By Adam Pope
As the holiday season gets into full swing, many people will be hitting the holiday party circuit. Lavish get-togethers with delicious treats by the sleigh-full will abound, but will that cause your waistline to bulge as well?
University of Alabama at Birmingham registered dietitian Tara Harman, M.S., RDN, provides these tips to help you stay aware all season long.
Harman says there are five main things you can do to become a healthy holiday party pro:
Get a bird’s-eye view
Before diving in to a buffet or food spread at your next holiday gathering, look around to see what all of your options are. Then, start filling your plate with the healthier options available (vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains). This will ensure you are filling most of your plate with healthier, nutrient-rich options and leaving less room for smaller portions of those nutrient-poor treats.
Avoid loitering at the appetizer table
Instead, make yourself a small plate of the appetizers you would like to try and move away from the table. You are more likely to overconsume if you hover by the spread of food and graze throughout the social gathering.
Fill half your plate with vegetables
Vegetables are packed with nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. Fiber, in particular, helps you to feel the sensation of fullness sooner and for longer periods of time. If you pack half of your dinner plate with fiber-packed vegetables, you are less likely to overconsume other, less nutritious foods.
Bring your own dish
Not sure what the holiday party spread will offer? Why not bring your own healthy dish so you know at least one option that you can fill half your plate with.
Feast on good company
Holiday parties may seem as though they are all about the food, but this time of year is meant to be a time to gather and connect with others. So focus the majority of your time at holiday gatherings engaging in conversation with your loved ones and those you do not get to interact with often.
Harman, who serves as an instructor and registered dietitian with the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences, adds that between all of the holiday feasts, parties and presents, this time of year brings a lot of shopping, which can present its own obstacles to healthy eating.
“Since you can expect to spend more time in your car and the stores, it’s wise to pack some snacks for this time,” she said. “If you’re only planning to go to a couple of stores — less than three hours of shopping — I recommend that you pack a water bottle and a healthy snack, such as a small bag of almonds, an apple or a couple of hardboiled eggs.”
She says this can help satisfy any hunger cravings you can get while shopping until you can make a healthy meal once back at home.
“If you’re going to be spending a whole day shopping, then in addition to packing some snacks, plan where and when your lunch will be before you hit the road,” she added. “This can help you to avoid last-minute, hunger-induced decisions, which tend to be very unhealthy.”
Finally, Harman says one way to stay active is to turn social gatherings into active gatherings.
“Meet friends at a new fitness class instead of for happy hour,” she said. “Take a walking lunch with a colleague, or get your whole family involved in a local 5K fun run or walk. You’ll still be enjoying quality time with those closest to you and will be staying healthy together.”