The holiday season is quickly approaching and many find themselves filling up their calendar with holiday parties, which means they may also be filling up their bellies a bit too much. Being surrounded by lots of food and drinks in social situations can be worrisome, especially for someone who is trying to lose or maintain their weight. It’s best not to avoid the party (or parties for most) altogether, but to treat it as a challenge to overcome. Having a game plan prior to attending a holiday party is extremely important because it will help keep you mindful of your eating habits.
With knowing difficult healthy eating during the holidays can be, I asked a bunch of fellow Registered Dietitians (aka Nutrition Experts) for their tips on how to make healthy choices at holiday parties.
“Focus on greens (start off the night with veggies appetizers/salad) and make sure you’re adequately hydrated before going into the holiday event! As this can all help prevent overeating at the holiday meal! “ – Yasi Ansari, MS, RD
“Have a healthy snack before you go to curb your appetite. Fill up 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables.” – Janet Brancato, MS, RDN
“Consider a party is more about enjoying talking to people, getting to know them and enjoying food thoughtfully, not just eating habitually or nervously to fill the time.” – Michele Redmond, RD
“Avoid filling up on foods that you aren’t truly excited about and opt for fully enjoying your favorites instead.” – Chelsea Jackle, MS, RD
“Intermittent fasting. Lean protein and fiberous veggies. Come into dinner with a buffer of carbs and fats to play with but consume enough protein and fiber to stay satiated.” – Jordan Gross, RD
“Survey the buffet or food table first to see what’s available then fill your plate with what you want e.g. you want that stuffing- go for it, and maybe don’t eat just the plain old bun.” – Allegra Gast, RD
“If you want to eat it, eat it – but don’t overdo it”- Morgan Speik, RD
“Before the party, don’t skip meals and snacks to save for party calories. Doing so will only set you up for overeating. Do get in an exercise session to help you be more in-tune with your body and hunger. At the party, try to eat off of a plate and sitting down. This will help you be aware of how much you actually are eating.” – Alyssa Ashmore, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD
“If you try something and don’t love it, there is no rule that says you have to finish it. If you’re afraid to offend the chef, you can say you are too full to eat another bite.” – Kacie Barnes, MCN, RDN
“If you’re at a holiday party with a lot of appetizers, I tell my clients they can eat whichever ones they want, but they all have to fit on one cocktail napkin or appetizer plate. Because they only have a limited amount of space, it forces them to think about which foods they really want while not feeling as though they are depriving themselves.” – Chloe Schweinshaut, RD, LDN
“Eat a high fiber, high protein meal before you go such as oatmeal with walnuts. It will curb “starving Marvin” from making bad food choices!” – Jennifer O. Barr, MPH, RDN, LDN
“Don’t stress out about overeating during the holidays. Enjoy the many flavors, the company, the music, but most importantly enjoy yourself. Remember everyday isn’t a holiday, but always get back on track afterwards.” – Jaymar Saniatan, RD
“Prepare the day of the party by eating a breakfast and lunch that will keep you satisfied, so that you don’t arrive at the party hungry! Focus on getting in extra protein, fiber, and healthy fats. A veggie omelette with some avocado is a great option for breakfast, and a big salad with fish or meat and a dressing made with olive oil and sprinkled with nuts would make an ideal lunch. Then at the party, fill your plate with veggies and protein first (crudite, shrimp cocktail), before hitting the treats. Then, take only the foods that you know are “worth it,” and enjoy every bite! Another note: those foods made with love are always worth it…Grandma will always remember that you took a bite of her special pecan pie, but it’s not going to have a lasting impact on your health goals.” – Melissa Groves, RDN, LD
“The holidays are all about enjoying time with people we may not get to see often and food can certainly be an extension of that enjoyment in a balanced way. Instead of stressing over how to eat at holiday parties, make the choice to have the foods you genuinely love or want to try, savor and enjoy them and see what it feels like to eat until satisfied instead of uncomfortably full most of the time.” – Gretchen Zimmermann, RD, CNSC
“Wear snug pants, skirt or dress. It will be a constant reminder to eat moderately!” – Christine Palumbo, RD.
“Eat foods you enjoy in satisfying amounts all year round. Then the holidays won’t be much different than normal. And if you happen to get overfull, recognize it’s normal to eat a little bit more of food you rarely get, it’s just one meal, don’t sweat it and trust your body to kick in it’s natural self regulation.” – Adina Pearson, RD
“Don’t skip meals in attempt to “save” calories for the big meal/party! This will leave you overly hungry and more likely to overeat (and be cranky!).” – Erin Burke, MS, RDN, LDN
“Beware of the caloric punch resulting from alcoholic beverages (especially mixed sugary drinks such as Cosmos) AND the lowering of inhibitions, likely to lead to eating more food than intended.” – Adrienne Raimo, Integrative and Functional Dietitian
“Approach the holidays with gratitude and kindness. With food everywhere overeating is bound to happen and it’s not a big deal. It if becomes habitual, however, then this is an opportunity to assess your habits and get curious about what leads to overeating, but without judgement; what emotions are you experiencing; how does it feel in your body. Without help and practice, you may not stop overeating, but you can start to become more aware of your habit loops, and awareness is always the first step to change.”
– Basheerah Enahora, RDN, LDN, MS, MBA
I hope these tips help you with eating healthy this holiday season! Don’t forget to click the name of the RD to access their blogs for more healthy eating advice!