I have to be honest, during the holidays it can be hard for me not to give into nostalgic cravings and indulge on foods I typically try to steer clear of throughout the rest of the year. It’s the holidays for goodness sakes and I want to celebrate like everyone else!
Unfortunately, many holiday parties in the past consistently resulted in post holiday bulge. Every January, I used to find my “skinny jeans” tighter and my waist line generally uncomfortable when I sat down. Do you know the feeling? And let’s not even talk about how I felt mentally – tired all the time and not self-confident at all. I hate those feelings!
After I started learning about what was really in my food, I made a conscious decision not to eat toxic chemicals in processed food regardless the time of year because I knew they were responsible for making me gain weight and making me want to eat more. If there was something I really wanted to eat that I knew was filled with additives, artificial ingredients or other questionable substances, I vowed to myself to make it at home with my own organic ingredients so I could indulge. And oh boy, do I indulge with my own homemade treats without the weight gain! :)
I have received so many letters from you lately about navigating holiday parties and how to handle them – this letter from Barbara really hit a nerve and inspired this post. Barbara writes:
With the holidays approaching, as a non-GMO organic food eater I (and I’m sure many of your readers) could use some food etiquette advice. I’ve been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friends and I’m sure they will not be serving one single food item that I feel comfortable eating. At this point I feel my only option is to “call in sick” which is rude but no more rude than showing up with my own food or not eating the food so graciously being offered. Any helpful advice on how to handle these dilemmas over the holidays? I would humbly appreciate your advice.
- Barbara R.
Because we live in an overly processed food world, it’s so important to prepare yourself for navigating holiday parties, whether it be during a conventional family meal you may share with loved ones or the annual cocktail party your neighbor generously hosts. Whatever the occasion, here’s what to do: (Barbara I hope this helps!)
Eat before you arrive
Before you arrive to a party or get together, have a healthy meal at home. Fill up on a green smoothie or a green salad with a good source of organic healthy protein and fat (think avocado, raw nuts or wild fish) so that you don’t arrive to the party feeling ravenous. This tip saves me every single time I am put in a situation where I wouldn’t touch the food being served with a ten foot pole.
Don’t sample everything
Just because it’s there or free, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. When choosing what to put on your plate, stick to foods you typically enjoy while avoiding the foods you wouldn’t choose to eat outside of a holiday party. I love loading up my plate with whatever plant based foods I can find and choosing one or two other items, keeping it simple.
Sampling the entire buffet is guaranteed to cause you to overeat. According to Susan Roberts, a Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, studies have shown “The higher the variety of items you are confronted with, the more people consume without even realizing it.”
Sometimes the appetizers are the best part of the meal
If you see lots of vegetables and fruits on a tray being served as an appetizer, go for it! Load up and eat the most real food options first, even if that leaves little room for the main course. You’ll always have an excuse not to eat dinner if there are less than stellar options being served later in the meal. One particular appetizer to be aware of is nuts. Literally. I used to think choosing the nuts was a good idea, until I learned most party nut mixes are doused with GMO oils, MSG, and other nasty additives. See below. No thanks!
Bring your own dish
They say you should never show up to a party empty-handed. Use this rule to your advantage and bring along your favorite, healthy holiday dish. This will give you the option of eating at least one healthy item while you’re at a party. It will also let you share a real food holiday dish with friends and family and teach them healthy food can be delicious! Remember to be generous on the portion sizes you bring, so it doesn’t look like you are taking back everything you brought!
Socialize more and snack less
To keep your mind off of all of the dangerous goodies and temptations, move away from the buffet table and socialize elsewhere. Keeping your mind focused on something other than food will help you to avoid overindulging. I love spending parties socializing rather than eating. If I’m still hungry after, I know I can always get a clean meal out at my standard go-to restaurant or at home later. Besides, sometimes it’s fun to grab a group of people for a late night meal or after party.
Keep count of your drinks
Your liver is your main fat-burning organ. If you are trying to lose weight or even maintain your ideal weight, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies – so slow down and keep your alcohol intake on the low-end, especially if you have multiple gatherings per week. Just remember, a sparkling water with lime looks like a vodka tonic. There’s no need to bring a lot of attention to yourself if you choose not to drink alcohol. Personally, I love to bring wine to a party, so I know I have organic red wine available to drink and share. I also don’t mind the occasional tequila on the rocks with a lime (it’s one of the cleanest liquors!). And don’t forget to check out this beer investigation, reading this might help you stay away from the Bud Light & Miller Lite (for good!).
When all else fails, eat when you get home
I promise you are not going to starve to death waiting a couple of hours to eat! And if you have special needs (diabetic or hypoglycemic), you already know what you need to do to make sure you stay steady. Just not eating has been my saving grace in many situations – not just at parties, but in airports and other tricky places. Later on I always thank myself for putting health first over my desires.
Lead by example
Most importantly, while attending a holiday party it’s important to go in with the understanding that not all of the other attendees will share your sentiments regarding your real food lifestyle. Friends and family members who follow a conventional diet may not understand why you make the eating decisions you do. If you’re the person who is typically questioned about your diet, simply try to give your friends and family an honest and informative reason for your choices, without berating them about their own decisions (maybe share this post with them too!).
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
Leading by example is very powerful and it’s what ultimately got my friends, family and co-workers to slowly convert over. You never know who you might inspire with your own actions.
Now I’m curious, how many more of you out there are going to a holiday party where you are worried about what you might be served or eat? I’d love to hear your stories and strategies in the comments. Let’s help each other navigate this over-processed food world together!