We all need to eat, and many of us look forward to it. It’s a great way to bring family and friends together. It can make you feel nostalgic and provide comfort.
And we know eating and living a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand — no one likes to be hungry, and it’s extremely difficult to pass up some of our favorite unhealthy foods if we see others eating them while we’re out in a restaurant.
On the other hand, you may have a favorite place that serves up healthy soups or salads you know you won’t eat at home because you’ll grab a box of crackers and a tub of cheese for dinner instead or you have a partner who really likes a heavy meal every evening.
So, which is better for us if we are trying to eat healthy? To eat alone or with people, out or in?
Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, tells SheKnows that both situations have pros and cons.
“When eating solo, it is much easier to overeat, as no one is there to stop you, especially if you are prone to emotional eating,” she says.
I’ve been guilty of this, especially when it comes to sweets. I find if no one is around, I will eat more cookies or cut myself a bigger piece of cake. And I eat a lot faster than I would if someone were eating with me.
However, Goodson says eating solo can also be very good for our well-being, as it can “allow for mindful eating and awareness.” It makes it easy to get lost in the moment, clear your head and take time for yourself. It can also force you to think through your choices instead of getting wrapped up in the “fun” of eating with others and eating more than planned.
Goodson says another reason eating alone can be a mental boost is it allows “for a mental break from work or family.” However, on the reverse side, it can lead to feeling isolated and lonely and cause you to eat more as you are feeding your emotions instead of your body.
The people you eat with play a huge role in how and what you eat. Some of us surround ourselves with people who eat or serve more than we do, and so we follow suit. And it can go both ways. “Many people do what the people around them do,” Goodson says, and eating is no different, so if you are trying to make healthier choices and go to a party where there are no healthy choices, it is going to make it harder for you to stick to your goals than it would be if you were dining with very health-conscious people. You can curb this temptation by eating a healthy meal or snack before you meet up with them or offer to bring a healthy dish — no one wants to avoid gathering after gathering because they are afraid they won’t stay on track.
Goodson says people generally eat healthier when they are at home because they have more control over what goes in their foods and aren’t tempted by great-smelling fried foods or rich dishes upon entering their home like they are a restaurant. Portion sizes tend to be larger while dining out, and often, there are platters of bread or chips being put in front of you before your meal arrives.
In her work as a registered dietitian, Goodson has seen those who eat at home with other people make the best choices. “This allows for people to choose healthy choices and how much they put on their plates while talking and enjoying time with others,” she says, but adds that support is key to making good choices.
There are many factors that go into eating healthy, whether you are alone or with company, eating out or in. But if you are able to check in with yourself and know what works better for you to achieve the lifestyle you want, you are able to take control and are in a position to make better choices.