The holiday season is filled with tempting treats like cookies, eggnog, and rich desserts. With parties, family gatherings, and platters of goodies at the office, it can be tricky to stick to your usual healthy habits. However, with some planning and willpower, you can enjoy the festivities without overindulging. This blog post covers tips for navigating holiday parties so you can balance celebration and moderation.
Portion Control is Key
When you face a spread of delicious holiday foods, it’s easy to overload your plate. But be mindful of portions and know that you don’t have to say yes to everything. Here are some strategies to practice portion control:
- Use a small plate instead of a large dinner plate at a party—this visually cues you to take less food.
- Focus on the 2 or 3 foods you really love instead of sampling everything. Quality over quantity!
- Dish up the protein and veggies first, then add small portions of richer sides and desserts.
- Don’t feel obligated to finish everything on your plate or go back for seconds. It’s perfectly fine to stop when satisfied.
Strategize When Facing Temptations
Let’s face it—no one wants to pass up grandma’s famous pumpkin pie or the office chocolate fountain. When facing a food you’ve been craving, have a game plan so you don’t overdo it.
- Allow yourself one modest serving of your very favorite treat, then shift your focus to healthier options.
- Savor each bite thoroughly so you feel satisfied.
- Wait at least 20 minutes before considering a second helping—this allows your body to register fullness.
- If it’s a multi-day party, you can have the food again tomorrow. Enjoy moderation.
Stay Hydrated and Monitor Alcohol Intake
It's easy to underestimate how many liquid calories you consume during the holidays. Nurse alcoholic beverages slowly and also be mindful of mixers. Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of sparkling water to stay hydrated. Going easy on alcohol helps inhibit overeating as well. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
Burn Calories with Dance Breaks
Between all the mingling, eating, and cheering at big holiday gatherings, you may forget to move. Combat the effects of overindulgence by working physical activity into your celebrations. Suggest dancing to festive tunes or organize a group walk to see neighborhood holiday lights. Even occasional 5-10 minute dance sessions can burn extra calories.
Pick Your Splurges
As the holidays approach, make a list of your must-have treats that you don’t want to miss. Cross reference with the party menus you know—are gingerbread cookies served at your family gathering or chocolate ganache cake at your office party? By predetermining 1-2 splurges per event, you can better moderate the rest of your choices.
Respond to Hunger Cues
It’s easy to eat for reasons besides physical hunger when delicious food surrounds you. Check in periodically at events and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or just bored/stressed/nostalgic?” Only eat because of true stomach hunger. Slow down and assess fullness halfway through each plate or food item. Stop when your body says so.
Stay Accountable with a Pal
Having a health-minded friend at social gatherings can encourage smart choices. Agree to cap treats at a certain number, avoid overdoing alcohol, or leave 20 minutes between appetizer and dessert plates. Look out for each other’s cues when willpower starts flagging. Share wholesome recipes that you try this season too.
Stress Less for Party Success
Hectic holiday schedules often increase stress levels. Take time for self-care between gatherings to better moderate cravings and impulses when surrounded by food. Make sleep a priority, and don’t abandon your exercise routine—even lighter workouts help manage stress. Don’t be afraid to schedule mental health days too! Find moments of calm through meditation, stretching, strolls outdoors, or enjoyable hobbies.
Keep Perspective Post-Parties
Don’t be hard on yourself for minor diet indulgences! Look at the big picture: consuming just 3500 extra calories equates to one pound. So a couple pieces of pie or an extra cocktail will likely not undo your hard health efforts. Return to normal eating as soon as possible, drink extra water day-after to rehydrate, and consider a healthy reset with lighter meals built around vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. One party won’t make or break your progress.
The holidays are for celebrating! By applying moderation mindsets and smart strategies at parties, you can happily indulge without going overboard. Keep overflowing holiday cheer, not calories, at the heart of this special season. Stay tuned for more healthy holiday eating tips!