Attending a holiday party doesn’t mean your heart healthy decisions should take a back seat. In fact, this is where they matter most. Holiday parties are prime for tasty, caloric snacks and sugary cocktails, which can be detrimental to heart health, and waistline. But it doesn’t have to be. Keep these five tips in mind the next time you’re invited to a soiree.
1. Put it on a plate
When hors d’oeuvres are passed or plated it’s hard to keep track of what you’re consuming and easy to go overboard. Skip the tray and go straight for a small appetizer plate. This will ensure you know exactly how much you are eating.
To be sure you are getting the right portion size, use your hands, recommends Maribet Rivera-Brut, nutritionist and volunteer for the American Heart Association. “For the average woman, the palm of your hand is two to three ounces – your thumb is equal to one teaspoon,” she says.
2. Find a mix
Avoid filling your plate with one food only, like a hefty pile of cheese. Instead, try to balance your plate with lean proteins, heart healthy whole grains and veggies. If those options aren’t available, just remember to pace yourself. Maribet suggests sticking to high-fiber foods, making sure there are more abundant on your plate than anything else. Still hungry after your first serving? Wait 20 minutes, have a glass of water, and check in with your body before going for seconds.
If you’re at a sit down dinner, be mindful of serving sizes. If portions are on the larger side, share with your date or a friend. From appetizers to entrees, most dishes are easily shareable and you’ll end up feeling better after. Not to mention, your host will probably appreciate that you didn’t waste food.
4. Stay hydrated
Chances are you’ll have a drink or two this holiday season, so imbibe wisely. If the bartender at the party you’re attending is serving sweet, sugary drinks, ask for red wine instead. You can also ask them to modify their signature drink; club soda and fresh lime juice is always a great alternative for sugary lemon-lime sodas. And most importantly, make sure to drink plenty of water.
5. Pace yourself
Holiday season is a marathon, not a race, and each one you attend will mostly likely require a different set of heart-healthy decisions. As Maribet explains, it can be hard to moderate on the holiday party circuit and at times is more psychological than anything else. “Sometimes you might have your treats and that’s OK,” she said. “Be mindful about what you’re going to be eating and plan for that. It’s a called a treat because you’re not supposed to have it all time.
Julia Rodack is NYC-based writer and editor. She loves food, fashion and alliteration. Her work has appeared in Time Out New York, The Brooklyn Downtown Star and various online publications.