I’m often asked by my patients, many of which are in their tween and teen years, what they should eat when they are at parties, such as bar and bat mitzvahs and sweet 16’s, especially with the seemingly inexhaustible supply of calorie-laden goodies at the cocktail hour and sit down dinners.
Moderation is the key word to remember in these situations. Knowing that no food is off-limits will allow you to indulge without feeling that you have completely blown your diet and therefore might as well go on an all-out binge. In fact, little indulgences are what make life special. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy weight while celebrating at these parties to the fullest.
Plan ahead: Never go to a party hungry. Have a small, healthy snack before you go, like a piece of fresh fruit with a handful of almonds, some high fiber crackers with low fat cheese, ½ of a sandwich, 1 hardboiled egg and a slice of toast, or a salad with ½ cup beans and lots of veggies. My favorite is a ½ cup of frozen berries (I pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds to get them warm) with either one container of nonfat Greek yogurt or ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese. You should aim for a snack with at least 5 grams of fiber paired with some lean protein, which will keep you from being ravenous at the party. Fiber-rich meals help to curb your hunger in between meals, allowing you to make more sensible choices and keep your calories in check.
Stick to your favorites: What is your most favorite item at the party? If you eat cheese everyday than there is no need to have a plateful of cheese at the party. If they are serving hamburgers at the party and you haven’t had one in several months and would love to – go for it, but then limit your intake of fat for the rest of the party. Decide if you would rather eat light and drink a little more or vice versa. Unfortunately, you can’t have it all.
Keep your mouth and your hands busy: After you’ve eaten, chew on a piece of gum. By keeping your mouth busy you will be less likely to eat more food. Another great tip is to keep your hands busy. When it comes to handbags (sorry guys!), forgo any purse with the strap. Instead grab a clutch. When you are holding a clutch in one hand, and a beverage in your other, there a no hands free to hold a plateful of pigs in the blanket.
Outsmart the cocktail hour buffets: Once you arrive, scan the buffets before you choose what you are going to have. Don’t be first online-you don’t want to leave yourself time for seconds. Try to use a salad plate for your entrée and a saucer plate for dessert. Studies have shown that people eat more simply because more is on their plate. If smaller plate is used, the difference in hunger is minimal. Put lean protein on one side and vegetables on the other. The starchy sides or dessert gets the smaller bottom section.
Red Lights Are There For A Reason: You are allowed (and encouraged!) to eat two red light foods (least healthy food options on the Red Light Green Light Eat Right Program) each week. Constantly restricting what you eat and depriving yourself is a sure way to end up binging on all the forbidden foods. After all, it’s much easier to resist that slab of cake when you know you can have one in a couple of days’ time. Most of us are enthusiastic about a new diet for the first couple of weeks … and then the reality sets in. Taking these pit stops every week will actually help you in the long-term.
Start Writing: Writing down what you eat can double your weight loss, according to a recent study of nearly 1,700 dieters from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research. Those who documented their food, drinks and exercise everyday lost twice as much over six months as people who did so occasionally or not at all. Journaling makes you accountable and aware of subconscious eating that packs on the pounds.