Don’t skip breakfast and lunch-—The idea that skipping meals to save calories during the day so you can binge guilt-free is a myth. You arrive starving, eat too much, too fast, and wind up feeling sick. Eat a few small snacks over the course of the day, including healthy fats and proteins, so you can make rational choices at the dinner or party.
Don’t go out with an empty stomach—Eating a snack or even a small meal before you go to a party helps take the edge off your appetite so you don’t have to compromise your meal plan when there may not be the healthiest choices available. Have a few, select treats, but don’t overindulge.
Stay hydrated—Drink a lot of water during the day. Hydration helps contribute to feelings of satiety and also prevents bloating when eating prepared foods that often have higher sodium content.
Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach—The effects of alcohol hit harder and faster on an empty stomach and can lead to poor decision making at the buffet table. It is also full of empty calories, so make sure you alternate one large glass of water with every alcoholic beverage you have. This will help keep you hydrated, which will help stave off the day-after headache.
Pile up on veggies and fruit—You can count on a veggie tray to appear on any given appetizer or buffet table, so stock up there instead of with the chips and fried foods. We’re not saying don’t have any, just choose one or two of the calorie-laden snacks and then limit your intake. At the dinner table, take the sides first, and try to choose the more basic offerings, not the ones full of cream or cheese. Half your plate should be veggies. For dessert, opt for fresh fruit first, and then choose the one sweet that will satisfy your craving the best. You don’t have to miss out; you just need to make choices.
Take a break before going back for seconds—It takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognize satiety, the feeling of being full. Eat until you are satisfied, not full. If you eat until you’re full, you will feel bloated and uncomfortably stuffed. Sit back, take a break and enjoy some conversation for 20 minutes. You may not need that second plate.
Contribute a few healthy dishes of your own to the meal or buffet table—Offer to make and bring a few dishes, even if it is not a potluck. Most people appreciate having someone help out with the dinner, and you know there will be something to eat that is within your meal plan.
Say “no, thank you” when necessary—Don’t feel guilty about saying no to food when it is offered. There are many reasons people don’t want to eat something—taste preferences, food allergies or sensitivities, personal practices (vegetarian, vegan), etc—the fact that it no longer fits into your dietary plan is perfectly reasonable.
Eat mindfully—Don’t just pile on the food and scarf it down. Make your choices thoughtfully, you don’t have to eat some of everything. Choose what will make you the most satisfied. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite. Appreciate and acknowledge the time it took to make the meal. Give the food time to reach your stomach and for your brain the react to satiety.
Pay attention to what really matters—In the end, the gathering isn’t about the food, it’s about the people you are sharing it with. Spend time appreciating your friends and family, catching up, reminiscing, and making plans. The food is just a bonus.
Keeping all these pointers in mind will help you navigate the holiday party season, but remember, if you do indulge, there is always BONUS RULE 11: Don’t feel guilty! Every day is a fresh start with new choices. Enjoy the holidays, everyone!