To say that healthy eating during the holidays is challenging is an understatement. The seemingly endless string of office parties, social events, and family gatherings can feel like outright sabotage. Though one indulgent party won’t derail your whole healthy eating routine, lots of festivities over the course of many weeks definitely adds up to major food guilt come New Year’s Day. These simple tips will help you keep it real without feeling deprived.
1. Have a plan
Decide ahead of time whether this event will be a meal, a snack, or simply a bit of facetime. If there’s going to be alcohol, decide ahead of time how much you plan to drink. If you’re heading to a multi-course meal, stick to one drink per course (aka one at the cocktail hour and one at dinner). Remember, there’s no rule that says you have to stuff yourself or drink yourself silly, so give yourself permission to stick to those guidelines you set yourself. If voicing those good intentions to a pal will help you stay accountable, let them know.
2. Don’t show up hungry.
A small snack before you go helps you keep a clear head so you don’t inhale the first passed appetizers you see. Also worth noting: alcohol goes to your head much more quickly, on an empty stomach. A few smart pre-party bites include:
A cup of broth-based vegetable & bean soup
Half a turkey or PB & J sandwich on whole wheat bread
Sliced veggies with 2 tablespoons hummus or guacamole
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and ground flax
An apple with 1 tablespoon peanut butter¼ cup of of nuts (try almonds, walnuts, or pistachios)
3. Prioritize protein.
Lean proteins will fill you up better than pastry-wrapped whatever-the-heck. Try sliced roast beef, shrimp skewers, and smoked salmon. Reach for some veggies from the crudité platter to add some satisfying fiber.
4. Play Favorites.
Save room for your favorite holiday treats by passing up stuff that doesn’t really do it for you. It’s much easier to turn down bakery store cookies when you know there’s delicious chocolate cake to be had. If you’re really jonesing for a cocktail, skip the bread at dinner.
Rather than parking yourself in front of the cheese and crackers, wander around and make conversation with other guests. Simply moving to another part of the room will also make it that much harder to mindlessly reach for munchables.
6. Alternate booze with water.
File this under “Cliched for a Reason.” You’re probably sick of hearing it, but alternating alcoholic drinks with water or club soda is one of the best ways to avoid a hangover and keeping calories in check. If you’re worried about people giving you a hard time about not drinking, don’t be—chances are nobody will even notice what’s in your glass.
7. Give yourself permission to stick to be successful.
Just because the people you’re with are loading up on foods and drinks you’re trying to limit doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Own your choices and feel good about doing what works for you. That said, if you do dip into the fondue pot, don’t beat up on yourself. You haven’t blown the whole season. Your next meal or workout is a fresh start.
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life and a balanced relationship with food. For those in need of some healthy-eating inspiration, Jess created five day's worth of delicious make-ahead lunches to make it even easier to eat well on a busy day. For more information on Jess, check out her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Main Photo Credit: rawpixel.com/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Syda Productions/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: g-stockstudio/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Daxiao Productions/shutterstock.com