It’s back! the season for exchanging gifts, baking cookies, and receiving invitations to various holiday parties. While these get-togethers are meant to gather friends and loved ones for some festive visiting, the typical indulgent fare that frequents such events often leaves partygoers feeling guilty about overindulging and can put your nutrition goals on the back burner. Here are some tools to help get you through the fun but often over indulgent season. Here are my Top 5 Party Survival Tips for enjoying the holiday party season without wrecking havoc on your nutrition
Have a Plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This holds true for your health during the holiday season. Before going out to the party have a nutritious meal or snack. Avoid going to the party hungry! Instead of “saving up” before going to a party, keep the rest of the day’s food selections healthier. Select foods that are higher in fibre such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods can provide bulk and a feeling of fullness and decreasing the temptation to over-eat at the party. Avoid skipping meals. Starving yourself before a party or get-together increases the odds that you will overeat when the festivities begin as you will be too hungry to make a good choice. As part of the plan, give yourself permission to taste the holiday treats, but plan to practice portion control. If you are the host/hostess plan prepare some healthier alternatives amongst the holiday treats. If you are taking something to a potluck or party, try a nutritious appetizer such as a plate of raw veggies with light dip, a fresh fruit platter, hummus and whole wheat pita, or healthy holiday nuts (see Rosemary nuts recipe below).
Remind yourself that prevention is easier than trying to “diet” and exercise away extra pound after the fact. Be aware of All or None thinking such as thinking that all is lost if you decide to indulge. If you get off track one day, hop back on the next day without feeling the guilt. Check in to see if you are practicing mindful eating – “Am I eating because I am stressed, lonely or bored rather than because I am truly hungry?” Assessing the reasons why are you are eating will help you back away from the food table at a party. This takes practice!
Mingle more than you Munch! – Sit among friends, not food.
Remember, holiday parties are about spending quality time with others, laughter, and giving thanks. While I truly believe that food is much more than nourishment for the body, it plays a role in our emotional and social health, try not to let this get out of balance. Choosing to visit with friends around a cozy fire or chat with friends away from the food table will help avoiding the temptation to “chat and eat”. Another idea is to start a new holiday tradition that involves an activity that does not emphasize food. Some examples may include: snowshoeing, sledding, skating, attending craft sales, or an evening walk to enjoy the Christmas lights.
Move your Body
Don’t neglect your exercise program over the holidays! At least get out and do plenty of walking if you simply can’t adhere to your normal routine. Try exercising first thing in the morning -sometimes as the day goes on it becomes harder and harder to squeeze exercise in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. When shopping, park far from the store entrances and walk an extra two laps around the block or mall when finished.
Think before you Sip
It’s super easy to add an extra 800 calories to your day when it involves sipping on alcohol, punches and holiday ciders. For example, A 6 oz. glass of rum and eggnog can have ~320 calories. Also, having too much alcohol is a surefire way to lose control at the buffet table. Focus on eating your calories at holiday parties, not drinking them. Consider sipping on a spritzer by diluting your wine or other alcoholic beverage with sparkling water and a splash of cranberry juice.
Finally, be realistic when it comes to managing your weight over the holidays. Many people gain a few pounds over the holiday season. It’s wise and realistic to choose to maintain your weight over the holidays than to try and lose weight.
Rosemary Nut Recipe
Nuts make a nice holiday treat—or gift—but often come packaged with chocolate or added sugar. Here’s a tasty recipe for holiday nuts, that combines fresh rosemary needles with cayenne, brown sugar, sea salt, and a little bit of butter. These tasty nuts make a great holiday snack.
Serves 28 to 30 portions (1/4 cup portions)
2 lbs assorted nuts, roasted (not salted)
4 Tbsp. fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 1/3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/3 Tbsp. kosher or sea salt
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Pour nuts one-layer thick on baking sheet and toast in 350 oven for 14 minutes.
Mix all other ingredients into the melted butter in a bowl big enough to hold the nuts, and keep warm. Nuts should also be warm when they are added to the butter mixture. Gently re-heat either one if they cool before combining.
Pour warm nuts into the bowl and with two wooden spoons, mix thoroughly, coating nuts with the butter. Let the nuts dry and cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.
Nutrition Profile: Calories: 290; Fat: 16 g; Sat Fat: 2.5 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 260 mg; Carbs: 7 g; Fiber: 3 g; Protein: 5 g
Recipe created by Chef Elizabeth Wiley