Fish Fry Dilemma


I have what sounds like a really dumb problem, but it won't go away. My in-laws have us over for dinner about once a week, usually on Sundays. The problem is that I'm a southern girl (Arkansas, to be exact) and people around here don't usually eat healthy or "clean". They have now made our weekly dinner a catfish fry. Can anyone say grease?
I like to eat this stuff occasionally, like maybe once a month or so--but every week? Give me a break. The problem is that I used to just eat something healthy before I went and told them that I wasn't hungry--this didn't go over well b/c they made a big deal out of me starving myself. I then tried to take a healthy side dish, but when they noticed that this was all that I ate, it just seemed rude. I've tried to just not go occasionally--rude as well.
Here's the typical menu: fried catfish w/tartar sauce, french fries, hush puppies, cole slaw (creamy, of course),and a homemade dessert (ice cream, peach pie, cheesecake, you get the picture). Can anyone suggest which of these foods is the healthiest (yeah right) for me to pile onto my plate? I'm thinking the fish cause it's at least got some protein. Why must others sabotage our healthy ways?!


Wow - that menu is the way my mother cooked when I was growing up. Like you, I'll eat a meal like that every once in a while, but too often and my skin and digestive system go to h*ll. Of those menu choices, I'd stick to the fish without tartar sauce.

I'd tell your in-laws before you go next time that your doctor says you need to watch your cholesterol (this isn't a lie, all doctors tell you to be aware of your cholesterol!) and you have to severely limit your fried foods. Maybe they could put aside a piece of fish for you and you can cook it when you get there - roll it in blackening spices or cornmeal, and bake it. And bring a big green salad for everyone to share, and offer to bring a watermelon, strawberries, or any other summer fruit for dessert. If you have fish and pile your plate with salad, plus talk and laugh a lot, they won't notice how much or how little of the rest of their meal you're eating.


I would speak up and be honest with them. I mean, if you are trying to build a relationship with these people, should it not be one based on honesty? You have the right to choose what you want to eat. I see no reason why your attempts to be healthy should lead them to misconstrue you as rude. That annoys me on your behalf. I could not stomach that menu week after week and I would say to them," I am sorrry if this hurts your feelings because I know what a lot of effort you put into preparing these dishes, but I just cannot eat such rich food all the time. I hope you won't mind if I join you in some of your dishes and I will of course also bring some of my own to share with everyone."

If you say nothing and keep forcing yourself to chow down on this muck every week, resentment and anger will build and who knows when and where they might explode. At least, if I were in your position, we could guarantee that at some point in the not-to-distant future, I would explode and it would not be a pretty sight. So, for the sake of future healthy familial relations I say, speak up and tell them the truth. And in so doing, strike a blow for yourself and a more healthy way of eating!!!



Having survived a few thousand fish fries myself as a child and teen, I say give 'em a dog as a hostess gift. If you try to be honest with them about changing your eating habits, chances are they will see that as a reflection on them, and you'll catch more fish-fried flack than you ever thought possible.

Do your best to stay with the catfish, scraping off as much of the breading and tartar sauce as you can, and cole slaw (try to eat around the cream sauce), hold your nose and get through it. Take small portions of each thing, cut everything up into tiny pieces and then do a lot of talking with your hands while holding your fork, moving the stuff around the plate and only occasionally bringing a forkful up. If the conversation lags, ask a real bore a question about him/herself to get the talk going again and distract 'em. That little piece of theatre DOES work.

Good luck.




My family thinks I'm a little nutty because when I'm invited to my Mom's house, especially when KFC is on the menu, I bring my own veggies.


Couldn't you just not go so often. Say you have other plans. Man, if I had to eat a dinner with my family or in-laws every week, healthy food or not, I would go berserk! This is easy for me though,since I work Sat. and Sun. evenings.:)


I think you have gotten some good suggestions. You could try Clare's honesty approach, that would be ideal, that would certainly improve the relationship, I would hope...maybe start with the one inlaw you have the best relationship with, one on one, so you aren't ganged up on.

OR if that still backfires, then bring a few healthy side dishes, load up on those, take tiny portions of the other things so as not to be "rude" or call attention to yourself and be happy and enjoy the company. If they press you for eating more or the dessert you truly don't want...insist you are stuffed, be convincing, ACADEMY AWARD MATERIAL and then change the subject.

My inlaws are similar...I love them to death, but they don't eat healthy, we eat there about once or twice a month...cheeseburgers, potato salad, cole slaw...and heavy dessert. And if I announce my intentions for what I am cutting out of my diet they would start to rib me with "oh come on! You are just fine the way you are! You can have seconds!! What are some chips going to hurt?" etc etc etc. It is weird isn't it?!??!

I have brought a big broccoli salad and then used various renditions of Aquajock's theatrics as described above and they work like a charm.

Fish might not be bad if you scraped off the coating...but that might bring on some comments....



I'm from MS, so I'm familiar with the catfish fries. I do love them, but if I were still around family there and they started doing it every week, it wouldn't do for me either.

I'd do what Clare said and be honest. Also, since you do eat it every so often, you could (at least this is what I'd do), tell your MIL that you can't eat this way every week, but once a month would be great! Just bring your own the rest of the month. Folks get all defensive if you don't eat their food. Making this like a treat, might help her realize that it's not a refection on her and maybe she'd be less likely to take offense.


My vote is for saying your MD says you need to watch your cholesterol. Being honest about the food and your preference has a risk of backfiring. They might take it as criticizing their diet or who knows how. But if they think this change comes at the order of your MD, they might make an effort to change their cooking and choice of foods. Maybe you could call prior and say you went to the MD and you need to make these changes. Not that I encourage lying but family relations can be tricky sometimes. Has your husband had any ideas? Peach pie??? Eat the filling - it's a fruit at least! Good luck.


I love all of your suggestions--they're all great and the cholesterol thing is a good idea! Don't get me wrong, they're not at all rude to me, but we all know how family is. The minute you tell them that you're trying to eat healthy they see it as starving yourself. They know that I am a healthy eater, but they don't see anything wrong with these foods! My FIL actually told me that there's nothing wrong with fried foods as long as they're fried in vegetable oil!
I've just always been very strange about eating in front of people b/c they always make a big deal about what I'm eating b/c it's usually something healthier than what they're eating. It embarrasses me for some reason! My goal is just to blend in, not be rude, and not be swollen from head to toe the next day!!!!!!!!!!
You guys are awesome!!



I don't have a lot of "new" advice to give you, except to say that I feel your pain living in Arkansas as well.

The tactic of bringing a healthy side dish coupled with pushing your fish around is the least confrontational choice. Try not to bring attention to what you are not eating. I often deal with a lot of ribbing about the way I eat, but you know, at this point its mostly from people that don't know me that well. My family has come to accept my healthy ways and admire my fortitude. They will even eat my healthy foods. Now this hasn't changed the way they eat unfortunately, but with time they have come to understand and respect my choices. Perhaps you just need to give them some time to accept your lifestyle.

They will soon find someone else to pick on and forget all about you and your 'diet'.

Well I'm fixin to go eat some rabbit food myself,


Ashley, your Fish Fry Dilemma has pointed up a larger issue - how people (especially family-type people) seem to think it perfectly proper to monitor what YOU are eating and doing, and comment on it, and remonstrate you on it. It's not an Arkansas-fish-fry thing - it's an ongoing social dynamic.

I think eventually, your goal to "blend in" will have to be sacrificed to your commitment to your own health. I'm the oddball in my family - I eat a heart-healthy diet very naturally and comfortably (I do NOT count calories, or fat grams, or "carbs" {a word I'm achingly sick of}), and I work out vigorously and with great skill and enjoyment. And I'm a borderline freak because of it, coming from a long line of dedicated couch potatoes. I eventually had to accept Krishnamurti's dictum, "It is no sign of mental health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."



I too agree with saying your Doctor wants you to watch the cholesterol. I would also try Clare's honesty approach. I've used that many times and probably gotten many dirty looks.......:D ..but my health is much more important than why I should eat that type of food. My Mom (bless her heart) still asks me if I want cake when she has us over for one of my 3 sister's Birthdays. Mind you I have not eaten any cake ( I only like Carrot) since I was about 18. I am 45 now!! If you must try what A-Jock suggested and scrape off the breading and eat around the cream in the coleslaw. I would eat a HUGE salad myself before going. Good luck and I think it's awful we have to go thru these kinds of things...:)...Carole


A-Jock, I have to agree with you--especially on one point. If I hear "low-carb" or "no-carb" one more time I'm going to scream!!! I don't care who you are---by the time you have your 1/2 pound greasy burger patty topped with bacon, extra cheese, and mayonnaise, it really doesn't matter at that point if you put it on a freakin' bun!!! I saw a sonic commercial the other day talking about a "low-carb bun". Why don't they just use some kind of whole-grain bread or something?
But, I've already decided that I'm not going to sacrifice my health to spare anyone's "feelings", including me own. I also help that by introducing people to healthier foods that they may not have ever tried, that it will help them to also make healthier choices.


Could you at least discuss this problem privately with your mother-in-law? Would she be open to discussing yours & their health!! I feel for you but I did just this when my MIL was alive. Thank God she listened to me & we no longer had any problems. If you can't, why don't YOU have them come over to your house instead. Intimate to your MIL that you want to give her a break from cooking. Would this work? HTH, Kathy:D


A fellow Arkansan: how sweet it is to know that there are a few other healthy people in our lovely natural state!


Active Member
I just have one question here. Where is your husband on this? Can't he help smooth things over--back you up--when it comes to explaining to them why you don't want to eat like this every week. They are HIS parents and it seems like he could be a big help here. Just a thought.

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