A Nutrition Survival Guide to Healthy Holiday Partying

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Written by Nicole Springle, RD

With the holidays just around the corner you’re probably noticing your schedule is filling up quickly with parties and get-togethers full of friends, family and food! Holiday parties are a great time to enjoy some of your favourite dishes, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Keeping a few key tips in mind may help to balance the scale and still allow for you to enjoy the holiday season.

1. Forget avoiding meals to “save room for later”! Ever tried going all day without eating just to save up room (or calories) for a big dinner? This often backfires by leaving you so ravenous that you eat double the amount you would have originally. The solution? Eat sensibly throughout the day and plan a small snack a few hours before the party to prevent an insatiable appetite upon arrival.

2. Have a balanced pre-party snack. The most satisfying pre-party snacks are those that contain a mix of protein and carbohydrate. The protein keeps you full and the carbohydrate gives you an energy boost. About 1-2 hours before a party try any of the following balanced snacks: half a sandwich, a bowl of soup, an egg on toast or an apple dipped in peanut butter.

3. Prepare a plan. Healthy decisions start before you even enter the door. You won’t know exactly what will be served, but having an idea of the amount you would like to eat will help you to carefully plan your choices. Having a plan will also allow you to better pace yourself throughout the party. If you know you are going to feel like eating again before the night is over, take small portions to begin with and leave some room for later.

4. Go for the greens. Another great party tip is to start at the vegetable and fruit tray. Filling up your plate with veggies and fruit not only adds up the vitamins and antioxidants, it also helps to fill up your stomach making you feel more satisfied.

5. Eat what you love! Deprivation is always on the top of the list explaining why people fail to stay on a diet, and who wants to be on a diet during the holidays anyways?! The key to enjoying some of your favourite delicacies is simply moderation. Try to fill up the majority of your plate with the lighter options, but make sure to leave room for some treats. This allows you the best of both worlds.

6. Limit the libations. Alcoholic drinks can often pack as many calories as some savory desserts, so it is important to keep tabs on your alcohol intake. In addition, alcohol also increases your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, which means that the initial plan to keep the desserts in moderation may go out the window after a few drinks. Diluting your drinks with ice or soda water can help. An even better idea is alternating with non-alcoholic options to keep you hydrated and prevent you from overindulging when you aren’t even hungry.

7. Set yourself up for success. Hanging around beside the table can result in a lot of extra nibbling that you didn’t plan for. After you’ve finished eating, take a break and allow yourself time away from the food. This is a good time to engage in conversation, or grab your coat and get some fresh air. If you give your body 20 minutes to digest your food, it will let you know if you’ve had enough or if you’ve left room for some more.

So here’s to a happy healthy holiday, enjoy the festivities and save room for leftovers!

Nicole Springle is a Registered Dietitian at Student Health Services (SHS) and the Health and Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Guelph. Students can book appointments to see Nicole on a self-referral basis by contacting SHS at ext 52131. Other individuals interested in personal nutrition counseling can contact the HPC at 519 767 5011 ext 1. A number of on campus groups, including Police, Steelworkers, Food Service and CUPE, are entitled to 75% reimbursement of the cost of nutrition and fitness programs offered at the Centre.

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