Tips for When You Want to Eat Healthily & Have a Social Life

So much of our social life includes food and drink and it's often lovely to change our clothes, eat out and see friends, or network and meet new people. But what about looking after ourselves, especially if we eat out a lot?

Let's look at ways to ensure that eating out is a healthy experience.

- So many restaurants and receptions offer nibbles, snacks and canape with the pre-dinner drinks. Hold back and remind yourself that they're often unhygienic and are frequently prepared much earlier. Plus they're often high in calories with little nutritional value. Do you really want to consume all those unsatisfying, empty calories when you've worked so hard to get fit? Dinner's arriving before too long. Supermodel, Jerry Hall famously said that she always ate before going to a reception to avoid being tempted by the deluge of snacks and nibbles.

- Balls, charity lunches and birthday bashes are often regarded as treats. We may spend time excitedly planning clothes, accessories and choosing off the event's advance menu. If you're anticipating this to be an indulgent affair take those choices into account and plan your calorie intake for the days before and after, much like you would when budgeting your household expenditure when making a major purchase.

- Set menus and pre-ordering can be problematic for someone who eats out regularly and is wanting alternatives to rich food and sauces. You could instead request vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or even diabetic options, as an increasing number of outlets happily cater for more specialised tastes. Ask for grilled food, sauces and dressings to be put to one side so you can serve them to suit, rather than having your meal arrive doused in creamy sauce or dressing.

- Dining at home socially can enter 'party mode' as it often encourages us to buy more and more items, 'just in case'. Obviously we want to be generous and welcoming, give our guests a wonderful time and be a great host, but so much food is often left over after a dinner party. People joke about eating Christmas turkey for weeks afterwards, but cheese boards, chocolates and desserts can equally linger long after guests have left. Why not wrap up the food you don't want and give it to your guests as they leave. Saying 'it's for your children/your lunch tomorrow' can justify getting it out of your house.

- Healthier social eating may be a salad, casserole, stew, barbecue, where you serve yourself and determine what and how much you eat. And certainly soups and casseroles are often preferred as an alternative to rich food over long house party weekends. Served with crusty bread and all the trimmings they're often viewed with relief.

- Social eating at other people's houses can be problematic when you're keen to stay on your healthy regimen. Again, claiming dietary requirements may be an idea, but not being ravenous when you arrive can help you choose more intelligently when food is being served. And refuse to be bullied into having second helpings or extra slices of dessert.

Alcohol often features large in social events, with sales of prosecco in the UK hitting record levels year on year. A helpful tip is to alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water, as alcohol dehydrates and causes us to drink more and faster than originally intended. Staying hydrated with regular water helps us keep better control over our alcohol intake. Avoid sugary cocktails and note that champagne has far fewer calories than prosecco!

Some people volunteer to be the designated driver or are happy to say they don't drink, so avoiding the alcohol trap. Hosts in hospitality will often order a soft drink, maybe a tonic water, served in a tumbler, with ice and lemon. That way they look like they're joining in, drinking a short, and are able to maintain a convivial party vibe. Another option is to accept a drink and then intermittently lose it, put it down somewhere, never to be reclaimed!

Social eating is a pleasant way to relax and spend time with friends and family, especially in an increasingly time-constrained life. It's good to find ways to do so, without losing sight of the bigger picture of staying healthy and on plan.


Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester, counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

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