Does this sound familiar to you? “You’re such a picky eater; you weren’t raised that way!” Do you keep getting complaints when you ask that the collard greens be seasoned without pork? Is it such an inconvenience to get some stuffing set aside before adding the meat?

There is nothing like the holiday season to remind you that being different, especially when it comes to food, it not always part of the family tradition. I used to be so offended when someone referred to me as picky. I grew up eating everything that was put on the plate by my hard working mother. For her provision, I am eternally grateful. But at this time in my life, I want to be an empowered consumer and make choices about what I eat, even during the holidays. Instead, I get questions. Maybe you have heard one of the following questions or comments: “Why don’t you eat pork? Are you Muslim now?” “You’re vegan? What kind of crazy diet is that?” “What’s wrong with regular milk?” “You don’t eat that either? But it’s tradition.”

Questions can be really hard to swallow (pun intended), especially if they are meant to ridicule or poke fun at your values and your plate. But questions can also be good because it gives you an opportunity to share your ideas regarding food and healthy living with friends and family. It may result in them thinking differently about themselves and their own food choices. Who knows; you could revolutionize the way your family eats and start a whole new trend by Christmas. Maybe.

Until such a time, there is still about a month of holiday parties and family gathering to navigate with your vegan, paleo, vegetarian, raw, or pestcatarian diet. It can get really old really fast house hoping with family munching on fruit trays and wimpy iceberg lettuce salads.

My immediate family is surprisingly supportive. I’m a little more food conscious; however, they are willing to add flax seed meal to the salads, use turkey to season veggies instead of pork, and never encourage me to eat more than I should. If you have ever been to a dinner where they insist that you eat seconds or thirds, you can appreciate how important this is.

Although they still think it’s a bit strange that I bring home coconut milk, and they give me awkward looks when I order a black bean burger (YUM!) from TGI Friday’s while everyone else plans to enjoy ribs, the family is pretty receptive to some of my food values. In fact, earlier this year, I spoke to them about how much I enjoyed juicing when I first began mixing fresh fruits and veggies. On a recent visit home, my mother and sister were juicing for breakfast on a regular basis. It was beautiful.

But, let’s not confuse my parents and sisters with my extended family of which we generally gather for holidays. To my aunts, uncles, and cousins, I might as well be a hippie with my raw kale salad sprinkling flaxseed on everything or snacking on gluten-free cookies. The very idea that my wheat pasta is dark brown is odd and they don’t mind saying as much. At first, they seemed offended, like perhaps I thought I was too good to eat what had been prepared. After discussing some of the reasons I changed those eating habits, like health, weight, and daily energy, they changed their tune to understand a bit more. Although some actually admired the efforts to make appropriate changes, it didn’t stop them from teasing me about it. It most certainly didn’t stop them from putting meat in everything but the cranberry sauce.

Although I dread the awkward questions and the hard time I am given about the things I do and don’t eat, I am proud to be a picky eater because it means that I have the power to choose. I am still very vocal about the gospel of healthy choices with my entire family. In addition to bringing a side dish that I know I can enjoy, I eat a little something before I arrive and have snacks waiting for me in the car.

When you navigate your holiday plate with family and friends, what are some of the questions you receive from them during the holidays? How do you respond to teasing jokes and awkward comments? Do you think your family will ever get used to the healthy lifestyle you live?

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