We all love a good holiday party. It’s a time to gather with loved ones, celebrate the season, express gratitude and reflect on the year behind us. It is also, of course, a time where temptation is around every corner with fresh-baked cookies in the office break room, homemade pecan pie in your mom’s kitchen, and sugar-loaded cocktails at every holiday party. Staying true to your commitment to health may seem daunting, but fear not. The tips below will help you stay on track throughout the festivities.
1. Come prepared.
Ever heard the phrase “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail?” That may sound harsh when it comes to social gatherings, but it is true nonetheless. A lot of people thinks planning ahead means skipping meals throughout the day to “save up” for the sweet and savory snacks offered by their gracious hosts. This is a big mistake for several reasons. First, you’ll be entering the festivities in a deprived state and your labrador brain will be seeking its quickest and easiest means of energy — sugar and refined carbs! These will send your blood sugar soaring, only to crash thereafter. Your body will think it needs to store the carbs due to the threat of famine it experienced earlier that day and, what do you know? Holiday weight starts packing on.
Second, upon arrival, you’ll probably be a little hangry (that’s hunger-angry for those who have been fortunate enough to avoid this socially sabotaging state-of-mind). Avoid tighter pants and having to apologize for something you said when you were hungry, and eat a well-rounded breakfast and lunch, followed by a healthy pre-party snack. This could be an apple with almond butter, veggies and hummus, or a couple of hard-boiled eggs.
2. Portion your plate.
Whether it’s a holiday feast around the family dinner table or cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a swanky party, what you put on your plate matters, so fill it with the good stuff first. When starting down the feast line, skip over the sweets, treats, fried foods and refined carbs. Instead, fill your plate with crudités, salad, protein and guacamole. Go for local and seasonal food choices when possible.
Aim for at least 75% of your plate to be covered with these healthier options. Then, if there are specific items you keep eyeballing, add a small treat or two. Just be sure to follow the recommendation in #3 if you’re going to indulge.
3. Practice mindful eating.
If you are going to have that slice of pie or Santa-shaped sugar cookie, do so mindfully. Indulging now and then is okay and can actually be good for your mental and emotional health. But if you choose to indulge, take the time to appreciate and enjoy every last bite of it. Focus on the texture and range of flavors in the food. Take the time to chew and slowly eat. You’ll enjoy the experience more and it’ll be more likely that one treat will suffice — meaning it’ll be easier to avoid the mindless binge eating that can really pack on the pounds.
4. Skip the booze — or, at least, every other drink.
No one likes peer pressure, and if you’re trying to cut back on alcohol, there’s nothing more frustrating than your peers questioning your decision, or worse, trying to sabotage it. Here’s where “fake it ’til you make it” comes in handy. A soda water with lime is a great disguise and will blend in well with others’ cocktails floating around the festivities.
Don’t want to skip the booze altogether? Try alternating every other drink with water (or that cool soda water and lime drink we just talked about). You’ll stay more hydrated and will be less likely to overindulge and wake up the next morning with puffy eyes and brain fog. Don’t stop with the water at the party though. Have a big glass when you get home and be sure to get plenty of sleep.
You can also opt for better cocktail options by modifying traditional cocktails to have less sugar and high-sugar juice.