Holiday party season can be bittersweet for anyone trying to keep their weight in check. While it’s a joyous time and an amazing opportunity to connect with friends, colleagues and loved ones, holiday parties are rife with delicious temptations that could lead to feelings of guilt if you overindulge, feelings of deprivation if you don’t allow yourself some leeway or simply additional anxiety nobody needs this time of year.
Between the open bars, dessert buffets and restaurant-catered meals, it can feel as if there’s no choice but to skip out on the fun and RSVP “no” if staying on track is a priority.
In fact, holiday food and beverage stress is so common nutrition experts have solutions ready for it. Here, find five of their best strategies for staying social while prioritizing your goals:
HAVE AN ALCOHOL PLAN
“A few drinks can start a spiral of events that lead to more and more calories,” notes Scott Baptie, a sports nutritionist based in the UK. In addition to the calories from alcohol, if you get buzzed, you’re more likely to make less-nutritious food decisions, whether it’s overeating at the event or grabbing a pizza on the way home.That’s why going into a holiday gathering with an idea of what and how much you’re going to drink is key.
“Lower-calorie drinks like gin or vodka with bubbly water are the least detrimental choices,” says Baptie. “And if you’re worried about peer-pressure, stick with clear beverages. That way, you can switch to seltzer on ice and it will look the same.” Consider adding a slice of lemon or lime for more flavor.
TRY THE THREE-BITE STRATEGY
“Whether you’re at a holiday cookie swap or a cocktail party, there’s no need to feel deprived if your favorite dessert or the cheese plate is calling your name,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RD, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.” She recommends enjoying three decadent bites guilt-free. “After three bites, the novelty wears off and you can sample a few treats without overdoing it.”
TRY THE “TWO-FROM-FOUR” METHOD
This one works particularly well if you’re at a restaurant, so keep it in mind for any celebratory dinners you have coming up. Here’s how it works: “Your four choices are a starter, main course, dessert and an alcoholic drink,” explains Baptie. Two-from-four essentially means you can pick any two, and enjoy them to the fullest. “It’s a simple way to keep your calories in check while still being social.”
RESET YOUR PALATE
Once you’re in a pattern of eating, drinking and revelry, it can be tough to stop the momentum. “Bring gum, mints or a disposable toothbrush with you,” suggests Harris-Pincus. “When you’re done eating and feel moderately full, step away and freshen your breath. It’s a fabulous deterrent from mindless eating.”
CHECK IN WITH YOUR MINDSET
Tempting treats are just one part of the holiday season. However, getting wrapped up in guilt over indulgences can lead to self-sabotage or even feeling like you want to give up on your healthy habits. “Instead of stressing over having a slice of pie, remind yourself of the other foods you had throughout the day that were more nutritious,” suggests Martha L. Lawder, RD. “Having good nutrition habits during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to be perfect all the time. It just means you need to make more nutritious choices than non-nutritious ones overall.”