How to Eat Healthy When Visiting Family
I recently visited my family in southern Minnesota. Traveling – especially when traveling to visit family – can make it difficult to stay in a healthy eating rhythm.
Here are some of the ways I’ve learned for how to eat healthy when visiting family, as well as some tips for having positive conversations with family members who don’t eat the same way you do.
PACK THE ESSENTIALS
First and foremost, I pack and bring all my supplements with me including vegan Shakeology, greens boosts, algae oil, and a few other superfood adaptogens such as medicinal mushrooms. I also bring two meals for the travel. I’ll pack a salad in a container and tape it shut along with packing a lot of germinated, dried nuts from Blue Mountain Organics and Sky Island Organics.
I also pack a lot of organic cacao. I eat 100% cacao from Peru. It is so good! No sweeteners, just full-on, pure, fermented (yes cacao is a fermented food) purely natural chocolate with nothing else with it. I am so used to it now that eating even 85% cacao chocolate bars are almost too sweet for me.
Raw cacao powder gives your body a massive hit of antioxidants (up to 20 times that of a blueberry) and more than 300 different chemical compounds. I love traveling with cacao because it helps keep me positive and activates my neurotransmitters while home!
Further Reading: How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
This trip was only a short trip of four days because of my schedule, but if I didn’t go now I may have missed my window to visit before the “artic freeze” happens! If you’re from Minnesota, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Sure, the winters are frozen, but it is beautiful. I have my half brother and sister Nathan and Jenna, and my brother, Troy, who is two years older than me, his wife, Julee, and two kids, Hanna and Logan. They live in the country on a few acres outside of Waseca, MN. There is a shared driveway and house with a few more acres that I bought for my mom a few years ago. It is a very peaceful and serene place with many cats, goats, chickens, rabbits, and wild turkeys.
So what do I do when I get home to make sure I stay on track?
MAKE YOUR FIRST STOP THE GROCERY STORE
The first thing my wife and I do is head to the best grocery store we know of before we head to my mom’s house. We find good water, first and foremost. We usually get Smart Water or some distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water where we can add Himalayan crystal salt to it to remineralize it.
Further Reading: 6 Tips For Drinking Safe Water While Traveling
Then we hit the organic produce section. It’s small, and it’s not what we’re used to in California but hey, it’s better than nothing! We also get the essentials like Himalayan crystal salt, quinoa, black beans, nut butters, nutritional yeast, coconut oil, spinach (frozen organic) and we even found some treats this time -bottles of Kombucha! Once we get essentials then we are armed with good food! That is a huge step to staying on track.
VOLUNTEER TO COOK
Once we have stocked up at the grocery store then a winning formula we use is to offer to cook for everyone!
This strategy won’t work for everyone and in every travel situation, but when it is possible cooking for everyone lets you choose healthy foods and dishes.
I do always like to destroy the myth that healthy food does not taste good. In fact I make it my mission to blow everyone away with how good the food is! It seems to always work. The brave ones are willing to try it because I really do make all my non-meat and high-veggie meals very tasty and usually no one goes hungry.
They all seem so chow it down and come back the next time so at least they are not telling me to my face that it wasn’t good 😉
So, with this plan I get to
1. Cook my own food and control it!
2. Make food for my family (and hopefully blow them away)
3. Expose them to a wider variety of healthy food.
RESEARCH LOCAL RESTAURANTS
A big win this time is that we have a friend, Tracy Jevning, who has the only mostly organic and local farm restaurant, The Daily Grind. It is such an amazing resource for the community!
I took my family there for lunch a few times. I can modify the salads (no meat or dairy for me). And the healthy Ezekiel quinoa wraps are awesome. This place rocked, and it is so amazing that finally in my small town of 8000 people even has a place like this now, all thanks to Tracy’s hard work. I know I am grateful! More and more people are opening restaurants and juice bars and healthy food locations. Just because there wasn’t a resource that last time you visited, doesn’t mean there won’t be one the next time you visit! Do some research before arriving.
WHAT TO DO WHEN PEOPLE DON’T EAT LIKE YOU?
I have always been the “weird” one eating “healthy, strange” things so, I am used to that. I let go years ago of judgment that my family had to eat like me and/or live like me though. All that did (or does) is create separation and makes people feel bad. I’ll admit, I used to do that. I’d get on my soapbox and preach because having been impacted by healthy eating for over 25 years of course I wanted to tell them everything I was learning and shout it to the world! But it does not, and did not, work.
I learned that the best approach was to focus on what I needed by making my own food and inviting others to try it. Totally an open invitation. Take it or leave it.
Also, I only offer advice when people are ACTUALLY asking for it.
The cool thing is over the years my brother, Troy, sister-in-law, Julee, mother, Sandy, and niece, Hanna and nephew, Logan all have started to want to eat healthier and healthier so the gap of what I eat and what they eat has become less and less over the years. I think that is a combination of their own education of just getting older and learning and I have to say also me not putting pressure on them to change. This makes it easier and easier for me to go home since this is much more a part of their lifestyle. However, we are still in Southern Minnesota surrounded by GMO cornfields and cattle, so believe me I am still “way out there” when it comes to how I eat.
It can be easy to want to share everything you’ve learned about food! But only give advice when asked…this will save you from fights! This is a rule of thumb I live by even beyond my family, applying it to friends and strangers as well.
When I travel home, I am not afraid at all of asking for what I want and need when it comes to food and/or breaking out my own food. I bring this attitude with me everywhere: at a party with strangers, any kind of event, or even subtly taking my own food into restaurants where I can’t eat any of the food, but I need to be there for a meeting.
Sometime, when people find out what I do and how I eat, they often start to judge themselves for not “eating healthy” enough and even become defensive.
But my focus is not to make other people comfortable. It is to BE ME.
Have you ever heard the quote, “Be You and Change the World?” Well, this is a perfect example. I honor who I am by the wonderful, nutrient-dense foods I choose to put in my body and I will not compromise that by feeling embarrassed or worrying that it may make someone else uncomfortable. I am not aggressive or rude about it, but it is my health, my body, my life, and that is what I do to honor it.
FAMILY AND EMOTIONAL EATING
It is so easy to get triggered by family. You know, having an argument, getting upset, getting annoyed…believe me, all those things happened to me on this trip. The truth is we are different people, living our own lives, and then, Bam! we are all together, so this can still trigger some old patterns when we are around each other.
Also, all families have things over the years that have not been worked out yet, or that have dragged on and on. Sometimes, well most times, it comes out in unhealthy ways. But you can get through it! This last trip my brother and I got into it over some things that happened around our father’s death over 10 years ago. It was not comfortable but we talked through it, and ultimately got to the other side. Now we are closer because of it. That only happened because we were willing to stay with it and talk through it though. It brought up a lot of emotions, and all of these emotions can trigger cravings for comfort foods or old eating patterns.
I really feel if you don’t stay with the conversations – the uncomfortable ones – with the desire to clear the air and heal, then emotional eating will often be the result and you will eat and bury the opportunity to move on with food. Don’t do that! Be willing to stay with the conversation, be vulnerable, be honest, and be open with the intention to let it go and heal!
The emotions and stress, if held internally, will “eat” at you and undermine your health regardless of the healthy food you are eating.
Be willing to be a little uncomfortable in order to be free so it does not undermine your health for the rest of your life. We all have issues with family and friends, all of us. Be brave and lean into it and do your best to forgive, let go, and move through it!
In my experience the more open and willing I am to move through the uncomfortable, the closer I get to be with my family on the other side, but you can’t skip the uncomfortable sometimes. Enjoy your time with family and do your best to show up, be you, honor yourself, and love them!
Those are some of my top tips for how to eat healthy when visiting family. It pays big time to be prepared by packing essentials, do some research, keep the right attitude, and stay committed to keeping your health first.
What are your best approaches to eating healthy while visiting family? Share them in the comments below!