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How does a healthy eater not offend?

Hello, chowhounds! I've been a lurker here for a while but now I'm legit. :-)

Here's my question. I am about to go on my first ever vacation with my boyfriend's family. I love them dearly. They've been wonderful to me. However, I'm afraid we have very differing palates. I don't think I'm a "foodie" in the technical sense, but I am very mindful of what I eat. I prefer real, whole foods as opposed to things that come from boxes and cans. They are just the opposite. The menus have all been planned for the week, and as I feared, they contain mostly processed junk.

I will be bringing healthy dishes to supplement, so I have something to eat! But I am afraid of offending them if I do not eat their food. How would you handle this? Thanks much for your advice!

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  1. If you're not offensive, they won't be offended. You've expressed yourself about what you think about they eat. You go into this feeling that way, you're likely to have problems. Too bad, for you and for them.

    1. Just don't complain; educate them without being patronizing. offer to cook for them and use better ingredients if available.

      If that does not work, just eat as little of their food as possible, get smaller portions,...

      But remember, keep your smile.

      Good luck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Maximilien

        Yeah, it's just a vacation, so smile and eat the beanie weenies. If the relationship lasts, you'll have plenty of opportunities to cook good food for them, and who knows, maybe even convert them!

      2. Make it about you and not them.

        I would just tell them that you are watching your diet very closely right now to deal with your overall health improvement. Therefore, bringing your own food and choosing not to eat some items is something you need to do for yourself right now.

        "Gee, that looks good but I think I better stick with my_____".

        Don't be afraid to be self deprecating..." wow, those nacho cheese sticks sure sound better than my boring apple slices...so don't tempt me" ;)

        Smile alot.

        9 Replies
          1. re: sedimental

            "wow that mac&cheese looks so good, but it would be quite a splurge for me. i'll have just a taste, and savor it." you can also show (genuine) interest in the recipes/preparation of foods and give appropriate compliments w/o comment on fat content or nutritionally void white flour or what have you.

            you also don't want to come across like a weirdo, a snob, a nutcase, or someone w a serious eating disorder, just sayin.' so don't reject *all* of the food, and don't talk about the food constantly or ever set out a "your food/*my* food polarity-- and maybe some of it isn't that bad, in a small portion, once a year. . . as others are saying, it won't kill you, and eating each others' food is how human beings show acceptance and caring, be sensitive-- and this will be what they remember about you, not your "different" eating habits.

            also i would just like to say: it's possible that the foods that have been planned for this family vacation-- cabin? lakeshore? seashore? cottage?-- are not entirely reflective of "normal" for everyone in the family's eating habits either, same as a holiday meal, they may be dishes the family has associated w the summer home for 30 years, since great aunt mildred brought her casserole recipe 30 years ago, so that nobody would have to work hard to cook for so many people on vacation, and do all the dishes afterward. or commonly folks when on vacation feel that it's okay to consume as much velveeta and cheap beer as possible, and that's okay too :)

            1. re: soupkitten

              Soupkitten, that is a VERY good point! I know everyone making food is making it from the heart, to share with everyone so we don't all have to do the cooking for ourselves. And it may be those recipes are sacred family traditions! Thanks for the perspective.

              1. re: granolagrl

                hee hee! or maybe not so much sacred family traditions as items that are tried and true and they haven't (previously) offended too many people too much, and they don't require too much prep time or special equipment.

                i know a guy who deer hunts (different scenario i know) out of a *very* bare-bones cabin once a year and although he's a pretty excellent scratch cook under normal circumstances, at the cabin, he makes his "famous dump chili," which is pretty much some browned meat and the contents of several cans, thrown together in a crock pot for the duration of a hunting day, for himself and his companions. why? it's traditional, it's easy, by all reports it tastes fantastic after a chilly day tramping around in the woods, and after all, the expedition and the companionship is the focus of the trip-- great meals can come later, when it's "back to civilization!"

                1. re: soupkitten

                  On one geology field trip, we stopped at a grocery, where everyone in the van bought a can of chili of their choice. Then in camp, they all went into the common pot.

                  1. re: paulj

                    i like it! the chili may have been great, or totally disgusting, but everyone gets equal blame or credit, since you all "cooked" it together! :-P

                    and look-- you still remember it all this time later. how many other meals from that same year do you remember?

                  2. re: soupkitten

                    EVERYTHING tastes better in the woods!!

                    1. re: CanadaGirl

                      yarly. dehydrated beef stew for me.
                      (actually, halva tasted worse. trying to eat a pound of it at once was a mistake.)

              2. re: sedimental

                I like sedimental's strategy; I generally make myself out to be a (hilarious!) crazyperson, so I'm asking the host/cook not to reject me, as opposed to me being in a position to reject their food.

                If there's something you really don't want to eat, then saying, "Those loaded potato skins look great, but I'm always sorry when I eat them" is also a fair way to make it into a personal health issue for you and not a snob issue about food quality.

              3. I have the same problem with my husband's family when we are all at the cottage. The "keep the peace" solution I need to follow is to bring/buy some veggies and interesting add-ins for salad to have with whatever else is on offer. They know that I have a salad as part of pretty much every meal, so no problem. I have enough to share. I do, however, eat whatever they serve, albeit in smaller portions than the rest. But, hey, I have my salad.

                1. Your boyfriend should have given his folks a heads up about your dietary preferences. I've been the DIL who eats healthy and the MIL who has to adjust to new dietary thinking. I don't know if I like the idea of your bringing food to supplement what they serve you. It is going to make you look like you think their food choices are not good enough for you, and yes that is the case. But this is the first meeting, no? Is this the impression you want to leave them with?

                  Ask your BF to mention that you like a nice salad with your meals and oatmeal for breakfast. These are reasonable requests. Make neutral comments about the food--how colorful it is, or how much preparation went into it. You don't have to eat a lot. A little won't kill you. Nosh down on the salads.

                  At some point you and your BF can, a. cook his family a nice healthy meal or, b.treat the family to a dinner out at a nice restaurant that offers healthful choices.

                  I don't think it is fair to inform the potential in-laws that you won't be eating their unhealthy food on the day you arrive! BF needs to run a little interference here for you. His parents need time to adjust their menu plans. Even if their cooking is not low fat, low meat, or low carb, if it prepared in traditional ways, you might be able to view it as "authentic" which might help your attitude toward it. Remember, you won't be eating this regularly for the rest of your life.

                  I adjusted my cooking for my son who went through a vegetarian phase. I respected his wishes, and it didn't kill me to do things for him. But I appreciated knowing this before his arrival.

                  (I hated my in-laws' cooking in every way. But eating it didn't kill me. And I wish now I'd been a bit nicer than I was about it.)