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Tips for Staying Healthy in Social Settings

By February 14, 2015Uncategorized

One can most definitely stay on a healthful vegan (or raw vegan) lifestyle and be social at the same time. There is no need for awkwardness or alienation just because you eat different food than those around you. And we most definitely don’t need to succumb to social pressures to eat unhealthfully just because most everyone else is. In the most loving way, you can enjoy healthful vegan foods at social gatherings and at the same time not make others feel negative about you (or themselves!) for your choices.

In this post I will address two things. One: the topic of families wanting to raise their children on a compassionate vegan lifestyle and avoid unhealthy foods even in social gatherings. And two: tips for teenagers and older folk alike on staying healthy no matter whether you are at a party, restaurant or holiday dinner.

I often get asked what we do in social situations with Elvis in regards to our vegan lifestyle. People have asked, “Are most of your friends vegan and are you only surrounded by vegan food all the time?” The answer is no. Lots of our friends are not vegan and I love them just as they are. I accept them for who they are and they accept me for me. Being vegan is not a deciding factor for being friends. To me, it is more about acceptance and being loving towards each other, no matter our differences.

I have also been asked, “Does Elvis whine for other kids’ food when you go out in social settings?” The answer is also, no. Elvis is at an age now (3 years old at the time of this writing) where he is understanding why we eat the way we do in our family, and making steps towards actively choosing not to eat certain foods on his own.

INSPIRE YOUR CHILDREN

It is not only beneficial, but important to inform your children why you don’t eat certain foods in your family. Every child should have access to the information of where their food comes from, how it is grown, and the effect it has on people, the planet and the animals. Treating your children respectfully, by informing them of important issues, will help inspire your children to WANT to eat healthfully and choose to eat vegan on their own, even in social gatherings. Helping inspire children to take part in the joy of a healthy compassionate lifestyle is a beautiful thing.

We read Elvis three amazing children books by Ruby Roth: “V is for vegan. The ABC’s of Being Kind,” “Thats why we don’t Eat Animals” and “Vegan is Love,” which have all greatly impacted him. He has so many questions within each page of the books; it is quite beautiful. And he is so loving and curious about this topic. Because naturally all children love animals until told not to care for their suffering. I even see vegan activist “traits” within him as he talks to the animals pictured in the books: “don’t worry cow, I’m gonna break open the gate and let you free so you can go see your mommy and daddy!” You can get all three of these children’s books here: www.wedonteatanimals.com

We also talk to Elvis about how mom and dad love ALL people, regardless of their food choices- which Elvis does naturally anyways, but I believe it is important to address this as well! That is part of what the vegan lifestyle is: to promote LOVE, to love ALL beings, and to see the good in all people and animals.

Elvis now chooses not to eat animal foods on his own. He will sometimes see another child eating something and ask me, “Mommy, does this have animals in it?” And I’ll reply with the appropriate answer of either “Yes it does.” Or, “It has animal by products in it like milk or eggs.” Or, “No, but it has processed foods in it which make mommy’s tummy hurt so mommy still doesn’t eat that food.”

The other day we were standing outside of the grocery store and Elvis started a conversation with an older gentleman eating those round bella cow cheese ball things (I forget what they are called). He asked the gentleman, “Watcha eating?” The man replied, “Cheese.” And Elvis said, “Oh. I don’t eat cheese.” He said it, NOT because I told him to say it (for I never told him to say, “I don’t eat such and such”). He said it because he truly doesn’t want to eat it because he knows cheese comes from cows’ milk; and cows’ milk is meant for baby cows.

Be the best example you can be to your children for healthy eating (and for all things in life really)! When Elvis was 2 1/2, he went up to the food table at a party, and literally bypassed the pizza plate right in front of him to reach for strawberries behind the pizza platter-because pizza is a non-food to him. It doesn’t look like food to him because no one in our household eats it. If your child sees you eating chips, soda and french fries, they won’t be motivated much to avoid it themselves, even when you tell them not to. Because they will inevitably think, “Well YOU eat it, why can’t I?”

KID’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND SOCIAL GATHERINGS

You can inspire your child with chats before you go to a party and ensure her you brought all her favorite foods to satisfy her. When we go to a party, I always prep in advance all his FAVORITE snacks so he is sure to be content and excited with the choices I brought him. Also, I often ask the host in advance what dessert will be served so I can bring my own raw vegan version for him to enjoy with the kids! He is never unhappy or crabby because he isn’t eating what the other kids are eating. In fact, he is delighted with the food I bring him!

Last weekend we went to a three year old birthday party and they served german chocolate cake for dessert. I knew in advance because I called my friend Ayla to ask her. All my friends accept us and our lifestyle, with no ill feelings for eating our own separate food. She was happy to let me know what would be served so that I could bring Elvis a vegan version. So I prepped in advance a raw vegan chocolate cake piece for him to take to the party (recipe below)! Elvis eats right next to the other kids eating their cake and lollies, enjoying their company and it doesn’t make him feel isolated at all. He even shares with them his vegan food.

***If you are one of those people who unfortunately don’t have supportive friends and family in your life towards your vegan lifestyle, make efforts to find friends that DO accept you for who you are. With family, be strong in your convictions and continue to do your research so that negativity and peer pressure don’t get you down. Be loving to them always and show them how you are accepting of them and their lifestyle, and would like the same respect.***

Elvis enjoying the raw vegan chocolate cake I made him to take to a Birthday party. With him is his sweet friend Hana, the birthday girl, enjoying her cake/lollies that was served at the party

6 months preggo with baby number two in this photo!

RAW VEGAN GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

(Kid’s size portion. Serves 2-4 kids)
Filling:
1 cup dried mulberries
3 tbsp coconut flakes
5-7 raw walnuts
5 Medjool dates, pitted (rehydrate in warm water if they are not moist)
1 tsp carob or raw cacao powder

Frosting:
1/2 a creamy avocado
1/2 a young coconut meat
6-7 Medjool dates, pitted (rehydrate in warm water if they are not moist)
1 tbsp carob or raw cacao powder
a splash of coconut water, only if needed to help blend

Toppings:
Strawberries and coconut flakes

Directions
Food process the filling ingredients. Set aside. Blend the Frosting ingredients in a high speed blender, like the Vitamix Blender (click on the Vitamix banner on the upper right of this page for FREE SHIPPING on the best blender on earth!)

Press down half of the filling into a small container and top with half of the frosting. Let set in the freezer for 20 minutes then top with the other half of the filling. Top with the rest of the frosting and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, top with sliced strawberries and coconut flakes and devour with your kiddos! This dish is quite rich, which is why 2-4 kiddos could easily share this together.

This last party I also brought a fruit platter to share with everyone. Bringing enough food to share with other kids makes Elvis feels especially included, because then others are eating what he is eating! The other snacks I brought him last weekend were coconut meat and special raw carrot almond crackers. And a container of guacamole with lettuce, snap peas, and bell pepper for dipping for me and him to enjoy together (since I’m a hungry pregnant mamma who needs to eat too!)

I also want to share another example for making a social event just as special for your little ones as the kiddos who enjoy the typical fare: Halloween. This past year Elvis was very excited to dress up in a shark costume that our friend so sweetly handed down to him. After we went trick-or-treating with his best friend Iyla, the “Switch Witch” (i.e. ME) came and dumped the junk food-like-products in the trash where it belongs, and traded it for healthy, conscious, and delicious raw vegan treats! I gave him a couple raw vegan chocolates (that he’s never tried before. Quite a treat!), individually wrapped flax crackers and raw walnuts (his favorite nut), the perfectly packaged sweet fruit-LONGANS, hand-made-in-Peru finger puppets by a people before profit company, a sticker, and coconut meat of course! He was so stoked. He doesn’t care about not eating the candy. He’s overjoyed for these kind of treats! He doesn’t have a palate for unhealthy foods, so these simple delicious foods are very satisfying to his taste buds. Eating differently than what is the social norm does not AT ALL have to mean being anti-social!

TIPS FOR PARENTS WITH CHILDREN AGES 1 TO 2 1/2 YEARS OLD

Before children are capable of understanding where their food comes from and WHY you don’t want them to eat certain foods, a slightly different approach is helpful. I still totally brought all of Elvis’ favorite snacks like dried bananas, coconut meat and avocado, but there were times when he wanted to eat something another child was eating at a party and hadn’t yet experienced that we as a family don’t eat the same foods as most people do. After a couple social gatherings he still didn’t realize WHY we weren’t eating the foods that most people around us were, BUT he DID start to realize, “Oh, well whatever the reason is, it doesn’t really matter because Mommy brought DRIED BANANAS! and COCONUT MEAT! MY FAVORITE!” (He wasn’t speaking clearly these thoughts so much, but you could see it in his eyes and facial expressions. haha!)

Simply come prepared with your child’s favorite snacks and surround him or her with the activity part of the party to ensure their happiness and contentment.

Some people say, “Wow that’s a lot of work!” and can’t believe I spend so much time avoiding unhealthy foods at parties. But personally, I enjoy making raw food for my family, and whatever is priority in your life is easy, normal and not a chore. It is not that often that we go to a kid’s birthday party, maybe once every couple months or so. So it doesn’t feel like a big deal to make it special for Elvis. At simpler occasions, like going out to a restaurant with friends, I bring much simpler foods for us to enjoy. Which brings me to topic number two:

TIPS FOR TEENAGERS AND OLDER FOLK ALIKE ON STAYING VEGAN NO MATTER WHETHER YOU ARE AT A PARTY, RESTAURANT, OR HOLIDAY DINNER

“You don’t have to compromise your diet for social events. I’ve had success on 80/10/10 only because I’ve kept it a priority in my life. And having it a priority doesn’t mean that it takes over my life. But I just know that when I’m feeling my best, and I do when I’m on 80/10/10, Im going to be more of an enjoyable person to hang out with for my friends and family anyways. So it’s really worth any effort that there is. And also know that good friends, at least my friends at this point, don’t really care about what I eat, because friendship is more important than food anyways. So if you have good friends, they’ll get over it.”-Kat Green

There is no need to feel stressed about eating different foods than those around you in social situations. In fact, stressing and worrying about it is often picked up on by other guests and creates awkwardness. Creating an ease in your environment makes a much more enjoyable experience for both you and those around you. Let me share an example with you to further explain.

A month or so ago, Elvis and I were invited to my friend’s birthday dinner at a sit down pizza restaurant. Elvis and I drank a large glass of freshly squeezed tangerine juice before walking down to the restaurant (we live right up the street from town). I simply brought a large avocado for myself, and Elvis’ food with me in a bag to the dinner. For Elvis I brought coconut meat, kale from our garden, bell pepper slices and dried bananas. When it came time for ordering, I didn’t order anything for Elvis (because I brought his own food), but I ordered for myself a double order of a large veggie salad on the menu. I asked for no dressing, no croutons, and no cheese. Just raw veggies. I also asked for a side of lemon. My salad came out at the same time as everyone else’s pizza orders. I simply squeezed lemon juice over the salad and sliced and mashed the avocado I brought all over the salad as “dressing”. What a delicious and filling salad it was! Elvis sat there next to me sweetly, happily and fully content munching on the kale and coconut meat I brought him.

There were a lot of people at that dinner table who did not know us. So at first, they were surprised by my gigantic bowl of salad and the fact that my son was not eating pizza and soda like the rest of the kids. Some of the comments I received were, “How is your child NOT begging for the pizza at this table?!”, “what is the huge salad you are eating?”, “are you guys vegetarian?” I simply replied to all the answers politely and lovingly. I never respond in a condescending way and I always make a point to redirect the conversation back to them after answering their questions. Making sure the conversation gets directed AWAY from being about diet in general is very helpful. It is not that there is anything wrong with sharing your lifestyle with others! It is more so that in such a setting, generally showing people how your life is not all about raw food helps people to see, without having to say anything, that one can most definitely eat healthfully in a social situation and be just as social as the person sitting next to them (AND have just as good a time!) Doing this create an easiness in the environment. People soon realize that you are just as “normal” as they are, that you are NOT judging them for eating pizza, that you do NOT think yourself “holier than thou”, and that you are NOT a freak. And within minutes they realize that the fact that you are eating different food than them doesn’t have to be weird or uncomfortable.

Every once in while you may come across someone at a party or dinner who is rude and condescending and wants to get in a debate with you. Just be kind and loving in your response and you might even want to say, “Hey I’m happy to have this conversation with you if it’s what you want, but maybe can we take a step over here so others who DON”T care about my diet don’t have to listen to this conversation?”

If you are looking to stay vegan and not necessarily WHOLE foods vegan or raw vegan at social gatherings, it is actually quite easy now a days to get vegan substitutions at many restaurants. Even just ordering a triple order of the “side” sweet potatoes with a salad and lemon juice is quite easy. At Mexican restaurants one can order a bountiful meal of soft corn tortilla tacos  filled with beans, rice, guacamole, salsa and lettuce. Just make sure the beans and rice are vegan beforehand. Sushi restaurants are the easiest places to get healthy vegan meals by ordering cucumber/avocado rolls in abundance topped with pickled ginger. Whatever type of restaurant, calling in advance to find out what (if any) foods on the menu are vegan can be beneficial too.

When going to a party, bring a large platter of homemade vegan/raw food to share with people! Most people love to try new dishes and actually find relief to see healthy food at a party. When it comes to family holiday dinners, I always offer to be the one who makes the salad. I make two giant bowls of salad to serve to everyone, with enough to feed us vegans too. If you are looking for cooked food at a family gathering, ask your mom or dad-whoever is the chef in the family-to “veganize” some of the traditional dishes. Or offer to do it yourself. Or simply request that they make a separate side bowl of mashed potatoes that uses coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and butter in the recipe. Our personal experience at both my and my husband’s family gatherings is that our family is happy to make everything very easy for us. But I know not everyone’s experience with family is like ours. If that is the case, simply bring your own food to family dinners and make enough to share when you can. And as I mentioned above, be loving to them always and show them how you are accepting of them and their lifestyle, and would like the same respect.

I really think it is helpful to realize that you don’t have to sacrifice feeling GOOD when being social. So often growing up, I remember going out to eat with family at a steakhouse, ordering a burger with fries, and leaving the restaurant feeling tired, sluggish, and overall not good. So gone are those days. I love being able to enjoy myself socially, feel good while doing it, and NOT feel deprived all at the same time! Whether you are looking to stay vegan, whole foods vegan, or totally raw in social gatherings, anyone can do it with a little preparation

I’m going to end this post with an amazing and super inspiring video by my good friend Kat Green. Her tips for eating in social situations on a low fat raw vegan diet are sure to help and inspire you!

Love,
Mango Island Mamma, Ellen Fisher

Author Ellen Fisher

More posts by Ellen Fisher

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Jo says:

    Thank you so much for this post. You shared some amazing tips I hadn’t thought of. My son is just over 2 and the party issue has been playing on my mind. I particularly loved your tips on redirecting conversation back to the other and stepping aside for more in – depth conversations. I work part-time in an office so you can imagine how much fascination there is with my big fruit meals. The awesome part is many chats have inspired colleagues to go vegetarian/vegan or do a 30 day vegan challenge. But I have poor friends that are sick of hearing about it! You are so inspiring,keep up the amazing work xoxo

  • Megan says:

    This was amazingly helpful, Ellen. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. Even before I went vegan, I was eating healthier and always felt anxious going out. I think my anxiety and unease probably put others in a similar boat and maybe I didn’t answer in the most confident way. I appreciate hearing your tips, because you have a very loving and accepting way about you that I admire. Although I am far from motherhood, I also enjoyed hearing your experiences there.

  • Nicole says:

    Thankyou for this post! So helpful! We are wanting to start our own family soon and have been dreading the criticism from others in social situations! This was very inspiring! Thankyou Ellen xxx

  • sophie says:

    Great tips! Definitely going to implimwnt some of these in the future…… although as you say, I find most of the time my son doesn’t have a taste for sugary crap and doesn’t eat it anyway, I don’t even need to substitute his Halloween trick or treat candy for example as he LOVES taking it home to daddy.

    And therein lies my uphill struggle as my husband is NOT on this lifestyle and so sometimes my boy wants to eat what daddy does, to try it. And sometimes he likes it.

    Will try the vegan books as that is an amazing way to empower him.

    Thank you so much for this

  • Julia says:

    Wow, thanks for SUCH an inspiring post, I so enjoy it to see what a relaxed mindset you have towards being vegan all the time with kids! Thank you for many great tips! xo

  • Enma says:

    I love your instagram And how you eat whats your advice for people that want to become vegan And their toddlers too?

  • Maddalena says:

    Hi Ellen,
    I really love your personality and lifestyle, I am huge admirer and I go to your Instagram every day to check on little Elvis 😉
    I just wanted to tell you, it’s probably not the first time you hear that, that I find very very hard to live as you do in a European city. Your life is amazing and I feel it’s the best way to live, but it is possible on a tropical island and where homeschooling is possible…
    I am not homeschooling my boy, because I can’t and because law is different here in France, my kid must go to school and it’s full time only. He is obliged to eat at school most days, “lunchboxes” like in the US are not allowed for small kids. I can’t even give him healthy snacks at school because rules say all must be packaged, not homemade, and certainly not nuts. Sometimes school can make some exceptions, for exemple no pork for muslim people and no dairy for lactose intolerant. My son is not intolerant but I don’t want him to eat dairy, in one school they accept this because it was a small school but I have to give them another industrial yoghurt alternative and it’s only soy where I live, not the best choice either but better than cow milk. For meat and fish, don’t even get me started… first time I said my son does not eat meat, the school headmaster called me immediately and ask me so many questions, she was not far from calling social workers and sent a letter to my doctor, now my son eat organic meat at school not because I want to but because I tried everything! No doctor was willing to give me a fake allergic prescription for meat like the ones I could have for dairy or gluten.. I can’t wait until my son will be old enough to understand veganism and he will hopefully choose not to eat meat at school like Elvis would do, but alternatives won’t be very healthy either….
    I’m telling you all this because in the end I think the very best advice you could give people is to move to Hawaii ! This is certainly the solution to many struggles raw vegan people go trough!

    Lots of love and some winter snow flakes from here in France to your dream island!

    xoxoxo Mad

    • Samantha says:

      Whaat? That’s just not right.

      If it’s possible to move next door (actually, across the water) to England, do it. I live down south, but school in the west country and where I school (college), there’s a pre-prep and prep school and here, you don’t have to get fake allergy slips from doctors. No one will force your child to eat what you don’t want him to eat. I’m one of the few vegetarians here and you should see how to cooks try making new vegetarian meals and coming up with recipes and stuff, tell me about it and have me taste it when I go over for dinner or something.

      Seriously, if Hawaii is too far for you, come over to England. I will recommend where I school to you. Trust me, the cooks here will try their hands at making raw vegan meals if they know your kid does not eat cooked food or food containing meats.

      • Maddalena says:

        what??? what you wrote is like unreal to me!! WOW!!!! here it’s more like “we can’t make exceptions because if we do so we should make exceptions for everyone and so in the end nobody would eat the same dish as the others and it would be impossibile for the school to manage it” and I am talking about very good schools!!

        Thanks for your invitation to go and live in England 🙂 I am pretty good here in South of France with the sunny weather all year around but who knows what will happen in the future! 🙂
        xxxxx

        • Shelly says:

          whatttttt? that’s insane! i know you’re trying your best and i love that! but seriously i prefer to homeschool against the laws or move to another country … no one is freaking making life decisions for my son! i live in Venezuela and here everybody has to vaccinate because “its in the law” but we do not vaccinate at all… what is wrong with this world.. we have to stand up and fight for our rights… and support each other like a big community

  • Elle says:

    LOVE this post!! I’m turning 26 & have found this lifestyle amazing after being on it for around 6 months. Most people are totally cool with the vegan idea but you do get the few who like to challenge you on it. Your such an inspiration & I love your instagram page too. Keep on doing what your doing because you’re helping a lot of people on the way. Much love xx

  • Emily Semans says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! This has by far been the best & most helpful blog post! Thank you for being so honest and upfront. Love you & your family!

  • Samantha says:

    Hey Ellen,

    Thanks for this blog post! 🙂

    One thing I have learned recently as a teenager on a plant-based diet is that restaurants tend to be cool with people calling in early and telling them about dietary requirements and allergies. For example, we barely have restaurants with healthy food in the town I’m in at the moment and I missed breakfast and lunch today so, like my friends, I ordered a pizza. However, I had contacted the pizza parlour some time ago to ask if it was possible to order a cheese-less pizza as I am a vegetarian who is allergic to milk. They were totally cool with it and for the first time today, I ate a vegan pizza and it tasted awesome! I had mushrooms and corn, peppers, tomatoes, onions, herbs and jalapeños on it. Yum! 🙂 This can be done with actual/proper restaurants too.

    I know of someone who was invited to a party at a restaurant. She called in early and mentioned to the person who took her call that she is a raw vegan. She asked if a raw vegan meal could be made for her and they said that they didn’t have any recipes and won’t mind to try making something for her if she tells them exactly what she wants. So, she gave them one of her recipes for something she likes to eat and….this restaurant that is not tailored to raw-vegans made a raw-vegan meal for her! 🙂

    Whenever I go out to eat now, no matter who I go with, I check out their menu first to see if they have anything vegan friendly (I’m a vegetarian who eats vegan rather often (I’ve had only vegan and raw vegan meals today). If I don’t see anything vegan friendly and I’m sure I don’t want to battle with allergies during the day or eat something with eggs in it, I’m not afraid to email/call in early anymore. I mean, nothing can be funnier/weirder than someone asking about a cheese-less pizza! 🙂

    So, yeah, to anyone reading this, don’t be worried or scared about finding something to eat when you go out to restaurants. Either bring your own food like Ellen did for Elvis or check the website of the restaurant to know what’s available and if you’re unsure about anything, call the restaurant and have something special made for you. 🙂

  • Kylie says:

    Hi,
    I somewhat recently went vegan (half raw) and completely eliminated processed foods from my diet. All of a sudden I started breaking out and my skin has gotten bad. (Of course, this doesn’t mean I want to change what I’m eating). I was wondering if you have any insight as to why this might be happening? I’ve felt incredible and I’m absolutely never going back to my old ways. I even convinced my whole family to go vegan with me and to stop eating anything processed/unnatural. But my skin situation is really bothering me. Any help or insight you could give would be so great!!
    Also, thank you for completely changing my life and helping me change the lives of those around me. You’re incredible!
    Kylie

    • Maddalena says:

      Hi Kylie I know you’ve asked this question to Ellen but I just wanted to tell you that “detox” symptoms are different form a person to another, keep going on this lifestyle you will see how it will get better with time and you will know how to adjust to your new diet..

      For example, I had extremely dry skin for years on this lifestyle, then I found out a little more fat in my diet (still keeping it low fat though) made things so much better!

  • Emma says:

    Hi Ellen!
    Thanks so much for all the inspiration you and your family give me in transitioning into a raw vegan. I just wanted to know what you do about things like shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste? And if there are any natural and effective alternatives.
    Thanks
    Emma x

  • Erin says:

    Great site. You are such an inspiration to me! However, why is Vitamix the only ad on this site? You could be making a lot of money if you put a few Google AdSense advertisements on your blog here. Even just 1 in the sidebar and 1 above each article would make a difference. Please get someone to help you do that! It could pay for all of your bananas for ever! xo

  • Holly says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing advice! My son is almost 6 months old and I live with my omnivore family who drive me insane when I tell them they can’t feed bub animal products when he’s older. They think he will be isolated and teased.. but I now have great tips on how to handle social settings And my family. Thanks again xoxo

  • Celeste says:

    Such a helpful post for this mama of 2 🙂

    Thanks!

  • Maria Berg says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ellen!! I love your blog, and follow you on Instagram and youtube as well 🙂 I’m struggling with low self as team on this lifestyle, but after reading this I feel hopeful and so happy!! Keep up the good work Ellen! You are doing a wonderful things by sharing your lifestyle and experiences. Blessings to you!

  • Kenessi says:

    your posts inspire me to get my son back into a raw food based diet, but how can I get him to go back to eating fruits and natural fruits compared to processed cereals and junk food ? my son is 15 months old and has became such a picky eater. he doesn’t eat any fruits because they’re too sour for his taste

  • Anja says:

    Hi Ellen,
    We just made your raw chocolate cake recipe and it is extremely delicious! I had to swap the young coconut meat with coconut paste and more water and it was still perfect. Thank you so much for the recipe!
    Anja

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