Buffet

Last year, I went to a neighborhood Open House. I’m sure you can picture the scene. Beautifully decorated home, festive music and a table laden with, not one, but two crock pots bubbling with Swedish meatballs and Italian sausage. But that wasn’t all. My eyes were quickly diverted by the commotion at a second table; the dessert table. “Ooos” and “ahhs” filled the corner of the living room. Plates stacked with peanut butter kiss cookies, peppermint bark, sugar cutouts and dark-chocolate-glazed bars of yumminess. A warm bread pudding with caramel sauce was just being added to the table. “Ooo … Ahh.”

This scene may be coming to your neighborhood this holiday, too. And what are you going to do when confronted with the overabundance of unhealthy? Go without and feel deprived? Overindulge and feel guilty? Skip the party? No. None of these choices will help you to have a healthy holiday.

Instead, the best way to approach a holiday party is with a plan. Here is a top 10 list to help you navigate any holiday party and feel your best come January. (Just in time for a Super Bowl party!)

1. Acknowledge why you are eating.

Before you hit the table, ask yourself, “Am I hungry? Am I trying to avoid my nosy neighbor? Am I eating because everyone else is?” A little self-assessment can help you avoid overeating.

2. Eat before every party.

If you can’t eat, at least drink a big glass of water. Often, we use just the opposite tactic before a party. We starve ourselves all day in anticipation of Aunt Sarah’s “Death by Chocolate”. Then we give ourselves permission to eat two servings. We arrive ravenous and don’t stop eating until we grab our coats to go home.

3. Go to a party with a plan … and try your best to stick to it.

You plan your outfit for the party, so spend a little time planning your eating strategy. Maybe you don’t go near the food for the first half-hour. Maybe you tell yourself you will only eat what you put on your plate — no mindless grazing. Just give it a few minutes of thought.

4. Drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage.

This tactic helps you avoid a lot of calories from alcoholic drinks, and you’ll also be less likely to feel hungover in the morning.

5. Avoid the bread and crackers.

Skipping the carbs on the table doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite dips. Try using vegetables instead! Simple carbs, fats and artificial flavors aren’t the best choices and can add significant calories to your plate.

6. Don’t eat out of boredom.

Plan on whom you’re going to talk to when you walk in the door. Start a party game. Help the hostess.

7. Eat one vegetable for every non-vegetable item you have.

Don’t let those veggies and dip get lonely. Get your nutrients and fill up on broccoli at the same time.

8. Offer to take a dish.

When you take a dish to the party, you can make something that you know will be more healthful and satisfying. I have some good healthy recipes on my website if you need some inspiration!

9. Keep your hands full.

Keep a glass of seltzer, a napkin or a plate in your hands. If your hands are full, you can’t keep eating.

10. Stop at one serving.

Go ahead, fill your plate. Once. Using this plan means you’ll get to try everything you like, but you won’t be tempted to keep eating.

When you’re confronted with a party buffet, don’t let it get the best of you. Make your plan and stick to it and you’ll come out ahead!