The holiday season is a time of celebration, family gatherings, and, of course, holiday parties. While it’s often easy to over-indulge in festive treats and decadent dishes, it’s also possible to maintain a commitment to health. With a little planning and some mindful choices, you can enjoy the festivities while keeping your nutrition on track. We want you to maximize holiday fun and feel good about the decisions you make throughout the season.

Here are a few strategies from our dietitians and health coaches to help you balance celebration and wellbeing at upcoming holiday parties.

Plan Ahead

Holiday budgets are a great idea. Whether we are budgeting finances or calories, it is helpful to understand reasonable limits. Know what a healthy amount of food and drink should be for a person of your size and stature and keep that in mind as you plan for the evening.

If you are going to a party filled with tempting treats, anticipate the challenges (and potential solutions) before leaving. Consider having a nutritious snack or light meal prior to departing, so you don’t arrive super hungry. Also remember that dehydration can masquerade as hunger, so try to arrive well-hydrated.

Once you enter the party, hold off on racing to the buffet. Take time to socialize and enjoy the gathering. Grab a low-calorie beverage and consider your plan to balance indulgence and self-control throughout the evening.

Survey the Spread and Practice Mindful Eating

Before you enter the buffet line, evaluate the options and work to build a plate that is satisfying and balanced. Try to include vegetables and whole grains, if available. Look for foods that are baked, steamed, or roasted, rather than fried. Don’t forget to include your favorites but do so in responsible portions.

Once you’ve filled your plate with delicious food, take time to savor it. Eat slowly and enjoy the taste, texture, and temperature of your favorite dishes. Put your fork down between bites and engage in conversation during the meal. Wait at least 20 minutes before considering desert or seconds.

Watch Liquid Calories

For many people, holiday parties include traditional drinks and cocktails. Be aware that these drinks are often high in calories and sugar. Most holiday cocktails, hot chocolate, or eggnog will add over 200 calories per serving to the evening. Furthermore, alcohol reduces our ability to control urges and impulses, making responsible eating (and behavior) a bit more difficult. Mix in a glass or two of coffee, tea, or sparking water between spiritous refreshments to help you maintain control and reduce calorie intake.

Bring a Healthy Dish

If you’re attending a potluck-style party, consider bringing a healthy dish to share. Elevate the nutritional value of your dishes by adding fruits and vegetables. Add diced vegetables to sauces, casseroles, and stir-fries for a delightful burst of flavor and texture. Vegetables like cauliflower and squash make creamy and nutritious soups.  The versatility of fruits and vegetables allows you to experiment with different combinations, making your dishes nutritious, colorful, and exciting.

Exercise is Key

Remember that regular exercise is essential to good physical and mental health. Consistent, vigorous exercise increases your metabolism substantially. Individual calorie budgets are determined by many factors, but the most significant factor under your control is the amount of activity included in your day. If you plan on eating more calories during the holiday season, or even if you don’t, plan on burning a few more at the gym.

Practice Self-Forgiveness

Finally, please consider that the holiday season is about being thankful, connecting with friends and loved ones, and practicing compassion. If you find yourself indulging a bit more than you planned, practice self-kindness and focus on making healthier choices moving forward.

Prioritize your choices, stay mindful of your portions, and enjoy festivities in a healthy, balanced way. With the right mindset and a few simple strategies, you can savor the holidays and continue a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

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