We’re getting into the heart of holiday party season as we countdown to the New Year. Certainly, it’s easier to eat well when you can buy or cook your meals. However, maneuvering the holiday party platters can be difficult if you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet regimen. You don’t want to offend your hosts, and obviously, you still want to enjoy the spread.
While you’re limited to the options set before you at the party, there are certain foods and visual cues to capitalize on that will help you get the most out of the holiday foods and treats from a nutritional standpoint. Hit the break for a few such tips to keep an expanding waistline in check…
1.) Avoid white dips. For the most part, white-colored dips contain sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and other fillers that will very quickly fill your tummy with empty calories and fat, with little in the way of nutrients to show for it. If you have a more health-conscious host who is using fat-free mayo or Greek yogurt as a dip base, then you can breathe a bit easier, but unless you know for sure, handle white dips with caution. Hummus is a great alternative, as it has protein and fiber from the chickpeas. Salsa is also a better choice, since it is usually fat-free and packs a lot of vegetables.
2.) Use veggies as dippers when possible. Your typical chips and crackers are also a source of insulin-spiking carbs and extraneous fat. Baked chips and whole wheat crackers are a step up, but even then, it’s very easy to go overboard and consume too many carbs for your own good, even if they are low-fat, high-fiber carbs. Your best option is to dip with veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, etc.), as they offer lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals without bogging your body down with extra carbs and calories.
3.) Step away from the sausage. A meat-and-cheese platter is a common addition to the holiday party spread. The best recommendation is to avoid that section altogether (those meats and cheeses are almost never of the healthier, reduced-fat sort), but if you’re like me, that’s much easier said than done. The biggest offender to your diet will be the processed, stuffed meats. Sausages, salamis, and the like are jam-packed with saturated fat and sodium, which will contribute to clogged arteries, increased cholesterol levels, and water bloat, not to mention backfat. Lean lunch meats are a much better choice (although they are still usually high in sodium, so don’t do too crazy).
4.) Drink water, not punch. Holiday punches abound at parties, and savvy hosts will have all sorts of ways to make that punch tantalizing to both your eyes and tastebuds. But punches are also an oh-so-easy way to tack on extra sugar or even alcohol to your consumption tally. Water is a calorie-free way to quench your thirst, and as we’ve mentioned before, it can even help burn extra calories.
5.) Save dessert for last, even if it’s first in line. Of all the food categories, dessert is the overall biggest loser when it comes to good nutrition. For a party, you’re much less likely to bite into whole-wheat, sugar-free versions of dessert favorites, as people want to impress their guests with flavor, rather than save their waistlines. To minimize the damage from downing holiday desserts, savor a little sweet something at the end, rather than piling on cookies, cakes, and candies when you first start eating.
There are lots of other tips to maintaining your diet at a party, so feel free to contribute with helpful comments!