Survival Guide

10 tips for eating at holiday parties

Heather Pierce

Heather Pierce

Between last week’s Thanksgiving festivities and the holiday parties already marked on the calendar for the next three weeks, many Americans worry about tipping the scales on New Year’s Day - and with good reason. It’s not uncommon for someone to gain 5 pounds during the holidays, and when it comes to health, that extra weight could mean trouble managing diabetes and blood pressure.

While research shows that most of us typically gain only 1 or 2 pounds during the holidays, that adds up over the years, and it’s certainly better to try to avoid than try to lose later.

Here are 10 tips to help you survive the holiday parties of 2008.

1. Don’t go to parties ravenous. If you’re planning to attend an evening party, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch and perhaps a snack before you go. The biggest mistake we make is saving our calories all day then overindulging when we arrive. Try to avoid being too hungry or too full.

2. Beware of appetizers. Many are fried or loaded with cheese and high-fat meats. There’s nothing wrong with having a little, but be aware of some of the high-calorie options including mini quiches, spring rolls and sausage balls. Yes, they are small, but just one of each item will be about 300 calories and 18 grams of fat. They are calorie-dense, so make sure half of your plate is filled with lower-calorie veggies or fruit.

3. Take a healthy dish. Find inspiration or a new holiday recipe at

4. Share food gifts. If you are blessed with many edible holiday treats, share them with others.

5. Take conversation away from the food table. Talking is a good way to keep occupied at a party, but not when you are noshing on food at the same time.

6. Limit alcohol, and choose beverages wisely. Eggnog, hot chocolate and mixed alcoholic drinks could be up to 350 calories each. Go from naughty to nice by choosing a 4-ounce glass of red wine or champagne (120 calories) or a 1-1/2-ounce vodka or rum in a diet soda (96 calories). When no substitutes are available, think smaller servings. For example, going from 1 cup to 1/2-cup eggnog will save 180 calories.

7. Satisfy the sweet tooth, but dodge excess fat and calories. Gingerbread, candy canes and fruit are good alternatives to rich, heavy desserts. Of course, when you do have the typical cookies, cakes and pies, have a small serving and savor it.

8. Be assertive. There’s no reason to be pressured into eating if you aren’t hungry or don’t like something. Just say, “No thank you.”

9. Maintain. Don’t gain. Weigh weekly to keep in check with changes. Decreasing self-weighing frequency is associated with greater weight gains.

10. Include physical activity every day. It’s challenging not to overeat during the holidays, but it’s also easy to begin moving more and burning extra calories. If you try to make exercise a part of your day now, come January, it will already be a habit.

Heather Pierce is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center and the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook.

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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