Holiday & Party Strategies

The social butterflies among us are very fortunate in some ways. They’re often out and about, meeting new friends and entertaining old friends at home. Life is full. Life is grand!

But then there’s the little (or not so little) issue of weight. Festivities can put a dent in even the staunchest weight loss resolve. Just about every party, after all, revolves around food. Just thinking about all the calories can make me feel heavier!

Parties and holidays are a time for celebrating life and for bringing families and friends together. No one’s perfect, and it seems almost antisocial to obsess over your weight when everyone around you is having such a great time. Still, parties present a lot of opportunities for overindulging. Even if you’ve managed to master the daily routines of exercising, eating in moderation and so on, parties and holidays don’t come around that often. That means we don’t have as much practice reconciling social obligations with our desire to maintain the same waist size.

Parties are not only about food. They should not even be mainly about food. Not convinced? Well, take a minute to make an inventory of the things that matter to you— things that really touch your heart around special occasions and holidays. Here are some of the things that I and my clients have decided are important:

-Showing kindness to others and making sacrifices for those less fortunate
-Getting together with friends and family you rarely have time for
-Observing religious significance of holidays
-Attending holiday plays and concerts
-Free time for special exhibits, ice skating and skiing
-Volunteering at the local homeless shelter
-Looking your best and feeling confident and energetic

Even without knowing you personally, I can say with some confidence that your list of priorities is probably pretty similar. Do we think about food when we go to parties or celebrate the holidays? Of course, but there is so much more!

Tips for Celebrating

Prioritize what is most important to you about the holiday.

Remember, the "holidays" are only three days, NOT every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Plan your holiday eating carefully. Savor and enjoy each bite to the fullest.

-Prioritize your high calorie items. Choose three of your favorite holiday foods and allow yourself to enjoy them. Don't waste calories by sampling everything.
-Prioritize your parties. Choose one or two of your favorite parties during the week and allow yourself to indulge at them. Eat before going to the other parties. If you indulge at, say, all five parties you're invited to in one week, you may gain more weight than you would feel comfortable with.
-ALWAYS eat normally and on time the day of the party. Don't starve yourself during the day so that you irrationally overeat everything in sight once you get there.
-Eat a snack just before arriving at your party.
-Once you've arrived at the party, grab some sparkling water and wait at least 30 minutes before making a food choice. This gives you time to relax, get comfortable in your surroundings and to scope out the food offerings rationally.
-Location! Location! Location! Position yourself away from the food table. Focus on conversation, not eating.
-ALWAYS follow the "Mindful Eating Techniques." Before eating anything, take the food to a table, sit down, take three or four deep breaths, relax, and focus full attention on the food while you are eating. If you want to talk with someone, put the food down and talk. When you want to eat, put your full attention on the eating. Notice the point at which you feel comfortable not full. As soon as you are comfortable, stop eating. Enjoy and savor every bite. Don't waste any calorie by not paying attention to what you are eating.
-When you are in control of the party, try new healthy recipes to serve your family or guests. You'll be surprised how much this is appreciated.
-Anticipate situations and plan your strategy ahead of time.
-Before the event, visualize yourself using your planned strategies and leaving the party successful.
-Reward yourself for handling the situations as you planned.
-Leftovers are what put weight on. Splurge on the holiday, then get back to normal eating ASAP.

Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Buffets

Been invited to a holiday buffet? Don’t panic! I’ve surveyed the trendiest holiday buffets to come up with a list of dos and don’ts so you don’t leave the party stuffed with 2,000 calories beneath your belt. Which reminds me: This is not time to be shy, so wear confining clothing. There’s nothing like a death grip around your waist to remind you it’s time to leave the Swedish meatballs behind and start mingling.

Read closely. You may be shocked to find that even if you stick with all the “dos” on my list, your calories will probably top anything you’d be eating at home with your standard 600 calorie dinner. So, be picky. Don’t waste calories when you can enjoy yourself flirting or caroling!

  1. DO! Add sparkling water and a twist of lime to your two ounces of white wine. It’s only 40 calories!

  2. DON’T! Get started with several glasses of wine at 100 calories each!

  3. DO! Start with healthy crudités. Dip carrot and celery strips, or any other veggies, in salsa! (Each dipped finger-sized veggie stick is about 7 to 10 calories and no fat.)

  4. DON’T! Start with chips and dip. Did you know that each dipped chip could set you back 25 calories and 2 grams of fat? (Was that about 10 that you just gulped down in 2 minutes flat?)

  5. DO! Savor Smoked Salmon on a whole grain cracker (about 35 calories and 2 grams of fat for 1/2 ounce of salmon and one cracker).

  6. DON’T! Dig into the crispy and creamy appetizers. Bet you didn’t know that tiny egg roll packs are 200 calories and 10 grams of fat! The cheese and crackers? You jest! Each tiny slab (1/2 ounce) of cheese with a Town House cracker is 65 calories and 6 grams of fat.

  7. DO! Take the edge off your appetite with the filling yet spicy Minestrone or Vegetable Soup at 150 calories and 2 grams of fat per 8-ounce bowl.

  8. DON’T! Fill your bowl with the Seafood Bisque. It’ll pack on 300 calories and 10 grams of fat per 8-ounce bowl.

  9. DO! Start with a fresh salad. Heap your plate with fresh, young greens, sliced tomatoes and onions (25 calories at the most). Top with 1 Tbsp of vinaigrette (50 - 75 calories, 5 - 9 grams fat).

  10. DON’T! Start with garlic bread (200 calories for two small slices).

  11. DO! Pile on the Grilled Vegetables like red peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. They’re only 25 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

  12. DON’T! Get creamed with the Creamed Spinach. The cream and butter adds 150 calories to the measly 25 for the spinach.

  13. DO! Spoon up sorbet. It’s cool. It’s refreshing. It’s only 100 calories and zero fat per 1/2 cup.

  14. DON’T! Spoon up the Haagen Daz! It’s 250 calories and 20 grams of fat per 1/2 cup.

  15. DO! Indulge in a sliver of pumpkin pie. It’s creamy deliciousness is relatively abstemious at 300 calories and 14 grams of fat for 1/8 of a 9” pie.

  16. DON’T! Indulge in a sliver of pecan pie. It’ll set you back 500 calories and 27 grams of fat!

  17. DO! Try a meringue cookie or ginger snap. They’re only about 30 calories a piece.

  18. DON’T! Grab a chocolate chip cookie with nuts. Even a tiny one is 120 calories.

  19. DO! Enjoy hot herbal tea as a night cap to help you sleep (zero calories, zero fat).

  20. DON’T! Indulge in a brandy. It’s 160 calories for just a 1-1/2 ounce jigger, and that’s before the cream!

And to get you started, here are some lighter alternatives for holiday cookies:

Kjerstin's Swedish Almond Cookies

This Swedish cookie recipe was handed down to me from my mother. Because they’re almost exclusively made with nuts, they’re heart healthy!

Makes 24 cookies

8 1/2 9oz almonds
1 1/2 Cup powdered sugar
2 egg whites
2-3 drops green food dye (if desired)

Blanch and grind almonds until very fine, like flour. Add sugar, stir in egg whites and mix well. Make 24 tablespoon-sized round balls and push a piece of slivered blanched almond in the middle. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes.

You can buy blanched and slivered almonds in most stores. Some stores even sell almond flour. You may also use other nuts in place of almonds, i.e. hazel nuts.

Nutrition Information per cookie: 82 calories, 2.5 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 9.6 grams carbohydrates (0.4 grams saturated fat), 1 gram fiber

Lighter Chocolate Chip Cookies

The following recipe is adapted from The Low Fat Epicure by Sallie Twentyman, R.D. (It's out of print, unfortunately.). It's a recipe I've been giving my clients and have been using myself for years:

Makes 36 2" Cookies

2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Skim Milk
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup White Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 Package (12 oz) Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts, or more to taste (and for increased Omega-6 and Omega-3's)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly coat two cookie sheets with vegetable oil spray.

Beat together eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and skim milk until thick and uniformly mixed (do not over-mix). Add whole-wheat flour, white flour, baking soda and salt, and beat again until well combined. Add more white flour a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, beating after each addition, until mixture is no longer wet-looking and is thick enough not to run off the beater when beater is lifted from bowl. Add chocolate chips and nuts and mix until chips and nuts are evenly distributed.

Drop dough onto cookie sheets by teaspoonfuls, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until only slightly browned and no longer wet when touched. Cookies will become hard if overbaked, so watch them carefully.

Cool 4 - 5 minutes on cookie sheets, and then transfer to rack.

I've mixed chocolate with butterscotch chips, added more nuts (for nut lovers), and even candied cherries. It's a very versatile recipe...

Each cookie: 108 calories, 4.6 grams fat (1.6 grams saturated fatty Acid, 1.6 grams Omega-6 and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids), 14 mg Cholesterol, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1.8 grams protein, 91 mg sodium

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., custom designs nutrition and weight loss programs and is the author of “Diet Simple,” full of delicious holiday and everyday recipes by great chefs such as Jacques Pepin, Roberto Donna, Nora Pouillon, Michel Richard, Carla Hall, Janis McLean. Order at any bookstore, online at amazon.com, or find copies at Griffin Market, 28th and P Street, in Georgetown. Katherine@KatherineTallmadge

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