How to eat well at your big holiday party

How to eat well at your big holiday party

Keeping excess pounds off can be hard enough, but the world turning cold and white can put a damper on exercise plans, and holiday party after holiday party can make it feel impossible.

Karli Burridge, an obesity medicine specialist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says that while it’s OK to indulge a bit during the holidays, there are steps to take to make sure you don’t overdo it during your big holiday bash.

“We currently live in a food environment that makes it difficult for the majority of people to stay at a healthy weight,” she says. “Holiday treats make this even more difficult, so this season, prepare yourself with some helpful tools and tricks to stay on track.”

Don’t arrive hungry

Eat something healthy with protein and healthy fat before you head out the door. Having some food in you will help curb overeating during the meal itself. A handful of nuts, a cheese stick or a protein shake can help cut down an extra helping or two at the table.

Prioritize – what do you really want?

Survey the food options before you start to load your plate. Start with proteins and vegetables. After you fill up on those, if you decide you still really want some of the less healthy options or desserts, Burridge says you should allow yourself a small helping and savor it.

Also, before the meal, decide if you will have any alcohol or sugary beverages. If you choose to drink one or two alcoholic beverages, sip slowly and alternate water with your drink. While alcohol is calorie-dense, champagne, wine, low-carb beer and distilled liquors with no-sugar added mixers are your best choices. Avoid juices or sugary drinks and opt for a sparkling water garnished with some fruit instead.

Go slow

Make a conscious effort to eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites and chew your food thoroughly. Use the time to have a conversation with your friends and family. Have a conversation with a friend or family member between bites.

Then, Burridge suggests checking in with yourself after 15 minutes of slow eating.

“Ask yourself, ‘How am I feeling?’” she says. “Stop eating when you feel satisfied, not stuffed, and wait 20 minutes before grabbing seconds so your body has time to tell your brain how full you actually are.”

Set yourself up for success

Generally, holiday meals aren’t exactly known for their nutritional balance. Try and take the initiative by volunteering to bring a healthy appetizer or veggie side dish to the gathering, and don’t fill your pantry at home with holiday candies and cookies.

“Controlling your environment plays a big role in the food choices we make, so make your home a ‘safe place’ with minimal temptations to get you off-track,” Burridge says. “At parties, sit or stand away from the food area to avoid unconscious grazing.”

Plan some physical activity

The day of your holiday party, start with some exercise.

“The best time for physical activity is the time when you are most likely to do it,” Burridge says. “This varies based on your schedule and lifestyle, but if possible, the morning can be a good time because you’re less likely to have things come up to thwart your plan for activity that day.”

Then, throughout the day, incorporate activity into the plans, whether it is a family walk, football game or whatever gets you and your loved ones up and moving.

Get back to normalcy

Having a day (or three) of indulgence is not the end of the world. Even if you have an epic cheat day during the holidays, you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Simply make sure you return to your healthy eating behaviors the next day.

“Living a healthy lifestyle is about consistency. If you consistently eat a nutritious diet, are consistently active and regularly get enough sleep, then a few days of being off-track won’t have a huge effect on your health or your weight,” she says. “Just be sure to get back to your usual healthy behaviors as soon as possible so you don’t slide into a consistently less healthy lifestyle.”

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range.

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About the Author

Nathan Lurz
Nathan Lurz

Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.