the best you can 80% of the time, and don't stress out about what happens during the remaining 20%. Personally, I like to aim for more of a 90/10 rule, but you get the idea.

Every once in a while (now hear me, I really do mean just very rarely), you can eat that scrumptious molten chocolate lava cake with whipped cream, even though you just ate a croissant and 7 mini-sausage rolls (I won't tell if you don't!). And enjoy it– no guilt allowed! On occasion, even unhealthy celebration foods can have their place in an otherwise healthy and balanced diet!

I realize that my answer wasn't entirely practical or focused on the nutritional aspect of the question, but I suppose that's because for me, it's less about exactly what I eat, and more about all of the important issues I've brought up (loving others, being gracious, using self control, finding a balance, and ultimately glorifying God and keeping my eyes on what is most important).

Have you dealt with this issue and what do you do in social situations? I'd love to know how you find that balance!