Navigating Healthy Eating At Family Events

Food At Family Events

I was speaking to a client yesterday (lets call her Laura) about an upcoming family reunion and how she was going to navigate the experience without eating too many foods that she knew didn’t make her feel good.

I’m sure we all have been to events or family gatherings before where you feel overwhelming peer pressure to eat what everyone else is eating or feel rude or impolite to decline dessert.

I know I have.

And so I wanted to share with you the advice I gave Laura about strategies to enjoy these events while still maintaining the healthy habits that make you feel good.

1. Awareness is key

The first thing we talked about was how great it was that she had developed such a great awareness of what worked for her body and what didn’t. She had gotten to the point where she didn’t crave sugar or feel like foods that didn’t serve her anymore and wanted to keep feeling good.

This made it easier in general to say “no thanks” to cookies at work or to take out for dinner.

She didn’t have to use willpower anymore she honestly didn’t want to eat the way she used to because she didn’t want to feel the way she used to feel.

If you feel like you also have a pretty keen awareness around what works for you and what doesn’t awesome! But if not a great tool I love to use with my clients is a food & mood journal.

Record everything you eat throughout the day and also record how you felt that day.

How was your digestion?

What would you rate your energy out of 10?

Did you feel stressed or anxious or happy and relaxed today?

Overtime you will be amazed at the correlations between what you eat & how you feel!

2. Plan Plan Plan

I talk about this a lot.

A mentor of mine once told me that discipline leads to freedom and I have found this to be sooo true in my own life and for my clients. A little discipline up front to plan out your meals for the week.

Planning out your workouts means less decisions you have to make throughout your day. My free time is free to enjoy and is not “should” time. Do you waste time thinking about what you should be doing or should have done? Planning & scheduling out your week means no should time. Everything you want to do has been planned out.

No shoulds.

So for Laura we talked about how she could plan for this family reunion event. What food could she prepare and bring to share that was healthy and going to make her feel good. What healthy snacks could she have on hand to ensure she didn’t get hungry.

We also thought about what she could focus on instead of the food. Could she set an intention for the event around connecting with her family members? About playing with the kids outside or focusing on fun activity ideas that everyone could participate in that didn’t involve food.

take one bite of cake
3. Strategies

We also talked about strategies for when you are in that situation where Aunty Sue is insisting you have a piece of her homemade apple pie even when you feel like you are clearly communicating that you are no longer hungry. Anticipating situations like this and having your strategy upfront will help you know what to do when these inevitably occur.

  • Take the piece of cake, have a couple of bites and then set it down and focus on the conversation or activity. It’s amazing how most of the time people won’t notice that you actually didn’t finish it they were just intent on you having it in the first place.
  • Share with another family member. There is bound to be someone else in the same situation as you.
  • Just have a smaller portion. There are usually some veggies or salad you can pile your plate with first and then just have half the serving size of the lasagna or pasta. You don’t have to go without, just have a little less.
  • Use a food allergy or intolerance excuse. To be honest even if this isn’t diagnosed if a certain food makes you feel bad then this can totally be classified as intolerance.
  • Or, if it’s your favorite homemade apple pie or grandmothers lasagna that you love and look forward to once a year at your families reunion, then have it and enjoy every bite! Remember guilt is not a vitamin and it’s what you do every day that matters, not every now and then.

Also depending on your family or the event, chatting to people before hand and let them know how you prefer to eat and what foods you like to avoid. You might be surprised by who is actually supportive. I have been staying with family a lot in Poland and I frequently use the strategies above to make sure I maintain my energy levels and keep feeling good while enjoying all the delicious food my Polish family has been making for me.

I hope these tips have been helpful!

I would love to know if you have any additional strategies you use to navigate events such as these one.

Let me know in the comments below.

To your health,




P.S. Have you signed up for my 7 Day Clean Living Challenge yet? 7 days of fun recipes, nutrition info & support focused on our the three pillars to creating a healthy life, Good Food, Movement & Mindset. Want to learn more? Click HERE. 


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Hi, I'm Karen and I work with busy people just like you every day to help them boost energy levels, lose weight, clear up their skin and improve their health through finding the right foods that work for their unique body. My 1-on-1 and group health coaching programs focus on a customized plan for you that fits into your lifestyle and is right for your body. We focus on whole foods and building sustainable habits to transform your life. No dieting, no scales and no feeling deprived. Ready to embrace healthy eating and feel better in your body? Ready to stop feeling tired all the time? Come over and say hello in the Real Energy Food Facebook Group

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