Summer is here along with countless reasons to get together and socialize around sharing food with friends and family. This can get a little challenging when trying to stick as best you can to your Paleo diet. Summer get-togethers tend to be dominated by barbeques, hamburgers and hot dogs, alcohol, fireworks, creating and appreciating fire and other outdoor favorites. Be rest assured that you can still enjoy a good summer party, stick to your plan and avoid the repercussions you may feel if you veer off the Paleo path.
If you find yourself invited to a non-Paleo party (and it is summer time after all, so this will happen more than once!), I have some suggestions to help you enjoy:
Bring a Dish To Share
Bringing something to the party is polite, but it serves a greater purpose – you know there will be at least one thing at the party you can eat without worrying. You could even try writing a label for your dish listing its ingredients. Your Paleo creation will create a scenario for a positive conversation around your lifestyle and choices, and make it seem accessible to those who are new to or not following the same principles. Paleo-friendly desserts are always a hit and can truly entice, and maybe even intrigue and influence, the most critical of skeptics. Prepare to field questions including, ‘What is Paleo?’; ‘What makes this food so delicious?’; and ‘Can I get the recipe?' (whether they follow Paleo or not).
If you are stuck for ideas or do not see yourself as too talented in the kitchen, we have some simple ideas for you here and if you’re feeling adventurous, try a seasonal recipe from Chef Pete’s book, Paleo By Season. Pete’s Paleo bacon in a salad or used when roasting vegetables is an easy win every time.
Pete's Paleo Bacon
Bring Your Own
If your summer party involves a barbecue you may want to consider bringing your own meat. Too many marinades and spice blends contain gluten, additives, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and other non-Paleo ingredients. Risking having a reaction or getting ill at someone’s party is not my idea of a good time; especially if you know you have specific sensitivities, this is a great option. You can pre-marinate your own meat overnight and bring it in a disposable bag or container. You may even want to lend a hand manning the grill. Making and bringing extra may be a good idea, as you know how delicious food made with real, whole ingredients is. You might be surprised at the allergies that other guests may have once you start talking about yours. Most hosts really understand if you explain you have food allergies. You can check out our tips on dealing with non-Paleo social situations if you want to prepare yourself a little further.
Something I always take along with me whether I find myself going to a questionable restaurant or to a party, is a small well-sealed spice jar full of Paleo-friendly dressing or sauce or pocket inflammatory. Industrial seed and vegetable oils dominate the majority of commercial salad dressings and are hard to avoid. On the side of caution, be prepared and bring your own.
Summer parties are a time when you can become easily dehydrated. Dehydration will slow you down, drain your energy and make your skin look dull and saggy. Keep sipping on water all day and moderate your time spent in the sun to avoid heat exhaustion. Keep in mind that thirst is commonly confused with hunger, but food alone cannot deliver the quantity of hydration you need to keep your energy going and flowing all day long. Sometimes I even take my own bottle of water just to be sure I have some on hand. At the same time, it is important to be aware of your sun exposure and plan accordingly.
Choose Beverages Carefully
People are often shocked to discover that you can choose to have an alcoholic beverage on the Paleo diet. Of course they should be kept in moderation, but some choices are definitely better than others:
Not all alcohol is created equal. Choose lighter-colored (clear) spirits over darker spirits (which contain more sugar). Say no to the beer (which is not Paleo) and opt for wine. If possible go for organic, sulfite-free red wine (with no added sulfites), certified gluten-free vodka and silver tequila. Bringing a bottle of your own to share never hurts and is always ingratiating.
Another option when you do not want to join your friends in dinking sugar laden cocktails, is to order and drink straight club soda. Now, not only do you look like everyone else at the party with a glass in your hand, but you have a drink that appears to be a cocktail to stave off inquisitive friends who want to know why you are choosing not to drink. This way, you can enjoy a refreshing drink that's a little less boring than a plain glass of water.
Eat Before You Go
If your priority for going to the party is socializing, rather than the food itself, you can have a quick pre-event meal that is simple and easy. Each meal you eat is not obligated to feed your soul and all your senses or be a big sit down affair. Sometimes, you just need a quick meal to get you through. Eating before you go ensures that if the food presented is not up to your standards, you are not left starving and making poor choices. Furthermore, you will be much more likely to have an evening filled with boundless energy to partake in all the dancing, parting and socializing if the pre-event meal is made up of protein and fat.
If your event is on a patio or at a restaurant, investigate the menu and plan your strategy.
Another option is to keep a cooler of food in your car with some cold cooked proteins, vegetables, olives, pickles, nut butter or a Paleo treat. You could also make use of some of the space in your purse or your pockets by packing some nuts or even a stick or two of Paleo friendly jerky. You know you will have to eat at some point, so go prepared and don’t let your pride get in the way of your enjoyment of the occasion.
Avoid The Buns
If your host is serving hamburgers, sausages or hot dogs that are Paleo friendly (you may have to ask), simply decline the bun and swap it out for wrap your meat in a piece of lettuce or just eat it straight up. Bun-less burgers are another great conversation starter!
You can confide in a close friend or two who may be attending the party with you what you are trying to accomplish through your chosen Paleo diet. They may heckle you a bit but you will probably find that they are a great source of encouragement. Do not be shy about creating an army of support. Unless the occasion is a dinner party thrown in your honor and prepared by an amazing home cook or chef, a social situation is not necessarily about the food and alcohol. It is about enjoying yourself and the company of your friends. A few words of caution: Sometimes, when the pleasure of food and along with the subtle (or not) enhancements alcohol provides are removed from a party or social situation, it can become a little dull. Do not despair or throw in the towel! As you progress on your journey, other good, healthy, valuable and fun activities and pastimes will emerge.
For the most part, if you choose to not draw attention to what you are doing, others will either not notice, or if they do, they probably will not care. If you are in a situation where someone is antagonizing you (be it a guest, your server or even a ‘friend’), look at them directly and explain that you are choosing to make your health your priority right now. Sometimes, a simple reminder for them to mind their own business will but an end to that conversation immediately.
I think it is important to celebrate your wins and successes. Knowing that you have stuck to your Paleo principles when attending a summer party deserves acknowledgement and celebration. Treat yourself; do something you enjoy or even celebrate with a Paleo-friendly snack that you can sit down and thoroughly enjoy without any ill effects. Waking up the next morning feeling healthy, strong and ready to embrace another wonderful day of summer sure beats a hangover, (food and/or alcohol related), anytime!