Sharing food, or “the breaking of bread” with others is critically important to our relationships. Food is so important that diet is often the last thing to change when a person enters a new culture. By the simple act of eating, we learn (both implicitly and explicitly) from our social circle about how our food choices may transmit values and attitudes, not just about food, but many other topics as well.
Lifestyle Medicine emphasizes (among other things) the benefits of both a whole plant-based diet, and positive social connections. While eating with others around the holidays, addressing both simultaneously can be a fine line to walk. As a very selective eater (sounds so much better than “picky,” doesn’t it?) I am uber familiar with this, and have developed some strategies, which I hope might be helpful to you as well!
Tip #1: Redirect, redirect, redirect. Sometimes this is easier said than done. With more superficial conversation, I would focus on the addition of certain foods (“Did you know that the #1 anti-cancer vegetable is garlic? Try some of this garlic-whatever!”) rather than elimination of other foods (“I wouldn’t eat that X, because Y.”).
Tip #2: Ask them a question (see #1). Consider asking them the same question that they are asking you – why are they eating X food? You could also ask about any health condition they might have, and ask if they’ve considered adding more plants to their dietary portfolio, as there is good evidence that it might help them with condition Y?
Tip #3: Use questioning as opportunity for teaching. You have to use your judgement here. A person may take offense, however helpful you are trying to be, when you point to the turkey on their plate and relate that any animal protein contains IGF-1 which is a tumor promoter and the reason that you are not eating it. It’s best to teach from foods on your own plate. Explain that you are eating a sweet potato for all the water, fiber and antioxidants, not just because it is delicious. And if you are eating something with sugar, this is a great time to explain that the way you eat is “whole plant-based” and not “100% plants, all the time!” This may help some realize that eating patterns are not a binary choice, thus making them more open to eating this way themselves.
These are just some tactics that I can think of and use, but please let me know if you have others that work!