We all know the holidays are supposed to bring good will and joy and all that nice stuff, but truth be told, for many people, ‘tis the season of dread. The food, the family, the festivities — the hijacked good intentions! Really, for many of us, there is no more stressful time than now.
If you are on a health-building program — either for weight loss or to improve your health — managing food and festivities around the holidays can lead to a sense of guilt and failure. To help you this year, I have a bag of holiday party survival tricks you might want to check out:
- First and foremost, never go to a holiday party starving! Eat a small snack before to keep your hunger under control. Maybe a handful of nuts, some whole grain crackers, a slice of cheese, a piece of fresh fruit, etc.
- At the party, start with the veggie and fruit platters. Sideline the dips, dressings and spreads.
- Avoid fried foods and foods drowning in oil butter or margarine!
- Trim excess fat from meat.
- Choose whole grain rolls and bread instead of the white stuff.
- Only choose foods you know you will enjoy. Don’t waste your calories on foods that are mediocre or are not your favorites.
- Savor your food – enjoy the flavors and aroma, and chew thoroughly. This can help give your body a chance to feel satisfied without overeating.
- Try not to hang out at the food table at the party. Mingle, socialize and move away from the temptation of more food.
- When it comes to dessert, don’t waste (or shall I say “waist”) your calories on what is not absolutely delicious to you.
If you know you have a party — or several parties — coming up, be especially mindful of your other meals at home, work and eating out. By no means should you starve yourself – that will surely backfire! Rather, keep your choices healthy and balanced; skip rich desserts and heavy fatty foods, instead choosing light fare and naturally sweet treats such as fresh fruit.
When faced with holiday buffets, which can represent a smorgasbord of gastronomical disaster, focus on healthier choices:
- Baked, broiled, or grilled salmon or other fish
- Shrimp with cocktail sauce
- Raw veggies with hummus dip
- Salads with olive oil and vinegar or fresh lemon wedges
- Steamed or sautéed veggies
- Rice pilaf, mashed potatoes, potato salad, OR a whole grain roll (1 serving only)
- Choose sliced lean roast beef, lean ham, sliced turkey breast (1 serving only)
- Greens, greens, and even more greens … whenever possible: choose what is green (but not the lime jello!)
Another potential pitfall of the holiday season is the office! Donuts, holiday cookies, candies, cakes, pies and that ever-ancient fruitcake show up in break rooms, at meetings and as gifts. This can be an even greater challenge than parties! My answer:
- Move yourself away from the food! Keep it away from your desk and tell your coworkers “no thanks” if you have to.
- Bring in healthy snacks for yourself and/or your office – fresh fruit and veggies, dried fruits for a sweet treat, healthy dips such as hummus and vegetarian bean dip, and natural whole grain crackers and real cheese (none of the processed junk!).
- If you really want something “bad,” take just a little and eat it slowly. And remember, there are usually healthier alternatives for “bad” foods. If you are going to indulge, make sure it’s for the real thing — free from hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, preservatives and flavorings.
- See these “treats” for what they are — often loaded with white sugar, solid white vegetable shortening, artificial colors, preservatives and flavorings. Remind yourself that you would rather wait and enjoy real and delicious treats made from wholesome, natural ingredients…far more delicious and ultimately much more satisfying!
Whatever happens, be kind to yourself and remember that if you over indulge, it’s not the end of the world and you can get back on track again. Don’t beat yourself up! If you have ideas and helpful tips for navigating through the slew of holiday parties, I would love to hear your thoughts.