Top 10 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Let these tricks guide you as you navigate party after party.

The holidays are coming and for many, that can mean challenging situations that pose great risk on even the best healthy eating plan. On average, Americans gain about a pound at holiday time which may not seem like a lot but we usually don't lose this pound. Long term, after ten years, you've put on a lot of extra weight. Short term, all the sugar, calories, sodium and fat that you've consumed during the holidays may make for an extra wrinkle and dull skin for the New Year. You CAN survive the holidays though with a few simple tactics. Here's my top 10 list.

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1. Party at home beforehand
Enjoying a small snack of nuts, string cheese and a few whole grain crackers will mean you're arriving at the party satisfied already, not starving. The holiday buffet has so many food and drink options that if you go in hungry, you're doomed.

2. Be the last in line
Never underestimate the visual power of food and how if effects appetite. The buffet or appetizer table looks great when you're the lucky first man to it. Once a large amount of people have gone through, the food loses its luster. Imagine the potatoes au gratin with the crusty topping-it's usually gone by the time you get to it if you're last in line.

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3. Drink all night-with a wine spritzer
Having too much alcohol is a sure fire way to lose control on the dance floor and at the buffet table. Instead, mix two ounces of wine with club soda, a little cranberry juice and lime juice for a wine spritzer. You'll be able to draw out your drinks throughout the night without getting out of control.

Remember-many holiday drinks are loaded with calories that add up quickly!

Egg Nog = 350 calories BEFORE the alcohol for 1 cup
Vodka on the rocks (1.5 oz) = 96 calories
Martini (4 oz) = 160 calories
Wine (5 oz) = 100 calories

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4. Avoid reindeer sweaters and any elastic-waisted holiday outfit
The pant suit you thought looked great last year with the elastic waist will spell trouble at the holiday party because it will allow you to eat tons of food without feeling discomfort. You WANT to be able to feel it when you've gotten out of control so keep your pants or skirt on the tighter side. Belts work nice too.

5. Don't build food towers
Have you ever seen the guy who has made a tower of his food on the plate? Don't be that guy. Use a salad plate (ask for one if you don't see one) and make it a rule not to stack foods on top of each other. This rule will help you in controlling your portions. Also-forget about the second trip up. One trip, one plate, no tower.

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6. Be a great guest
Helping the host out with dishes or serving drinks allows you be involved with everyone but does not allow you to sit around and eat. Your host will think you're great and you'll stay true to your eating pretty plan. Everyone wins. Never allow leftovers to enter your house. If you have a pushy host that insists you take home the rest of the crescent roll pastry Brie wheel, graciously take it but conveniently leave it in the bathroom on your way out. Above all, it should never come in YOUR house. Another option is to bring healthier foods that you know will fit into your just eating pretty plan to the party. That guarantees you'll have a great option available.

7. Focus on friends and conversation, not on the food
That's what parties during the holidays are about anyway right? Watch out for dips and sauces, they add the most calories and fat to most buffet tables and it's easy to be mid-conversation and dip a carrot into 100 worthless calories of ranch dressing. Stick with whole foods and make a goal to eat "closer to the farm" by avoid highly processed foods.

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8. Gum
Chew it after you've had an appropriate serving of food. It will help you to avoid "picking" at the table.

9. Do the napkin test
If it leaves an oil mark, leave it on the table.

10. Be mindful
Dining in a group causes the average person to eat about 44 percent more calories than he or she normally would eating alone-so many distractions during eating time usually add up to MORE eating. Keep a mental checklist of how much you're consuming and if you feel yourself accepting every passed appetizer, it's your eyes telling you that you need more food, not your brain. Make a conscious effort to balance your plate with plenty of fruits and veggies-keep your plate bright and avoid dull-colored foods, they tend to be the worst ones for you (think bacon wrapped scallops, crab Rangoon, crab cakes, etc). Take a second to look at every bite before you eat it-maybe even take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.

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- by Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.