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1. Get ready with a healthy snack.
One of the worst things you can do is show up to a party starving. You'll be left with no choice but to scarf down all kinds of calorie-rich food. Plan ahead by having a snack while you're putting on your party dress. Aim for something that contains fibre, protein and fat, which will keep you satiated longer. Think: an apple with peanut butter, a handful of nuts, or berries and yogurt. When you arrive feeling good, you'll be less vulnerable to the cheese tray.
2. Bring something healthy.
Not sure if your host will have anything on hand that will work for your healthy eating plan? Offer to give her a hand by bringing your own (healthy) dish. If you're heading to a sit-down dinner, try a salad with seasonal fruits and veggies, or a cauliflower puree (no one will know it's not mashed potatoes). And if you're headed to a cocktail party, offer to bring one of these appetizers with fewer than 55 calories in each serving.
3. Choose a glass of something bubbly.
You don't have to say no to a festive drink in order to stick to your diet goals; you just have to choose wisely. It turns out that Champagne and Prosecco have the fewest calories, coming in at around 90 calories a glass, a little less than a glass of wine, and way, way below that spiked eggnog. Luckily, Champagne is delicious, and the bubbles might help you feel more satiated. If there isn't any bubbly on hand, add some sparkling water to a small glass of white wine to make a light spritzer. And whatever you drink, try to stick to one or two glasses. After your inhibitions start to go, your willpower around the appetizers will go way downhill.
4. Get your veggies first.
Whether you're at a sit-down dinner or a cocktail party, there are usually vegetables on hand. Before you fill your plate with anything else, fill half of it with veggies. That way you'll ensure you're getting your required servings for that day, you'll get lots of satiating fibre for very few calories and you'll restrict how much of the richer food you can fit on your plate. Once you've got your veggies covered, you can select from the other dishes to fill the rest of your plate.
5. Evaluate your options.
Let's face it: It's nearly impossible to tell how much saturated fat, sugar and calories are in a dish by looking at it, and you don't always want to ask the host for a full ingredients list, but there are some pretty reliable ways to tell how (un)healthy a dish is. Watch out for red flags such as pastry-covered foods, creamy dips and soups, and anything deep-fried. Look for food that most closely resemble their original whole food form (think: roasted sweet potatoes versus sweet potato pie).
6. Stand far away from the buffet table.
For obvious reasons, staying parked next to the food all night is not a great plan. You'll end up ogling (and sampling) all the decadent treats as you mingle. Try to situate yourself with your back to the table. And if you're really tempted, do something else—like dancing or helping the host with dishes—to distract yourself from going back for more (and more).
7. Stay true to your taste buds.
â€¨It's the holidays. You can't forgo indulgences entirely. Your aunt's Christmas pudding or your sister's famous gingerbread are once-a-year treats, so go ahead and indulge. Just use restraint with your portion sizes. Split that piece of cake with your friend or partner, and limit yourself to one or two treats from the dessert table.
8. Don't stay too late.
The later you stay at a party, the more likely you are to keep drinking and keep snacking. Some soirees have late-night snacks, and going for round two at 11 p.m. can quickly undo your good eating behaviours. Even if you manage to restrain yourself while staying late, chances are you'll eat more the following day, because your lack of sleep can actually throw your hunger hormones out of whack.
Already overdid it at a holiday party? Get tips on how to detox your body after the holidays.