The holidays bring with them parties with buffets and potlucks, ripe for wrecking a healthy eating streak. Long before my clients head to their work and family parties, we put together a plan for making sure that A. The buffet doesn't destroy a week of healthy choices, and B. They actually get to enjoy party food.
Here's the no-longer-secret 10-step plan I share with all my clients...
- Walk the line. Before you even pick up your plate, put your hot little hands in your pockets or behind your back and walk the entirety of the line, including desserts if they're out. Find out what you're working with! Rookie buffet mistakes are made when we fill our plates nearly full from the first few dishes, then we realize the really good stuff was nearer the end of the line (and keep piling on).
- Start with the vegetables. The healthiest diet for humans is one comprised of about half vegetables. They keep us feeling full with their marvelous fiber, and they're nutritious. And though we're not calorie counters, leafy, non-starchy vegetables are low on the calorie density scale, meaning we can eat a lot of them without the caloric impact of, say, cornbread stuffing, whipped mashed potatoes with gravy, or a few handfuls of roasted nuts. On your reconnaissance mission in step 1, you should have identified some vegetables that were not swimming in oil, butter or cream--maybe a pretty green salad, roasted seasonal vegetables, or maybe green beans with those almond slivers. At minimum, surely there is a raw vegetable platter or fruit tray. Fill up half your plate with these selections.
- Look for a reasonable protein. This one is a crapshoot. Ideally, you're looking for a good quality protein that isn't red or highly processed, or smothered and fried, but these types of events don't always deliver in this department. Seek out the best option and keep portions in check: A serving of protein is the size and thickness of your unique palm.
- Seek out a wholesome starch. Rather than loading up on white rolls and breadsticks, seek out a whole grain like quinoa, brown rice or whole wheat couscous. Alternatively, you could look for a starchy vegetable--one not whipped with loads of butter or cream--like baked or roasted sweet potatoes, winter squash, or root vegetables like turnips, beets and rutabaga.
- Fill in the gaps with the more indulgent stuff. Now that you've filled much of your plate with nutritious food, you should still have room to add bites of the rich holiday foods you love. Go to town.
- Fill the plate only once, and only eat off the plate. You'd be amazed how much food you can eat without realizing it when you're eating out of a serving dish--think of that vanishing bowl of nuts and candy--or off hors d'oeuvres trays.
- If it's lousy, don't finish it. Have you had the experience of seeing something that looks unbelievably delicious and then being totally let down when you taste it? Sometimes those creamy mashed potatoes taste like glue, or that gorgeous dessert tastes like a wad of Crisco. When that happens, DON'T. FINISH. IT. I hate food waste and am a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club, but with practice, you, too, can master the art of not finishing lousy food.
- Easy on the booze. This one is important for several reasons..
- Empty calories
- Mo' drinks = less inhibitions around food and mo' eating junk
- Risk of making an ass of yourself in front of your family, friends and/or work colleagues
- If you choose, put one serving of dessert on a small dessert plate, enjoy it and be done. Some of us can follow steps 1 through 8 beautifully, but then we go back to the dessert table six times. Choose what looks delicious, don't be shy about taking a half or quarter of a couple different items, and refer back to #7 as needed.
- Remember the reason for the season isn't food. We are pleasure-seeking, social animals, and food brings us together to meet both these needs. But if all you're thinking about is the food, you're missing the best part of the season: Spending time with friends and families and giving gratitude for all that we have.
Here's wishing you a happy holiday and a season of enjoyment, not guilt! If you need support getting through the holiday season with your fitness goals intact, or in kicking off 2017 as your healthiest self, please get in touch.