Have you found yourself doing well living a healthy lifestyle, only to get thrown off your game by temptations during get-togethers? You are not alone. Here are 12 healthier choices to avoid gaining weight during parties.
As part of the wellness class I am taking at work, we talked about planning for obstacles and overcoming challenges. When you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle, one of the biggest obstacles we face is how to plan for social situations during which eating is a large part of the celebration.
Here are some tips I learned about how we can plan in advance to have healthier celebrations and avoid gaining weight.
1. Have a Healthy Snack Before the Party
Showing up hungry is a sure-fire way to overindulge at a party. Before you arrive, have a healthy but filling snack.
I find that eating 1 serving of nuts or almonds is enough to keep me full for hours.
2. Keep a Glass in Your Hand
Water will help keep you full, and your hands and mouth occupied. Additionally, people will be less likely to offer you a high-calorie alcoholic beverage if they already see you with a drink.
Choose water, coffee, tea, or other low-calorie drinks (preferably that don’t have artificial sweeteners) over high-calorie drinks.
If you want to get fancy, you can bring some fruit-infused water for added taste or use frozen fruit (e.g., grapes, berries) in place of ice cubes for fun.
3. Stay Away From the Food
If you stand by the buffet or even a tray of food, you are likely to find yourself grazing. Instead, find a place to socialize away from temptation. Push the appetizers out of arm’s reach.
Better yet, position yourself so that you are not looking at food.
4. Choose the Smallest Plate
Adults eat 92% of the food on our plate regardless of the size of the plate. Rather than serving yourself on a dinner plate, choose a salad or dessert plate. This is a good tip to follow at home, too.
5. Take a Break Between Servings
Savor the flavor. Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly, and take a break between servings.
It takes approximately 20 minutes for signals to reach our brain to let us know we are full. Wait at least this long, then if you’re still hungry go back for more.
6. “Sample” High-Calorie Foods
Fill your plate with the healthiest, lower-calorie choices. Arrive with the mindset that you will taste but politely decline more of the higher-calorie foods and desserts.
Just this past weekend I was at a family get-together. I remembered ChooseMyPlate.gov and decided to fill half my plate with the delicious salad first. With the remaining space on my plate, I added a small portion of the cheesy-pasta dish. At the end of the meal I was full, satisfied, and still sampled everything I wanted.
7. Bring Your Own Dish
To ensure there’s a healthy choice that you enjoy, bring it yourself.
My family usually brings the potato dish for holiday meals. In the past we have made mashed potatoes or au gratin potatoes, both of which are high in calories from the cream, milk, and/or cheese.
This year, we have been experimenting with a recipe for potato salad using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Not only is it much lower in calories than any of our other potato dishes, it’s also a cold dish. This means that instead of rushing to make it while also getting our three kids dressed so it will be warm for the party, we can make it the day before. Less stress, less mess, less calories.
8. Consider Hosting
True, hosting can come with its own stressors. But it can also give you the most control over the menu. This is one reason why I wanted to host Christmas dinner. I wanted to have plenty of healthy vegetarian options my family and I could enjoy, while also offering meat options for the carnivores in the extended family.
9. Focus on the Fun
My husband’s family has a tradition of playing cards during get-togethers. My mother loves playing board games. My sister enjoys setting up an activity for the kids. And there’s always someone with whom I’m looking forward to talking.
By focusing on the social aspect, we can keep our mouths and minds occupied without food.
10. Suggest a Healthy Activity
A friend told me about her family’s tradition of doing something physical together every holiday morning. Before getting together with the extended family, she her husband and kids go on a bicycle ride, play basketball, or do some other activity.
I loved this idea! It’s what inspired me to sign up for a 5K run on Mother’s Day. My husband, oldest son, and I will all run. My mother, sister, niece, and aunt will walk with the younger kids in strollers.
How fun to have suggested a family event that wasn’t centered around food. Yes, we will eat after the run, but at least we will have given our metabolisms a jump-start.
There are so many fond memories from my childhood when my family would go for a walk together after holiday dinners. I plan to bring this tradition back so that my kids have the same memories.
11. Keep Sweets Out of The House
I have three children. There have been multiple occasions during which I have looked into our pantry to find boxes of junk food that I purposely avoid feeding to my children. Sometimes well-meaning friends and family sneak it into our bags when we leave their house. Other times they bring it over and leave it at my place unbeknownst to me (but well beknown to my children).
For the past hour my child has been screaming and demanding a lollipop – a box of which mysteriously showed up in my pantry. After I made it abundantly clear that she will not be getting a lollipop, she came back and politely asked if she could have some grapes.
Let family and friends know that the healthy choices you are making are also healthy for your kids.
As part of my efforts for my family to live a healthy life, sweets are reserved for occasional treats outside the house.
12. Decline Leftovers
If you are hosting the party, while you are cleaning up you can start preparing containers for your guests to take home the leftovers.
If you are a guest, you can try to politely decline taking leftovers. This can be hard when family is involved. In that case, just because you take them doesn’t mean you have to eat them.
Consider offering your leftovers to a neighbor or friend. Depending on the food, you may also consider bringing it into work to share with your colleagues.
I have been doing so well managing my weight and making healthy choices at home. But when there’s a party, holiday, restaurant, or pizza involved I find myself going up a pound or two the next day. This year, I am determined to change that. I’m finding that it is possible to have fun and enjoy a good meal while also making healthier choices.
What tips do you have for avoiding weight gain during parties?