Helpful Tips for the Challenges Ahead

In the next couple of weeks, along with the festive gatherings with family, friends and co-workers will be ongoing temptations galore. Once again Dr. Jay Benson has some more helpful tips to guide us successfully through the holiday challenges ahead.  Welcome back to Disease Proof, Dr. Benson.


  • Eat a healthy meal at home before going out to a restaurant or dinner party. You will be less likely to graze on unhealthy foods on a full stomach.
  • Many parties and holidays focus a lot on the food and eating. Make efforts to focus more on the other reasons to celebrate and enjoy spending quality time with family and friends.
  • If you are going to a gathering with food, offer to bring a healthy dish, and then you will at least be able to eat something healthy if there’s nothing but junk to eat.  Also, if you are hosting or planning a gathering, make the focus of the event an activity or activities rather than eating together.
  • If you have to go to a restaurant, choose restaurants that are known to have a large salad bar or a variety of salad options. Choose healthy alternatives at restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask for a special order such as a double order of salad, a double order of steamed vegetables without salt, butter or oil, or a vegetable stir fry sautéed in water. Ethnic food restaurants may be more likely to have a variety of vegetable dishes available. Be careful, however, because these restaurants typically use a lot of oil and salt in these dishes, so be sure to special order.
  • Take healthy foods such as raw vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds when traveling. In situations such as airline travel, you will have food with you when you feel “true hunger”. When traveling far, pack bowls, silverware, a can opener, and other items to facilitate eating away from home. Then buy frozen and fresh vegetables, unsalted canned beans, and fruit at a local grocery store to create meals in the hotel room. Make sure to put a cooler in the car to keep your grocery food purchases cool.
  • Remember to eat only when hungry and stop eating before you are full. This is applicable all the time, of course, but being away from home in social environments, one may be more likely to forget this important rule.
  • In advance, make sure that your family and friends know about the exciting plan that you have for your own health. Most likely they will want to support you in any way that they can. Don’t pass guilt on others when you choose to eat differently than your family or friends. When asked, say that it is a special diet your doctor told you to be on to treat your medical problems and prolong your life. People will feel less threatened by this approach.
  • The most important strategy that makes all of your ideas work ---- is plan, plan, plan ahead!


All the best of great health to you and enjoy the holiday celebrations with your family and friends! 


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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
AmyLu - December 16, 2010 2:41 PM


Thanks for a great article.

How do you handle it when your host goes to the effort to ask you ahead of time what you can eat and then serves a dish they are sure you will be able to eat, but for whatever reason, it has an ingredient in it that you avoid? (For example: hummus, but it's made with oil and salt; or nuts, but instead of raw and unsalted, they are roasted and salted.) - December 16, 2010 3:04 PM

I really appreciate this article. The concepts are things that I have had to learn over many years--all rolled up into one great article. But getting a handle on these concepts is essential in any successful weight loss attempt.

I would like to add that I have taken to making multiple ETL dishes now when I go to family dinners and pot lucks--that way I have plenty of variety to eat and it also gives me opportunities to experiment.

I also look online at restaurant nutritional information BEFORE I go to a restaurant if I am able to do so. I have had too many experiences where I think I am making the healthy choice (can anyone say CPK Grilled Vegetable Salad?) when in fact my choice is just the opposite! But I know better now and do research before hand. It might sound a little extreme, but my health is that important to me.

Emily Boller - December 16, 2010 3:26 PM


Don't sweat it. It's miniscule stuff. Do your best to be gracious and appreciative, taste it, and move on. It's no big deal in the bigger picture of eating for health for the rest of one's life. These awkward situations are the rare exceptions of life; they happen to most all of us. The key to long-term success is to not allow them to produce a faulty and unbalanced mindset of "I've blown it . . .so now I'll just throw in the towel and eat anything and everything in sight." That's the caution. That's the dark side of eating disorders. Don't go there.

The mindset of freedom says, "I'm thankful that I have family and friends that care for my health and well-being. They are trying their best to accomodate my success. They may not completely understand every detail of the plan, but that's okay. I thoroughly appreciate them and their efforts. I'll enjoy a taste of their kindness, but quickly move on."

[PS . . . by the way, this article was written by Dr. Benson. I merely posted his writing. :))

Kimberly - December 16, 2010 4:11 PM

Emily, thank you for posting your response! This happened to me today. We had a teacher lunch put on by some parents, they knew that I was vegan and did their best to make items that I could eat. They made black beans with salt, rice with salt and a small amount of oil, but no meat. They had plenty of lettuce and tomatoes and salsa. So, I ate some of the beans and a little rice and lots of lettuce and tomatoes and salsa.

It was really nice of them to go to all the trouble and a little salt once in a blue moon is not going to ruin me. I have my dinner all planned out and intent to get right back on the horse and gallop away.

Beverly Alexander - December 16, 2010 4:42 PM

I like the "excuse" that one must or can't eat certain things because it's "doctors orders."

I also try to remember that not so long ago, I had no idea about how bad certain things were for me - and had swallowed a lot of the conventional brainwashing hook, line, and sinker, so I should not be surprised if others are suspicious of these "new" ideas about eating.

Emily, I love the kind and reasonable way you formed your answer about a host/ess who "misses the mark." When I think of the totality of all the times I myself have eaten things that were not so healthy - I realize that taking a taste of something is not such a big deal. People are more open to hearing about how I came by my new healthy body if I'm not talking down to them or making them feel ignorant.

MIke Rubino - December 16, 2010 10:53 PM

Emily is alot nicer than me. I just will not eat food prepared by a host that I do not like.Thats why 99% of the time when I go to someones house for a dinner I eat before going and then bring something with me to eat while there.I tell them this up front, all have agreed and I think somewhat to their relief.If they ask "What can I make special for you ?" I say cut up some fresh fruit for dessert but please put no sugar on it. I find if you act like a nice curmegeon they get a kick out of the whole thing.

This might sound not nice but I hate to see my bp go up or my weight rise a pound or two just becuase I ate some salty food with alot of oil on it and drank some wine with it in order to keep the host happy. I just got back from a Christmas party. I didnt eat one thing there and just drank water with lemon in it...

Goddess - December 17, 2010 2:13 PM


Really interesting visual you chose for this. As I was scrolling down the page to read and could see the top of the gorgeous table setting, I was thinking you were going to have a tip about sitting down to eat in a calm, beautiful environment.

Then I saw that big slab of beef. Now I'm still struggling with not eating meat. It still smells good and tastes good to me. But that photo really turned me a good way : )

And thanks for all the great tips, too. Appreciate them and looking forward to healthy holidays.


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