Helia Fitness festive dinner

Holiday Party Survival Guide

Maybe it’s subconscious. There’s holiday cheer everywhere – with all those distracting colors and sounds, nobody will notice if you have a few pieces of shortbread. Even you! No point in writing them in your dietary log if you don’t really remember eating them. And maybe, just maybe, your hips won’t notice either! Right? Sigh… wrong. It is true that tempting foods and drinks abound this time of year. It is also true that your metabolism will be aware of every savory crumb you put into your mouth. Some things we simply cannot change, like the way our culture enwraps rich foods and drinks in almost all of our social gatherings and festivities. The good news is we can change the way we eat without moping like Scrooge at buffet tables. All you have to do to make it through the holiday cheer without having to make New Year’s diet resolutions is to change the way you party. Honestly!
Read on.

Socialize with friends.
Instead of focusing on which foods you need to hoard before everyone else gets to the best desserts, keep your attention on the reason for the party – to see your friends and family. Spend your time talking, and listening, to the hosts of the party, relatives from far away, and good friends. This way, you can let your true feelings of hunger guide you over to the table only when you are ready. The bonus? Your friends and family will appreciate the quality time you spend with them.

Accept the size of the plate.
If the social gathering is a buffet, or if you’re trying to figure out how many appetizers to eat, let the size of the plate guide you. Those paper plates were made smaller than most American restaurant servings for a reason! Avoid making the appetizers the entrée by filling up that small appetizer plate (or napkin) only once. Remember, more food is coming. Same thing goes for the buffet entrée plates – take small portions of dishes you’d like to try, and spend time enjoying what’s on your plate. The bonus? You won’t make a mess on the floor (which inevitably happens every time you try to gobble down a mountain of food on a weak paper plate).

Keep your hands occupied.
At evening events, use your right hand to hold that spritzer (half white wine, half calorie-free sparkling water or club soda) and your left hand to hold a glass of water. As foolish as it may seem, your hand is bound to wander over to those Nanaimo bars unless it’s busy. If at a sit-down dinner, hug that coffee/tea cup with both hands when dessert comes. You’ll inconspicuously look as if you’re warming your hands, not gripping for self-control. The bonus? No hangover for you; consuming equal amounts of water for every alcoholic beverage you have eliminates the headache the morning after. This will also slow your drinking down, so overall you intake smaller amounts of empty calories.

Give healthy food a chance.

You know that you’re supposed to eat a rainbow of foods. Clarification: green and red sprinkles on shortbread do not count, nor does red wine. Fill that plate with seasonal favorites, such as turnip, yams, squash, cranberries, and lean turkey. Let fibrous fruits and veggies fill up the bulk of your plate, with carbohydrate-rich(e.g., dinner roll) and protein-rich (e.g., turkey) foods taking up no more than a quarter of your plate respectively. The bonus? Dishes that don’t need gallons of oil to make them taste good are not only more nutritious than their greasy counterparts, they are also delicious!

Bring the alternative.
“There wasn’t anything healthy to eat there” is not a legit excuse for binging on stuffing and cheesecake. Even if the hosts do not request a dish from guests, bring something healthy. A spread of raw veggies and low-fat dip is always welcome, and it ensures that you have something to munch on other than sugarcoated nuts. Another option is to please the vegetarians. Most vegetarian dishes are stock-full of nutrients and low on processed fats (read: eat vegetarian dishes even if you’re not!) If you’re going to a dinner party, bring along a healthy non meat dish and watch the vegetarians flock to you in praise. The bonus? Filling up on nutritious, yummy dishes means your night doesn’t have to be a self-disciplinary war.

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