Holiday partying in low carb style
â€˜Tis the seasonâ€¦ for holiday parties, dinners, office celebrations and other tempting reasons to blow your low carb diet. Here's how to make merry during the holidays and still maintain your low carb lifestyle.
Tips to party and stay low carbThis time of year seems to bring a party or some kind of foodie event just about every week. (If you work in an office, this temptation can go on year round with all those birthday and retirement parties!) So how do you attend the festivities without offending your body or your host? Follow these low carb party tips.
1. PrepareOkay, so you know just about any social gathering is bound to offer delectable appetizers and sweet not-so-nothings. Don't stay home: Just prepare yourself mentally and physically for the challenge.
Be sure to get in some exercise the day of the event – even a little more than usual. Yes, it will help offset any damage you might do to your diet at the party. But more than that, it will keep you in a healthy, energized frame of mind. If you're feeling strong and in control, you'll feel up to the test of a few holiday goodies. Plus, if you've worked extra hard at some physical activity, you might think twice about negating all that effort for the fleeting moment of pleasure that a high-carb item gives.
Don't arrive hungry at the event. Eat well and on plan all day – don't starve yourself so you can indulge! You'll lack energy all day, overeat at the party, and feel sluggish, bloated, headache-y and guilty afterwards.
Drink lots of water and other allowed beverages the day of the event. When your body is well-hydrated, it is less likely to confuse the signals for hunger and thirst.
Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that the body often mistakes cues of fatigue for those of hunger. In other words, if you're tired, you may be more likely to eat.
2. PracticeYou'll be better able to resist the lure of off-limits foods and drinks if you practice your reaction to them. For instance, imagine a buffet table or serving plate in front of you and visualize yourself choosing the foods you're allowed while eschewing those you're not. Feel how proud you will be when you're able to pull it off.
Also, practice some self-talk you can use in the face of all that sugar and starch. For instance, imagine confronting some favorite goodie – for example, Christmas sugar cookies. Practice telling yourself "I know what sugar cookies taste like and I don't have to try them" or "I've done so well so far today, why would I mess that up for a stupid cookie?" or some other similar response that reflects you are truly in control of your diet.
You'd also be wise to practice your responses to friends and family who question your diet or pick at your resolve. Come up with a few diplomatic or humorous responses to have at your disposal so you don't risk offending your host or her guests. For example:
Aunt Violet says, "What do you mean, you're not eating any of my special holiday snickerdoodles? I made them just for you!" You say, "Thank you so much, Aunt Violet! I know how hard you work on your snickerdoodles, and they're the best! But I'm afraid if I have just one, I'll eat the whole plate."
Uncle Rocco says, "Come on, you gotta join your family in the annual eggnog toast!"
You say, "Could you drink mine for me? I'll take the good wishes, you take the calories. Now that's a gift!"
Your (thin) relatives glare at you from across the china and between the candles. "Dessert?" your (size 5) mother-in-law asks. You say, "Oh, it's all so tempting! You always make such delicious desserts. But I hope you understand – my doctor [she doesn't need to know you mean Atkins] says I shouldn't eat sugar or white flour anymore. You know what that means...more for my husband!"
Other standard responses might include, "No, thanks. I can't have sugar." Or "Thanks, but I don't tolerate sweets well."
Sometimes, the best response is the simplest. Practice three words, delivered with a large and gracious smile: "No, thank you…" Say it in the mirror, say it into your fridge, say it all day before the party – that will make it easier to say when it has to count.
3. Be pickyJust because you're not eating unhealthful carbs doesn't mean you're not eating. Most gatherings have something you can indulge on. Look for protein – items made from lean, unbreaded meats, poultry and fish. Cheese is always a good bet (no crackers!) and goes well with dry red wine (which is perfectly low carb legal). Nuts are another option. And the best choice is also very common at parties: veggies and dip!
As for drinks, avoid sugary punches, egg nog and anything else that's sweetened with sugar, honey or liqueurs. But that leaves a whole bar of low carb options! Drinks made with cola or lemon lime soda can be decarbed easily with diet versions. Try Diet Coke and Jack Daniels or vodka and Diet 7-Up. Rum, vodka, whiskey, brandy and other no-sugar-added clear liquors are fine, as is dry red wine.
Some brands of beer are better than others – if this is your poison, look up carb counts online or at the store before the party so you know which is best to choose. And if you do choose an alcoholic beverage, remember to do so responsibly and in moderation: Drinks not high in carbs may still be high in calories.
4. PackIf you're not sure what the party will offer in terms of food, be sure to pack a few portable snacks you can use to stave off temptation. Think sugar-free chocolate or hard candies, single-serving packages of nuts, Slim-Jims and similar meat treats, a bottle of water, or other low carb edibles. If you're asked to bring something to share, make it healthful: a veggie and dip tray, a bottle of dry red wine, a fruit and cheese plate, a platter of sugar-free cookies, or low carb cheesecake. You'll be surprised how grateful people can be to find something healthful on the menu!
Low carb substitutions for high-carb fare
|Chips and dip||Veggies and dip|
The bottom line is you are in control of your diet, so when offered high-carb foods, decline gracefully. Sugar is addicting, so handle it like an addiction. Just say "No...thank you."
Low carb side-dishes for the holidays
Low carb soups to warm your soul
Visit our online magazine LowCarb for more holiday tips and low carb recipes