Eating Strategies for Healthier Holiday Parties

Easy-to-follow tips can take the guilt, and the calories, out of the equation

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SUNDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Rather than worry about gaining or losing weight during the holidays, focus on simply keeping steady on the scales by following some simple healthy eating strategies, one dietitian says.

"Trying to diet during the holidays is setting yourself up for failure and personal torture," Jennifer Ventrelle, clinical nutritionist and registered dietitian at Rush University Medical Center, said in a news release issued by the Chicago facility. "Set an achievable goal: to maintain your weight through the holiday season."

Since eating plays such a big role in the holiday fun, Ventrelle said to never go to a party hungry. Instead, eat a healthy snack -- such as yogurt or fruit, an apple and peanut butter, or a bowl of high-fiber cereal -- before the event to avoid gorging at the party.

Eating small, lower-calorie meals during the day can also offset the calorie load of a dinner party. When at the party, eat slowly and use a small plate. "Take a small first helping. That way, if your host expects you to take seconds, the total will be one normal-size dinner," she said.

Keeping portions small, she said, also allows you to eat your favorite foods without overloading, as sometimes, one taste can help satisfy a craving.

If you are the party host or are supposed to bring a dish, keep it healthy. Serve or bring fresh fruit and vegetables when possible, Ventrelle said. If you are the host, give away the leftovers to remove your temptation.

Don't socialize in the kitchen or next to the buffet table where you might be tempted to nibble. Move around both during, before and after the event, she said.

"A decrease in physical activity is a prime contributor to holiday weight gain," Ventrelle said. "Without exercise, you burn fewer calories, and you're also likely to eat more."

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more about healthy eating.

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