Our idea of what constitutes "food" in American culture has become so skewed that it is almost unrecognizable. Our supermarkets are packed with products whose ingredients include unpronounceable chemicals, dyes, bacteria, and growth hormones. They are irradiated without our consent and contain GMOs.It's time to bring back FOOD. Pure unadulterated organic RAW food.This blog is a documentation of my continuing journey on a plant-based lifestyle.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to Navigate Social Situations, Dining Out, & Making Food for Your Family While Adhering to a Plant-based Diet

One of the most effective ways we can connect with another person is to share a meal with them. However, in today's modern world where everyone has particular dietary specifications -- gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, vegetarian, etc. is it still possible for food to function in that same way? Can we still bond while sharing different meals?

Well, I say, YES!

Food is something that has always been a very important part my relationship with my husband; probably because food - the act of making a meal and sharing it with others, was a large part of my childhood too.

So, in the 12 years that my husband and I have been together, we have found ways to make our ever-evolving vegan diets work for us-- both when we go out together and in social situations with family and friends.

While this post focuses primarily on making a plant-based lifestyle work for you, it can really be applied to any type of dietary specifications!

My number one best tip for making your lifestyle work in the real world is to PLAN AHEAD!

If we are going out to eat, we always check out www.happycow.com or www.menupages.com to look over the menu and make sure we can BOTH find something we will enjoy. Back when I was only eating raw vegan food, we would always check to see if there was a nice salad on the menu or a fruit platter. I would simply just bring my own dressing and I was good to go! I, of course, always check portion-size too- the bigger the better. Fortunately for me, being raw vegan also meant that I didn't really need to take into consideration my gluten-allergy because fruits and veggies are naturally gluten-free. However, my dad actually has Celiac Disease, so he has to be incredibly careful when dining out due to possible cross-contamination.

Photo courtesy globalanimal.org
  Another good tip here, especially if you are heading out to a non-veg or non-vegan restaurant with family and friends, is to CALL AHEAD! This is one of the best pieces of advise I can offer. Most chefs are more than happy to prepare a little something special  for you as it lets them get creative. Just make sure you are specific and clear in what your preferences are; allergies, food sensitivities, likes, dislikes..

Now, what about office parties, holiday get-togethers with family, or dinner parties with friends? Navigating those can be a bit more tricky. The restaurant will likely not take offense to the fact that you have specific dietary preferences -- family and friends on the other hand, well, it usually requires a bit more finesse.

For work parties, I would ultimately suggest eating something substantial beforehand and then just nibbling on the fruit and veg platter if you are still hungry. Or as some offices do now, parties are typically held at restaurants, so follow the restaurant protocol for this one!

If it is a holiday get-together with family or a dinner party with friends, I would say that much like dining out, you should call ahead and talk to the host. Explain that because you eat a certain way, you will be brining your own dish or dishes and that you will gladly prepare enough for everyone to try. Sometimes the host will offer to make you a separate dish and depending on how comfortable you are with that or what kind of relationship you have, this may very well be a great option.

My in-laws have a holiday party every year the day after Christmas. My mother-in-law used to prepare the most delicious raw food meal for my husband and I on top of all the other food for the party. I was always so incredibly grateful because it meant I got to take a little break, especially since it was the day after Christmas and I had spent days before meal planning, shopping, and preparing for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.

On the other hand, sometimes you may feel too guilty (or perhaps you are also a control freak like me, lol) allowing someone else to do all the work. In which case you can kindly convey this to your host and explain that you'd rather just bring your own food because you don't want to burden them.

I do, typically, always bring my own food, and that's partly because I never want people to think that I EXPECT some sort of special treatment just because I choose to eat differently, nor do I want to (as above) burden them with preparing an entirely separate meal.

Another reason, which lends itself to my inherent control-freakness, is because unless you are a vegan, most people simply don't grasp the fact that vegan means no animal products what-so-ever. And what constitutes "animal products," for whatever reason, seems to have a very loose interpretation within the veg/vegan community.

photo courtesy of Vegans of Instagram

 I mean, how many times have you gotten the, "Oh, you're vegan...cool, so you still eat chicken/fish/butter/mayo right?"

or, "Well, can't you just have it this ONE time? It won't kill you!"

I wish I could say that I initially removed animal products from my diet because I felt it was ethically wrong to consume another sentient being, but it was purely for health reasons. It was literally making me sick; migraines, debilitating depression, anemia, severe digestive issues - and this was only the half of it. (You can read My Story here and about how I took back my health by adhering to a plant-based diet!)

So, yeah, while it may not "kill" me if  I were to accidentally eat animal products again, I'd really rather not take the risk.

Personally, cooking is my number one passion and I truly enjoy making my own food. You can often find me on a Saturday night in the kitchen whipping up new recipes or preparing for our big Sunday dinner. Bringing my own food not only saves my host the hassle, but it actually means less stress for the both of us. He or she doesn't have to worry about making a separate dish for me and I don't have to worry about what is or could possibly be lurking in my seemingly benign bowl of [insert meal here.]

So now that we've covered dining out as a couple and dealing with social situations, what about eating at home when your partner or kids don't eat the same thing as you?

The last thing most people want to do after a long day at work is make a different meal for each person in the house based on their likes and dislikes. By now, I'm pretty sure most people are aware of what their families or partner enjoy eating. So, utilize that knowledge and stock your pantry with basics that you can jazz up by adding whatever veggies and sauces you have on hand in your fridge.

This means always having a wide variety of different pastas, rices, potatoes, polenta, beans, grains, and canned goods like tomatoes for homemade sauce.




From there you can build on that by adding whatever you and your family enjoy most. If I am making food for my non-vegan family I like to stick to things that everyone can enjoy without any real modifications, like stir-fry or chickpea curry. Fortunately, my family really enjoys my raw food creations too and don't mind eating a bowl of cucumber pasta with sun-dried tomato mango sauce either.





Here is an example of my His & Her Pasta from our Sunday dinner last week. Since I still eat primarily raw vegan, I made myself some zucchini pasta that I topped with my homemade Marinara (cooked and prepared the night before) for a delicious high-raw meal. While my husband ate brown rice penne pasta that I topped with the same sauce. So all I had to do here was make a big batch of sauce, spiralize my zucchini, and boil his pasta; a no fuss dinner that satisfies both are dietary specifications!

Zucchini Pasta Marinara + Brown Rice Penne Pasta Marinara







Close up of my delicious Zucchini Pasta Marinara w. fresh chopped tomatoes, red bell pepper, & scallions
 
Close up of Brown Rice Penne with my simple, homemade Marinara

To learn how to make this recipe or find out more about Positively Plant-Powered meal plans that help you transition to a plant-based lifestyle with ease, check out my website or contact me for more information! And don't forget to check out and hit "Like" my Facebook page where I post daily!