When temptation beckons this party season – or when you’re facing any festive occasion in the new year — planned strategies can help keep your daily calorie intake in check and avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain. SheKnows spoke with Dr. Wayne Andersen, medical director for Take Shape for Life Wellness program, for his top diet tips when you’re heading out to celebrate.
Curb your cravings: Don’t go hungry
Sheknows: Eating and drinking is so much a part of social settings. What can we do to curb our cravings?
Dr. Andersen: Don’t go hungry! Much like the advice to help avoid buying unhealthy selections when grocery shopping, it’s a lot easier to make healthier eating choices if you’re not hungry. I like a small handful of healthy nuts like almonds or walnuts, some edamame or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat would be great, filling choices.
Hydrate to quell hunger
Sheknows: Is it important to drink water beforehand to fill you as well?
Dr. Andersen: About 30 percent of the time when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty, so drinking water is always a good idea. A recent study showed that consuming an 8-ounce glass of water before meals can lower your caloric intake.
Practice portion control
Sheknows: I’ve read about using a small plate to help control food intake. Why is this a good mental strategy?
Dr. Andersen: Using a small plate gives you mastery over your energy management system. In the [book] Habits of Health, I outline my partitioned 9-inch plate system, which provides a simple method to create portion control and limit your caloric ingestion. By breaking the plate into three parts and having 50 percent be fruits and vegetables, we set up the proper proportion of your macronutrients.
Party food do’s and don’ts
Sheknows: What are some healthy choices and what should you avoid at parties?
Dr. Andersen: Fruits and raw vegetables without dip are always great choices. Avoid anything that is fried! Avoid dips, fondues, fatty sauces. Also stay away from cheeses, which have high calories and fat content.
Small bites add up to big calories
Sheknows: Sometimes party appetizers look innocent because they’re small and just a mouthful. Are they really all that bad?
Dr. Andersen: But many have cheese, bacon or other fatty substances that are very unhealthy and pack a lot of calories in a small package. Because of the small size, you don’t realize each one may be as many as 50 to 100 calories.
Keep the host happy
Sheknows: People often feel pressured to try everything to flatter the host. In this case, what can we do to keep the host happy while not blowing our diet?
Dr. Andersen: Grab a piece of celery or raw carrot, have a club soda with lime or a splash of cranberry juice and have that continually in your hand. If someone offers you something different, just say “I’m fine for now” and chomp or sip. They will then simply move on; if they don’t, try to create a different conversation. You can also just say “I have made a decision to get healthier and I’m watching what I eat.” If they are really your friend, they should applaud this.
Set food boundaries
Sheknows: When you’re hosting a party, you’re tempted to graze on leftovers, and receive food gifts from guests. Any suggestions?
Dr. Andersen: Allow someone else to pack up the leftovers while you wash the dishes, and send the leftovers home with your guests. In advance, ask your family and friends to forgo food gifts, like wine, cheese, and candies. Other suggestions would be donations in your name to charities, gift cards or opting out of gifts. You may say this year, let’s get together and start a new tradition.