One of the first meals my husband had with my family was at Emerils in New Orleans. My sister and her family, my parents, Marc (then my boyfriend) and I were at dinner celebrating my graduation from Tulane. Midway through our appetizers, I distinctly recall a concerned look on Marc’s face. My family, in our usual manner, was passing bread and butter plates with tastes of crab cakes and oysters around the table. This was completely foreign to Marc. In his family, with 5 brothers, you order and eat your own food. There are no tastes of others’ selections and more important nobody was asks for tastes of your food. Marc obliged, after all he was still a boyfriend, but was not happy about this sharing. It wasn’t until our entrees arrived that Marc realized sharing had its benefits. In a predominantly female family, there was plenty of excess and half-portions left for Marc to enjoy.

Sharing food can be tricky business. For Marc it was relinquishing some of his food, the actual act of sharing, that wasn’t natural after years of duking it out for the extra piece of chicken with his brothers. For many of my clients sharing food is difficult when you are trying to eat healthfully. Tonight I’m heading to dinner for a friend’s birthday. We’re going to a tapas restaurant which means sharing will be involved. It’s hard to know how much you eat when you have a little of this and a little of that. Furthermore, when you share everyone is ordering and your friends may not care if crispy really means fried beyond recognition.

So what to do? Short of refusing to share, a few tips:

• Drunk driving is terrible but drunk ordering isn’t so good either. It’s always a good idea to order with a clear head. Lots of things sound better after a cocktail.
• Whenever possible serve yourself all food on one plate so that you can get a visual of what you are eating. When food doesn’t arrive at once, try to keep mental log of what you ate (1 chicken sate, 1 lettuce wrap etc).
• Put your two cents in. Even if it’s not exciting, make sure among the dishes ordered there’s a salad, side order of vegetables or plainer item. If others do not eat these, that’s fine more for you.
• You are not a toddler and the days are over when you have to try everything. I was with my soon-to-be nutritionist friend Sue yesterday and told her about this post. She remarked “if I don’t order cream sauces on my own, I’m not eating them when others order.” While one bite of something will not derail you, a bunch of bites add up.
• And finally, the extra couple of dishes that get ordered with tapas are generally unnecessary. Ever leave a cocktail party assuming you would need dinner and realize you’ve had enough? If not, pay close attention next time. A few small plates, a drink or 2 is plenty.

I will let you know how the sharing goes tonight. How do you fare with shared food? Any tips?

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