It’s that time of year again when the holiday parties and the pounds start to pile on. For the past couple years, we have been isolating through the holidays. Now it may seem that there are more parties than ever with people making up for lost time. Feeling stressed out about attending all your holiday get-togethers? Ditch the guilt this year and leave it in the past. Here are some tips to successfully get you through the holiday party season.
1- Don’t go to the party hungry
I’ve heard this time and time again. “I’m not going to eat all day so I can eat at the party tonight”. Doing this makes it so that you are so hungry by the time you get there you devour everything in sight. Instead of waiting till the party to eat, go about your normal eating routine throughout the day. Some tips are to start off the day by eating a meal that is full of whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. These types of foods can make sure that your body is nourished and won’t trigger your brain to release hunger hormones. Eating a healthy snack before going to the party can also help you from overindulging later. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and a full glass before the meal to stave off any hunger being triggered from dehydration.
2- Bring a healthy dish
If you are concerned there will not be healthy options at the party for you to choose from, bring one yourself! Not only will the host appreciate you bringing something to contribute, but others will also be happy that they have something healthy to choose from as well.
3- Review your choices first
Do you ever go to a party and without even knowing what there is to eat, you begin filling up your plate at one end of the table, putting a little bit of everything there is until you reach the end? By the end of the table, you are holding two plates because one just wasn’t enough to fit everything on it. Often you realize you are just eating the food because it’s there and you didn’t even want half of what you selected but didn’t know what was on the other end of the table to be more selective. This year, upon arriving at the party, scope out the food selection first before you start to pile things on your plate. This way you can choose the food items you really want to have rather than filling your plate with unnecessary choices. One you have made your selection; enjoy the food you chose and leave the guilt behind.
4- Picture your plate
A good guide to keep in mind when attending any party or even when making your own dinner is how your plate should look. A general guide is to fill half your plate with vegetables, ¼ with protein and ¼ with your starch selection. When it comes to dessert, fill your plate with fruit and choose one dessert item to indulge in. Other tips that can help is to choose a smaller plate and keep in mind what a healthy portion of each food for you is.
5- Don’t get food amnesia!
Always put all the food you eat on a plate. This gives you a visual of what you ate so you don’t forget. If you eat things straight out of bowls or grab appetizers one at a time you will forget about how much “picking” you have done. Each bite adds up and when you visualize it all together, you will often be surprised on how much you ate. If you are at a party where appetizers are being passed, this can often be hard. Have an appetizer plate with you and place each one on the plate or at least a napkin so that you have a visual reminder and your brain can process that you ate them.
6- Don’t hang out near the buffet table
Being mindful of not only what you eat but where you eat can help you from overeating. Socializing away from the buffet table means you won’t be able to grab extra snacks and unconsciously eat another couple hundred to a couple thousand of the not so healthy calories. Mindless eating and behavior author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., did some excellent experiments to see what behavior modifications can be made to help you stop the mindless eating. He found that just sitting facing away from the buffet table can decrease the tendency to go back for more. Hanging out around the buffet table makes that mindless habit of just popping a snack or appetizer into your mouth way more likely regardless of hunger level. Interested in reading more of his studies. Check out his book on mindless eating here.
7- Slow down
We have heard it before; it takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain that it is full. Slow down while you eat and let your stomach and your brain have time to connect and communicate. Take small bites, chew slowly, put your fork down between bites and savor your food. Want to go back for seconds? Give your body time to adjust to the food you just ate. Have a conversation with a friend to buy some time. Then truly assess your body and decide whether it is actually still hungry for more food.
8- Watch the alcohol
Often times in social situations, we actually consume more calories from what we drink rather than what we eat. Try to avoid drinking your calories. Not only can they add up quickly, but research shows that your body recognizes calories from food better than calories from drinks and will send hunger hormones after you to eat food, even though you just drank a few hundred calories worth of liquid. Drink plenty of water as well as drinks in their natural forms such as black coffee and unsweetened tea. Minimize the amount of juices and sodas you consume that are full of added sugars. When it comes to alcohol, you will find many hidden calories and added sugars in mixed drinks and beer. Instead choose wine and liquor mixed with a sugar free mixer such as club soda.
9- Create an optical illusion
Seeing white space on a plate can feel unsatisfying making us want to fill it up all the way. Create an optical illusion by either choosing a smaller plate or by lining the bottom of your dinner plate with lettuce or extra veggies so that you don’t have any white space remaining tempting you to fill it up with more goodies.
10- Water, Water, Water!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Keep yourself hydrated to prevent you from thinking you are hungry and need more food. Often when your body is thirsty you will think you are hungry and want more food. Before opting for seconds, drink some water and make sure you are hydrated. If you need extra flavor in your water, try sparkly soda water or add some fruit into to flavor it.
Overall enjoy the party and the time with your friends and family. Over the past two years, we have learned that this is more important than ever. Be mindful of what you are eating and drinking but also don’t let guilt completely take over. If you slip up move on and at the next party, try again to be mindful of every bite. Happy Holidays!