The year is nearly over, there’s snow on the ground (although melting quickly here in Bozeman), and the Pandora Christmas station can be heard playing in the Wellness office. In other words, the holidays are here! And with the holidays, come the holiday parties. And with the holiday parties, come the holiday cookies, pies, drinks, and other delicious treats. It’s a wonderful time of year, but also a tough time of year to stick with healthy habits.
Let me describe for you the spread at the most recent holiday party I went to: Bacon-wrapped dates, spinach-artichoke dip, eggnog, cupcakes, white chocolate dipped Oreos, cheese bread, sausage meatballs, and croissants. Oh, and a veggie tray. Yum, but yikes! Holiday parties, with rich food, plus the addition of alcohol, are an easy occasion to blow all healthy eating goals. But they don’t have to be. It’s possible to fully enjoy a holiday party and feel good afterwards, which is important since parties and other social get-together’s happen so frequently in December. Here are 3 healthy party strategies that can help:
- Make your indulgences count. Scout out the options before choosing what to put on your plate. If given choices like those listed above, select a couple of the foods that look the best and that you really want to try. For example, if you love bacon, but don’t particularly care for sweets, don’t waste your time and calories on the Oreos or cupcakes. Go for the bacon-wrapped dates! Consider nutrition and your caloric intake as a budget, and spend wisely. All too often, we eat food that doesn’t really appeal to us, but we eat it because it’s there. Instead, pick out the foods that you’re excited to eat, and enjoy every bite. Fill up the rest of the way on veggies or other healthy options (remember the 80/20 rule of moderation too).
- Consider the hunger scale. Imagine a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being so hungry that you would eat anything that even slightly resembles food, and 10 being so full that you might get sick. In general, try to stay between a 4 and a 7. That means you eat when you are actually hungry, and stop when you are comfortably full. In the context of parties, the scale can be especially helpful. Don’t arrive at a party at a 1 or 2 on the hunger scale. No hope exists for making good food choices when you are starving. Eat an apple, string cheese, or a handful of nuts before leaving your house if you’re nearing that 1 or 2 level. Then, during and after eating, check in with yourself before reaching for seconds to see if you might already be at a 6 or 7 and can forego the extra helpings. The hunger scale is a useful tool for daily nutrition as well.
- Socialize away from the food. How easy is it when we are chatting with someone to absentmindedly reach for a handful or chips, or grab an extra cookie when there’s a lull in the conversation? Step away from the table. Make it so that you must be intentional when refilling your plate. Navigating through a room full of people to reach the food table can be enough of a deterrent that you have to really be hungry to make the effort.
Indulging in special holiday foods is inevitable—at least for me and most people I know. Food is an important part of our traditions and celebrations, so don’t beat yourself up if you happen to have a little too much pecan pie or hot buttered rum. But, hopefully by keeping in mind these 3 party strategies, you won’t go overboard and can enjoy a happy and healthy holiday party season.
Happy (Holiday) Eating!