How To Come Out Victorious at Holiday Parties 

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Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 7.41.16 PMThe holiday season is here!.  And with it comes to holiday parties and events —those wondrous and festive times to enjoy friends, loved ones and socialize with co-worker.  It’s just not surprising to see our calendars filling up throughout November into December and even extending well into January with dinners, parties and events where yummy foods and treats will be front and center.

And for all of us who are watching our weight, holiday events can all too often serve up a real tantalizing threat to shatter the progress we have made with our healthy goals. It can even leave us with an unwanted memento of a few extra pounds that we carry in to our new year.  Bah-Humbug!

Now is the time to take action and plan as we may be tempted to think, “Oh, I will get rid of any added pounds after the first of the year”…but research shows that rarely ever happens. In fact, studies show the average American gains 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season — and, those extra pounds are more likely to become permanent baggage.  Let’s take a look at some strategies to balance enjoying the festivities while fending off unwanted weight gain.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: To Enjoy Holiday Party Festivities Without Packing on the Pounds

Never go to a party hungry

This is a recipe for disaster. When we are hungry the body’s hormone, ghrelin, surges and can make us ravenous. We are more likely to grab and eat high calorie, high fat, and high salt foods to quench our hunger. Having a light snack can tame our cravings.  And when we choose our pre-party snack, be strategic. Avoid simple, sugary foods that are quickly digested and will leave us hungry soon after. Snacks that are rich in protein (slice of turkey, non-fat yogurt, cheese) and fiber (fruit, veggies, nuts) will leave us feeling full longer, a term called satiated. 

Bring a healthy dish

Going to a holiday party when watching your weight, may seem like playing Russian Roulette. Instead of having selections only of high-calorie-laden (often too with higher sodium, fats and sugar) foods or treats, consider bringing a healthy dish as a backup plan. Other partygoers are bound to appreciate, and benefit from, your efforts!

Appetizers

Snacking at a holiday party can be like walking through a field of land mines—it’s possible, but there is danger everywhere! Many favorite appetizers are laden with calories, fat, and salt. Be cautious with creamy dips such as spinach artichoke, sliders (on average one slider with cheese and sauce contains 400 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 700 mg of sodium), chicken wings and their tasty sidekick, ranch sauce, and potato chips.

The key to success may be coming up with a battle plan. Before you go in, decide if you will be indulging in some not-so-good-for-you appetizers but make sure that you limit your portion size. Or decide if you will be sticking with healthy options such as fruit and veggies. 

Socialize more and snack less

Expect food, lots of it, and people you may not see often. Take the time to talk to and catch up with friends, loved ones, and co-workers. And do so away from the food area where you may be tempted to graze while catching up and enjoying your conversation.

Watch out for calories in alcohol

A glass of wine contains approximately 125 calories, a martini 130 calories, and a beer 153 calories. And many holiday parties offer the seasonal treat of eggnog. One cup of rum eggnog contains nearly 400 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 37 grams of carbohydrates! Additionally, alcohol lowers your inhibitions making you less likely to steer clear of calorie traps or avoid overeating.

Not everything is meant for our consumption

Holiday parties may mimic a buffet with the variety of foods available to us. But variety can be a disaster waiting to happen to our diets. Remind ourselves that it is not necessary to sample each and every dish.

Portion control

The holidays do come around once a year and it would be unfair not to indulge, a little bit.  “Sample” those fun holiday delights so you do not feel deprived. That includes the creamy mashed potatoes, fried turkey, and grandma’s pecan pie that she spent hours making. However, rely on healthy choices such as salads, veggies, and lean meats to fill you up. Consider using a smaller plate so there is less room to keep piling on the food and it appears that there is more. 

Friendly reminders

Interventions such as getting emails, texts, or phone calls can remind us to stay on track with eating healthy during the busy holiday season and when we are at parties. Along with some great apps to help us track, some ideas include putting it on our calendars, setting our smart phone alarm clocks, sending automated daily emails to ourselves and loved ones, leaving notes around the home with encouraging messages, and pairing up with a buddy to send and receive motivational reminders.

Take your time

It takes our body 20 minutes to realize that we are full.  During that lag time, we may become victim to overindulgence and the accumulation of lots of extra calories and fat. To prevent this, eat slowly and enjoy our food’s aroma and taste. 

Commit now to a holiday in which you manage not to gain any weight, before it’s time to resolve to lose all that weight (and so much more) again. At our holiday events, let’s eat strategically by opting for low calorie protein rich food and we will avoid rapid weight gain this holiday season.

There is tons of festivities and beautiful memories to be had at holiday parties. Strategic planning can help us make wise choices without losing out on the cheer.  Happy holidays – enjoy!!

Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures. 

She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.