The holiday season brings enough “to-do’s” without having to worry about staying on track on your diet.
Holiday parties, pot-luck’s, cookie exchanges, dinner at your mom’s house….they all bring unique challenges for eating healthy and keeping calories in check. You don’t have to wait until January to get back on track though. Try out these few simple tips that will allow you to enjoy the festivities of the season and still keep calories in check.
- Bring a dish
I always offer to bring a dish to parties I attend, not only to help the host, but to ensure that there is at least one healthy item I can eat. Bring a fruit salad, veggies and light dip, hummus with whole-wheat pita triangles or your favorite light hors d’œuvre to give yourself a fool-proof option.
- Snack before you go
Snacking seems to be a four-letter word among dieters, but if done right, snacking can be your key to success. Have mini-meal or a light snack an hour before the party, ideally one with both protein and complex carbs, such as an apple with natural peanut butter. This will keep you from being ravenous at the party and devouring everything in sight.
- Water down
Bring a bottle of water with you everywhere you go to fill up your tummy and keep your hands busy. I’m a social wreck at parties, so I find myself eating when I’m not even hungry, just to have something to do with my hands. I bring a bottle of water with me everywhere I go so I can stay hydrated, take care of my thirst before hunger strikes and keep my hands busy while chatting away. This keeps me from eating food that I don’t even enjoy or remember eating.
- Practice the 80/20 rule
Fill up your plate with 80 percent healthy, good-for-you fare and allow the other 20 percent to be an indulgence. Examine the buffet and select one or two of your “must-haves” and fill the rest of your plate with fruits, vegetables and lean protein. If you are eating healthy 80 percent of the time, don’t worry about the other 20 percent.
- Make new friends
Make the party about socializing, networking and talking with friends and family. It is hard to eat and carry on a conversation at the same time. Set a goal to make at least one new friend or connection at every social function you attend this year., Meet new people, talk to those you haven’t talked to in a while and stay engaged in a conversation. This not only keeps you away from the food, but can create lasting friendships.
- Lighten up
Make all of your favorite holiday recipes….light. It is a lot of fun to scour the Internet and cookbooks for light versions of your favorite recipes. Bring your new and improved version of your favorite dish to the party and surprise all of your friends when you tell them how you’ve slashed the fat and calories. If you are hosting the party, you can even make the theme “Holidays Gone Light” and encourage all party-goers to bring light versions of their favorite dishes. You may even discover that you like the light version better.
- Savor the good stuff
What is Christmas with mom’s homemade fudge? Or a cookie exchange without sampling the goods? Let’s face it, some of life’s greatest memories involve food. If we eat mindfully, food engages all of our senses. But we lose the battle when we mindlessly eat food that we don’t truly enjoy. Before you take a bite of your favorite treat, examine your food and appreciate its’ beauty. Now, take a deep whiff. Yes, you may get some odd looks, but a study at the Smell & Taste Research Foundation in Chicago found that smelling your food can actually help you eat less, increase your satiety and lose weight. Eat while sitting down and savor every bite of your favorite foods. You deserve it!