12 Strategies for Healthy Holiday Eating

‘Tis the season to come up with smarter healthy-eating strategies. Whether you’re actively counting calories and watching your waist or not, employ these 12 tips and come away from the holiday season with joy – not guilt.

1. Eat Before You Party

Arrive at a party satisfied and not starving. Enjoy a small snack of nuts, string cheese or a few whole grain crackers before you leave. Holiday buffets have so many options that if you go in hungry, you’re doomed!

2. Dress for Success

That “expandable” holiday pantsuit you thought worked well last year spells trouble at the buffet table. It will allow you to eat tons of food without feeling any discomfort. You WANT to be able to feel it when you’ve gone too far. So keep your pants or skirt on the tighter side. Belts work nicely, too.

3. Be a Dream Guest

Help your host pass appetizers around or help to serve drinks. This will allow you to be involved with everyone, without sitting around and eating. Your host will think you’re great, and you’ll stay true to your diet plan. Everyone wins!

4. Make Yours a Spritzer

Consuming too much alcohol is a sure-fire way to lose control on the dance floor and the buffet table.
Try mixing 2 ounces of wine with seltzer water (flavored or plain) or a little cranberry juice for a wine spritzer. You’ll be able to draw your drinks out throughout the night and keep your head. And remember that many holiday drinks are loaded with calories:

  • Eggnog = 350 calories for 1 cup BEFORE adding alcohol
  • Vodka on the rocks = 96 calories for 1.5 ounces
  • Martini = 160 calories for 4 ounces
  • Wine = 100 calories for 5 ounces
  • Christmas ale = 225 calories per bottle

Try these skinny holiday cocktails.

5. Be Last in the Buffet Line

The buffet or appetizer table looks great when you’re the first man to it. But after a lot of people have gone through, the food doesn’t look quite as appealing. Imagine potatoes au gratin – that crusty topping will be gone by the time you see it if you wait. So adopt a holding pattern. Never underestimate the visual power of food.

6. Make One Trip – With One Plate

Have you ever seen the guy who creates a tower of his food on the plate? Don’t be that guy. Choose a salad plate (ask for one if you don’t see one) and make a “no-stacking” rule. This will help you control your portions. Forget about a second trip to the buffet: One trip, one plate, no tower.

7. Be Mindful at Mealtime

Distractions during meals usually add up to MORE eating. Take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table. Then take a second to look at every bite of food before you eat it. Keep a mental checklist count the pieces of food on your plate and make it a goal to not go above a certain number. If you’ve accepted every appetizer that’s been passed, your eyes are telling you that you need more food not your brain.

8. Take the Focus off Food

Friends and conversation are what holiday parties are all about anyway, right? Enjoy. But watch the dips and sauces while you’re chatting. They add the most calories and fat to buffet tables. It’s easy to dip a carrot into 100 worthless calories of ranch dressing mid-conversation.

9. Chew on This

Avoid “picking” at the table after you’re full by bringing gum to the party. After you’ve had an appropriate amount to eat, chew a stick of gum. It will keep you from eating on autopilot.

10. Use the Napkin Test

Whether it’s an appetizer or dessert, if the food leaves an oil mark on a napkin, leave it on the table. Although some super-healthy fats may lead to a healthier you (think olive oil, flax seeds, peanuts, etc.), you can be pretty certain that those oils aren’t in the appetizer you’re about to put into your mouth. Chances are the fats you’ll ingest with holiday goodies are trans and saturated, and include butter and partially hydrogenated oils. If food leaves a stain on your napkin, it will most likely leave one on your heart, too!

11. Keep It Wholesome

Stick with whole foods make it a goal to eat “closer to the farm” to avoid highly processed foods. Make a conscious effort to balance your plate with plenty of fruits and veggies – keep your plate “bright.” And if you really want to adopt a holiday challenge this year, try going vegetarian!

12. Leave Leftovers Alone

If a pushy host insists that you take home the rest of the crescent-roll-pastry-brie-wheel, come up with a convenient excuse about a family member having an allergy. Or take it, and then throw it in a dumpster before you get home. Above all, don’t let unhealthy leftovers into your house. If you know they’re only going to serve fats and carbs, bring a healthier dish to the party then you’ll also have a great leftover to take home.