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Ever Have Uncomfortable Conversations About Food? Read This.

by Elise Museles

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We’re sitting in a cozy corner booth at a neighborhood restaurant, catching up on our lives, forgetting to even pick up the menu.

The server comes to take our order, and we quickly glance at our options. My friend looks at me and says that she could really go for a flatbread pizza and a beer, while I’m feeling the quinoa salad and a hot cup of jasmine tea.

“Oh,” my friend winced. “So, you would never order this, would you? Is this bad?”

She felt judged (even though I wasn’t even thinking about her food). And I felt uncomfortable…for both of us.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar position?

Since eating together is a cornerstone of our culture, it’s safe to guess we’ll be sharing thousands of meals over the course of our lives. And when you eat with other people—especially if you’re ordering or preparing your own food—your meals might attract attention or commentary.

Let me save you from having this happen to you (again) with some clever, kind responses…

Here are four situations and four scripts to help you navigate almost any awkward food conversation.

Situation:
You’re at work, and the minute you pull out your smoothie, everybody has questions and comments. “What are those little brown things?” “Why is it green?” “You don’t actually believe chia seeds have any nutritional value, do you?”

You say:
“I started adding toppings like chia seeds, bee pollen, and cacao nibs to my smoothies lately. Do you want a bite? It’s good! I was originally pretty skeptical about chia seeds, too. I thought they were just for growing chia pets! But I’ve actually found them to be really helpful. Now I eat them all the time.”

Just pleasantly, calmly (and simply!) explain what you’re eating, why you’re eating it, and offer them a taste. You don’t need to be defensive, since you’re just eating in a way that works for you and your body.

Situation:
Your child is absolutely not going to eat turkey sliders/sweet potato fries/roasted asparagus that you’ve just made for dinner. There are crossed arms. There are negative proclamations. There are even threats of starvation.

You say:
“This is how we eat at our house. I’d like it if you tried it, but I’m not going to force you.”

And then drop the subject. Sometimes the best thing you can do is refuse to engage and quietly, consistently, deliciously continue to serve vegetables and healthy food.

Even when we think they’re not listening or watching (and even when they’re rolling their eyes), our children are absorbing everything we do. They see us happily eating fruits and veggies. They see us brimming with health and energy. And when they think about their mom’s home cooking, they’ll likely think of those turkey sliders.

Situation:
You’re at a big family event and there are hardly any plant-based options. You’re trying to discretely eat around the meat when your cousin asks why you’re picking at your food.

You say:
“Oh, I’m just trying to do what’s best for my body right now. We’ve all got different dietary needs, right? I never thought I’d give up eating so much meat, but my body just feels a lot better without it. Of course, there are lots of people who need more animal protein to function, but I’m just not one of those people.”

Sometimes, it’s easier to have these conversations when you separate your body’s needs from your needs. People won’t feel as defensive (or feel like it’s a personal assault) if you explain your decision in biological terms.

Situation:
You’ve been craving a good dose of chocolate for the last few hours and this cafe around the corner makes a great mousse. But when you order, your friend side eyes you and starts talking about refined sugars and dairy.

You say:
“As weird as it sounds, chocolate mousse is actually part of my plan. I’ve found it’s a lot easier for me to eat healthily in a long-term, sustainable way when I make space for a few bites of delicious decadence. Otherwise, I’m so much more likely to really fall off the wagon and eat a whole pizza or a pint of dulce de leche ice cream. Do you want a taste?”

When you can calmly, confidently explain why you’re ordering dessert, your friends are a lot more likely to get on board—and realize that planned splurges can be part of any balanced diet.

Use these scripts (or versions of your own) whenever potentially awkward food conversations arise. You’ll stay true to yourself and offer up healthy alternatives to those who just may be curious enough to try them!

What are some situations where you wish you had a script to respond to food commentary? Tell me about your uncomfortable conversations in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help!

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