Happy holidays everyone! Parties, family, friends, coworkers, clubs… parties, parties and more parties! What a fun, wonderful time of year, catching up with everyone and celebrating.
Wow. So how can you stay ahead of those parties if you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet? Temptations are unending, piled high on tables that go as far as the eye can see! Your hosts are refilling your glass, everyone’s offering more, more, and more.
Here are a few tricks I use to stay ahead and in control at parties, especially if I’m attending more than one or two a night. Self control isn’t always fun, but, then, neither are hangovers! And you usually feel much better about yourself the next day if you didn’t overdo the food.
1. Eat a healthy meal before you go. Or, depending on the timing of the party, keep your mealtime. So, for example, if your party starts at 7:00 pm or so, eat dinner so you won’t arrive hungry. Do not, repeat, do NOT skip a meal to make up for what you might eat at a party! You’ll drink and eat way too much of the wrong things just because you’re hungry.
If the party is in the afternoon, eat a healthy snack first, unless your donation to the event is a healthy one of vegetables and a healthy dip. Like hummus. Then, eat up, because this would be your normal afternoon snack, right? ; )
If it’s multiple parties throughout the day or evening, think of them in terms of courses. A cocktail and a veggie course at the first party. Meats and a soda water at the second. Coffee and fruit as dessert at the third.
2. Plan portion control. Pull a small scoop of nuts or chips (including dip!) out onto a plate or napkin, so you can see the amount that you’re eating. Don’t keep reaching into the bowl one bite or handful at a time. You’ll eat far more that way, because you’ll lose track.
3. If it’s an unavoidable mealtime party, make sensible choices. Minimize the carbohydrates and fill your plate with lowfat meats such as the turkey/roast beef/shrimp platter, vegetables and fruit. Limit the sauces, dips and cheese. Remember a serving of meat is 3-4 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. That, and a bunch of veggies, is a perfectly fine dinner as long as you avoid the salt-laden hams and processed turkey.
Stick to the items that you can readily identify all the ingredients. Generally, the softer or gooier, the fattier. Avoid anything "stuffed" or "in a blanket," those are usually deep-fried fat and salt bombs.
4. Of course you need a cookie. Or a piece of cake. Don’t deny yourself the sweets, that will just make you want more. If you want to sample several, split them with friends so you all get a taste, and limit your total to the amount of, say, one small brownie. And remember... dipping into the bowl full of green-and-red M&Ms count toward your total!
5. Food safety. Wash your hands often. Wash those lemons and limes before cutting. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Even in winter, a house party can be very warm. If you don’t know when the foods came out of the refrigerator or oven, don’t eat them unless they’re meant to be served at room temperature, such as chips, nuts or cookies. Use the provided tongs and spoons, and pray that everyone else did, too.
6. Drinks! How the calories stack up here. I like to have my drink or two, then walk around with a glass of soda water and slice of lemon or lime. That way, I always have a festive-looking drink in my hand, and people don’t offer me more. If it makes sense, you can even arrange this with the bartender.
Wine is fine, perfect for the season but people have a tendency to keep filling up your glass so it’s easy for you to lose count. Stick with simple beverages... a beer bottle or cocktail glass you can top off with soda water. And egg nog! Oh heavens. Just a sip, it’s so high in fat and cream and sugar and calories.
Another strategy is to order your drinks half-strength. Or, if you love beer like me, try this: order a really hoppy one, like an IPA, and mix it half-and-half with club soda. This is a nicer drink in the summer though, because it’s cold and extra bubbly.
If you have a friend who drinks a lot, have something – anything – other than what they’re having. It’s really easy to say, “No thanks, I’m having beer tonight,” when they’re downing white Russians. They won’t be inclined to top you off each time they want a refill.
6. Be safe, plan ahead, don’t overdo the food and drink. And, please don’t drive under the influence. Parties are more fun when you feel great about them the next day.
Until next time!
Club soda and lime beverage photo courtesy of Pearl Vodka, by way of www.barnonedrinks.com.
Veggie dish photo courtesy of the fabulous www.dailyspark.com.
Naughty and nice food (such as a healthier eggnog recipe) comparisons are available at (and eggnog photo courtesy of) www.webmd.com.