How to Survive Holiday Parties Without Sacrificing Your Healthy Lifestyle

The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for people to enjoy the spirit of the season – and all of the delicious food – without needing to go on a detox or cleanse diet and/or let their pants out by early January. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this! Here are some tips for getting maximum enjoyment out of the holiday season with minimum impact to your health.

Keep a journal – Write down everything you eat and drink. It’s easy to nibble on food without even realizing it, especially when there is so much of it just sitting around. This is a sure way to mindlessly rack up calories, carbohydrates and fat. Keeping a journal ensures that every calorie and every gram of carbs is accounted for, keeping you aware of everything that goes into your body.

  • Be conscious of how certain foods make you feel.
  • If you’re feeling run down, lethargic or nauseous, consult your journal to see what you ate yesterday (and how much), and consider skipping that item next time around.
  • If you’re feeling bright and energetic, consult your journal and find out what types of foods produced that result so that you can continue indulging in those items.

Follow the 2-to-1 ratio – For those of us who partake in adult beverages, following the simple 2-to-1 ratio will keep you from overdoing it. To combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol and relieve the pressure on your internal organs, drink 2 glasses of water for every 1 alcoholic drink.

  • This will  help you to better pace yourself while drinking and avoid feeling as if you’ve been hit by a Mack truck the next morning.
  • Alcoholic drinks are full of sugars and oxidants that are likely to leave you feeling less than optimal, so a slower, more controlled approach is the wise (and healthy) course of action.

Veggies First – One of the best ways to eat the foods you want without “breaking the bank” is to eat vegetables before consuming anything else.

  • When loading up your holiday dinner plate, try to fill half (or better yet, two-thirds) of your plate with veggie-based dishes.
  • Fill out the rest of your plate with proteins and other dishes.
  • Eat a handful of baby carrots, cucumber slices or any other snack-sized vegetable before you even get to the main course.

That being said, don’t deny yourself of all the other goodies you want, just exercise portion control. Instead of a large slice of pie á la Mode, have a few bites of pie and a couple of tablespoons of ice cream. You’ll still satisfy the craving without going overboard. This tactic is even more important for those of us who have multiple holiday parties to go to. The cumulative effect of making good choices over the course of a few weeks - and several dinners - can be tremendous.

Savoring all of the flavors of the season doesn’t have to leave you feeling bloated and tired, or weighing several pounds more than you did in October. You can have the tasty treats you desire and still maintain your healthy lifestyle with a sensible approach.

One resource that I have found incredibly helpful is Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at UC Berkeley. His book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”, is a distillation of his basic principles for a healthy and sustainable diet, and is full of gems such as, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”