Every year around holiday time, we look forward to — and also dread — all the parties happening around town. Sure, here in California we’re known for going all veggie/yogi/organic on everyone, but when it comes to party foods, anything goes.
Sometimes we go to more than one party on the same night, eating our way around the city. Other than a big vacation where dining out is common, no other activity results in more broken resolutions when it comes to eating.
Sometimes that’s okay — it’s only temporary and celebrations are a great excuse. Only you can decide if this is one of those times.
Parties should be fun, even when you’re watching your weight. But it’s easy to blow your healthy eating plan when endless buffet tables and party trays tempt you at every turn.
“Parties and social events can be more of a challenge to your weight-loss efforts than dining out because your meal selection is usually limited,” says Erin Palinski, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer at Vernon Nutrition Center in Ramsey, New Jersey.
And when it comes to party food, it’s difficult to know how much you’re actually eating and how many calories you’re consuming.
The good news is that you can go to parties and still lose weight as long as you make smart choices. Here are a few savvy tips to help you avoid packing on the party pounds:
1. Plan ahead
Eat a healthful breakfast and lunch the day of the party so you won’t arrive starving. If you try to bank calories during the day to save room for more party food, you’ll probably end up overeating, says Robyn Priebe, R.D., nutrition director at Green Mountain fitness resort in Ludlow, Vermont.
2. Graze strategical
At the buffet table, look over the entire array of food before deciding what to eat, says Brenda J. Ponichtera, R.D., author of Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas and Quick & Healthy, Volume II.
Instead of the Buffalo wings, for example, reach for the chicken skewers or shrimp cocktail.
3. Go easy on alcohol
Skip the high-calorie cocktails, or consume a drink or two only after the food has been put away, says Palinski. “Alcohol lowers your resistance and stimulates appetite.”
Instead of alcohol, try club soda with a twist of lemon.
4. Practice positioning
“At parties, the food is often left out on the table for a long time. So resist temptation and avoid sitting directly in front of the food, especially your favorite foods,” says Palinski.
If it isn’t possible to position yourself away from the food, sit near the salad or vegetable plate.
5. Order wisely
At the dinner table, load up on vegetables and choose lean protein dishes. “Use starchy foods as a side dish rather than an entrée,” says Palinski.
6. Eat slowly
Put your fork down between mouthfuls, says Ponichtera, and aim to stop eating when you feel satisfied, rather than when you feel stuffed.
7. Munch on veggies
You knew this one already. But it’s never a bad idea to dip carrots, broccoli and other raw vegetables into salsa dips instead of high-calorie creamy dips.
“If you’re tempted to indulge in tastier appetizers, choose a favorite and eat only half as much,” says Ponichtera.
8. Watch portion sizes
Take smaller portions of higher-calorie foods and larger portions of lower-calorie foods. Allow yourself one serving of everything that fits on your plate without heaping it, says Ponichtera.
Put the emphasis on people instead of food, says Ponichtera. “That’s really the focus of the party.”
10. Eat well always
Feeding yourself well every day leaves you better nourished and able to choose foods wisely, says Priebe, whether you’re at a party, at a restaurant or anywhere else.