By Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D., Joyce Hendley, EatingWell
Nobody wants to be a party pooper, but celebrations, holiday and otherwise, can be a major obstacle for anyone watching their weight. Most party fare is, by definition, diet-busting stuff, especially around the holidays. And many holiday traditions center around foods that used to be only once-a-year luxuries for most people, like buttery, sugary cookies. Today, we can have those foods anytime, but we still crave them at holiday gatherings. Trying to eat them moderately can seem nearly impossible. So you’re invited to a party? With a game plan, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the celebration.
1. When you RSVP, offer to bring a dish to share—something that works with your eating plans, but that you know others will enjoy too. If it’s a sit-down affair, ask if you can help serve, so you can have some control over your portion.
2. When you get to the party, check out the food offerings and decide on one or two “must-haves”—perhaps the host’s specialty dish or a seasonal treat you can’t imagine the holidays without. Take a modest portion of each and fill the rest of your plate with vegetables, if you can (there’s got to be a veggie platter somewhere). Don’t waste calories on calorie-heavy but unremarkable foods you could find anywhere, like potato chips or a standard-issue cheese platter.
3. Go easy on alcoholic drinks. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which can chip away at your resolve to eat mindfully, so that 5-ounce glass of wine might be contributing more than just its own 100 calories. (You must also count those four cheese-stuffed mushroom caps that, after a few sips, became entirely irresistible.) Limit yourself to just one alcoholic drink and nurse it well; the rest of the evening, sip sparkling water with plenty of citrus wedges (add a few drops of grenadine for festive red color if you like).
4. Above all, focus on the fun, not the food. Enjoy the conversation and the entertainment—and if there’s a dance floor, kick up your heels! Laughter, sparkling conversation and mingling all burn calories too.
5. When you’re entertaining, serve up lower-calorie dishes you love. Consider it an opportunity to open a few people’s eyes to what they’re missing. No need to announce that it’s “lighter” fare, unless someone asks.