Eating Healthfully in Social Situations

Sheree Clark

Sheree Clark by a bio-reactor

Sheree Clark is in my Ag Urban Initiative program and now a friend.  You’d not think we’d become friends – she’s a vegan, and I’m not.  She’s healthier than I’ve ever been!  However, there is always common ground and we’ve found.  I’ve spent some time in conversation about eating better, addressing challenges and finding food that you like with Sheree.  Today, she’s sharing some of that knowledge with us on this Sunday Update! 

One of the biggest challenges in adhering to an eating regime is societal and peer pressure. Our culture is undeniably food-driven, and we alternately use meals as a means to establish community, a way to celebrate and as a demonstration of love. Conversely, consumption of food can also be used as a stress release, a way to commiserate with others or even a peace offering. Food is laden with meaning, and—if we let it—what we eat takes on significance far beyond its mere calorie content. Imagine inviting someone to your home for an evening and not offering them something to eat or drink: You’d feel inhospitable, and they might even be insulted!

Once you gain a level of confidence, you’ll find it’s not necessary to avoid family gatherings, holiday parties and happy hours in order to stay true to a healthy food lifestyle. The first step in being able to handle the pressures of “eating out” is to reconcile what the event really is about. Unless you are attending a gourmet food writers’ conference, the reality is that the occasion is about something other than the food. Yet many times food and drink can take center stage, and our focus shifts away from the real reason for the gathering—usually, that would be spending time with friends and family or celebrating a milestone. The challenge becomes how to replace patterns or at least substitute behaviors in a way that serves you better in the long term.

Here are some tried and true tips to get you through your next social occasion:

1. Eat before you go.

It’s a lot harder to resist a slice of cheesecake when you’re famished than when you’re genuinely satisfied from the green smoothie you just had an hour before. If you can honestly say, “Oh, it looks wonderful, but I am full right now,” you’ll be that much closer to being able to stay the course. Try and keep your focus and attention on the occasion and the camaraderie of other people.

2. Master the art of dodging.

From cocktail parties to sit-down dinners, I have learned how to identify opportune times to visit the ladies room or go greet a colleague across the room, and usually, it is when there is something being served that I do not choose to eat. Although these days, I am comfortable enough to simply say “no thanks” without a grand explanation, when I was first transitioning to the raw food lifestyle that I currently practice, I needed to feel like I didn’t stand out too much. I learned that sometimes the easiest way of handling a potentially awkward situation is to simply avoid it.

3. Have an alibi.

Sometimes having a ready-made reason why you’re only eating a salad or not having dessert makes it easier to avoid having attention directed at your plate. While I am certainly not an advocate of lying, I will confess that some stretching of the truth has helped me in the past. A few excuses that helped me over the hump were:

  • “My stomach has been acting up: I’d better not.” (This one is actually true: My stomach was revolting from years of crappy food, and I wasn’t going to give it any more!)
  • “My doctor has me on a special diet.” (After all, your doctor knows everything, right?)
  • “It looks great, but I am stuffed from a late lunch…maybe in a little while.” (By then, everyone else will have eaten it anyway, and you’ll be off the hook!)


The idea is to have a ready-to-go reason why you’re doing what you’re doing—assuming you are in a situation you feel that you can’t (or don’t) choose to be in the open about your food choices. Sure, the pressure can be tough at times. But if you keep in mind that for most social engagements it really isn’t about the food, you’ll be in a better place.


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

This is a nice, satisfying, fall-flavored snack or meal replacement.

Yield: 1 serving





3 tablespoons     cashews, soaked

1 cup                           coconut water

1 teaspoon                  pumpkin pie spice

1                         frozen banana

2-3 leaves           romaine lettuce


Blend ingredients together in a high speed blender. You won’t taste the romaine, but you will benefit from the extra fiber and nutrition!

Did I mention she’s on tv?  Yes – Fork In the Road – and you can order her first season of 13 episodes now on dvd.  (Nope, I’m not being paid to promote her.)  Visit her website listed below.  I often write about small businesses, and Sheree is part of that group of people.  For 25 years she had a successful marketing practice.  But she wasn’t doing the kind of work that made a difference in people’s lives and expressed who she had become.  It was then that she started a new business as a health coach.  Need inspiration?  Read more about Sheree here. 

Sheree Clark, M.Ed., AADP, CHHC is an inspiring author, television show host, health coach, motivator and raw vegan chef. Currently she hosts Fork in the Road with Sheree Clark, a weekly television show, while continuing to carry a full load of private practice health and nutrition clients. Learn more about Sheree at




  1. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids on June 20, 2014 at 3:10 am

    Great post Sheree and Deb! I am so happy that the two of you have connected through the Ag-Urban program. I need to keep these tips in mind when eating out. Like Sheree said, the reason for the get together isn’t food, it is the people or the accomplishment. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Deb on June 20, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks Val — brilliant point by Sheree: it’s about the people, not the food.