By Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D., Joyce Hendley, EatingWell Editors, The EatingWell Diet (2007)
For many of us, food and drink are the context around our social get-togethers. Some social rituals are indelibly intertwined with food: imagine a family reunion without a potluck or a birthday without a cake. Many of us use restaurants and bars as our places to connect with friends, so if you opt out of the eating and drinking, you’ll miss out on the bonding. Even if the social occasion isn’t about eating, food is almost always offered—or it hovers temptingly in the background, like the concession stand at the movie or ballgame or the snack bar at the golf course.
Socializing without food, then, requires some thinking outside the box. Instead of reserving a table at a restaurant, try scheduling your next get-together with your friends at a place you can walk around, like a museum or an outdoor event like a fair. Consider activities that allow you to chat while you move, like a bike ride, a lake or beachside stroll, or a shopping excursion in a very spread-out mall. And if the gang insists on ordering something to eat, sip a coffee drink instead (nonfat cappuccino is a great way to add a daily milk serving, and it feels like a splurge).
With family get-togethers, try adding some nonfood-oriented elements to the mix. Try a post-meal family walk (rather than family flop-out-in-front-of-the-TV), play charades or start a family story-sharing or scrapbooking session. Yes, it might be awkward at first, but family traditions have to start somehow. And eventually someone—perhaps even your eye-rolling teenage nephew—will thank you for it.