I am frequently asked how my family of 5 handles social gatherings with people who do not follow the same dietary choices. Just like with meal planning, navigating food at social gatherings takes a little forethought, but it doesn’t need to be stressful. Arming yourself with a few tips and tricks will make your next get together a breeze regardless of what everyone else is eating.
If you are meeting friends or family at a restaurant, make sure to get the details ahead of time so that you can browse the menu in advance. I have an entire post dedicated to staying plant-based while eating out, even if you get stuck at a drive-thru. Today we will be focusing on parties, BBQs, and even catered events! Here are my 5 simple secrets to successful snacking at soirees.
Say that 5 times fast!
1. Be Prepared: Remember that your health choices are NOT the responsibility of the host. Never assume that there will be something prepared especially for you that is dairy/meat/egg/oil free. While I have many friends and family members that do make special dishes for us at gatherings, I would never assume that to be the case. Always take the time to think ahead. Pack yourself some hearty snacks to tide yourself over just in case there really isn’t anything for you to eat (think apples, bananas, dried fruit, nuts, minimaly processed snack bars etc).
2. Know the Setting: If you have been invited to a planned event such as a birthday party, baby shower, etc. with a set menu made by the host, give them a call as soon as you get the invitation. You can say something like “We are so excited to come to Timmy’s birthday party! I know how much work is involved in putting events together and I was wondering if I could help out by bringing a dish or dessert? I’ll make sure they are nut free, gluten free, and vegan for anyone with dietary restrictions or allergies.” In my experience, offering help is always better received than asking the host to make you special dishes.
If you’re attending a catered event such as a wedding, make note on the RSVP card that you will be needing a “vegan” meal. Call the host of the event and offer to get in touch with the caterer yourself, if that is more convenient. I have been to a handful of catered events since going plant-based and when I am served my meal, other guests comment how they wish they had my dinner! Caterers/chefs can come up with some really amazing plant-based dishes as long as you give them a heads up!
3. Bring for Everyone: If the host agrees to you bringing a dish or two, or you’re attending a potluck style party, then make sure to bring enough for ALL the guests to enjoy. And make sure it’s something really delicious and easy to share. May I suggest a crock pot full of tomato soup, a big bowl of copy cat Chick-fil-A superfood salad (minus the nuts if necessary), and an easy dessert like brownie bites?
Headed to a BBQ? Bring some potatoes, corn on the cob, or even some Beyond Burgers to grill up next to everyone else’s food. Don’t socially isolate yourself by only bringing food for yourself or your family. Don’t be that guy. He rarely gets invited back.
4. Eat Before You Leave: If you are headed to a kids pizza party at a place that can’t (or won’t) make a cheese-less veggie pizza, for example, your best bet is to eat before you leave. In those types of cases, it’s better to make sure that you (and especially your kids) are happy and well fed so that you can enjoy the company of your friends without getting hangry.
5. Be Flexible: The point of a social gathering is to enjoy your friends and family. I am ok with my kids having a handful of chips or little bit of (vegan) junk food at a gathering. One bad meal isn’t going to derail our healthy lifestyle. Ok, so my kids’ entire dinner consisted of bread rolls and some pickles. I will have a big green smoothie waiting for them at home.
Did I miss anything? What are your tips and tricks to eating healthy at social gatherings?
Full disclosure: This blog post contains some affiliate links. Meaning, basically, if you make a purchase from any of these links it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I may make a little money. So thank you in advance for supporting my family 🙂