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Guilt-Free AppetizersThe holiday season has arrived! No matter what holiday you celebrate, there are plenty of reasons to get together with family, friends, and coworkers this time of year. With food and drinks galore, holiday parties can be tempting times to sabotage our nutrition goals.

Many foods and drinks are sources of unwanted calories and fat, but there are things we can do to make feasting during festivities guilt-free.

Following our advice may help you achieve your goals during this food-focused time of year.

Don’t overdo it.

1. Eat a small snack before you go to a party.
Before heading off to a party, having a snack of whole-grain crackers with peanut butter, low-fat yogurt with berries, or carrot sticks with hummus will help to curb your hunger.

2. Enjoy foods in moderation.
Experience the flavors of your favorite foods without breaking the calorie bank by having a small taste. Sample foods you can find only during the holiday season, rather than ones available year-round.

3. Make simple swaps.
Choose whole-grain breads and crackers over refined grain products. Opt for roasted meats and poultry instead of fried. If you are drinking alcohol, choose low-calorie mixers like club soda. Try these other calorie swaps:

  • Instead of: 1 cup of eggnog with 1 ounce rum (288 calories, 11 grams fat)
  • Try: 6-ounce glass of white wine (120 calories, 0 grams fat)

  • Instead of: 3 cocktail meatballs (160 calories, 12 grams fat)
  • Try: 3 ounces of shrimp cocktail (94 calories, 0.2 grams fat)

  • Instead of: Pepper Bruschetta (with cheese and sausage) (360 calories, 26 g fat)
  • Try: Roasted Pepper-Zucchini Bruschetta (100 calories, 2.5 g fat)

All calories were calculated using USDA Database.

4. Celebrate with friends and family.
Keep yourself occupied at parties by socializing with friends and family. Stand away from the food table and bar to keep your mind off eating and drinking. Keeping the food in view may lead you to feel hungry and want to eat more than intended.

5. Choose smaller plates.
We tend to use the size of plates, bowls, and spoons as an indicator of how much food to serve and eat. Use smaller plates at buffet tables and do not feel like you have to fill every empty space with food. Using smaller utensils may also help you eat in moderation and prevent overindulging.

Focus on wellness for the new year.

1. Fill your plate with fruit and veggies first.
Many fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which has several benefits. Fiber may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, reduce the risk of weight gain, and help with digestive health. Whether it is the holiday season or not, filling up on fiber-containing foods is always a good idea. Aim for 28 grams of fiber each day. Some fiber-containing dishes at holiday parties include bean dips, veggie trays, whole-grain breads, and fruit salads.

2. Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to be physically active.
Sign up for a holiday 5K with your whole family, choose to go for a walk after a big meal, or get out on the dance floor at your office party! Try incorporating exercise into your normal routine by parking farther away from stores where you do holiday shopping and taking the stairs rather than elevators in department stores. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity on most days. Always check with your doctor before starting or changing a fitness routine.

3. Be mindful of when you are eating.
Be aware of how much you are eating and how full you feel at holiday parties. Do not rush for seconds after finishing your first plate of food. Instead, wait about 20 minutes to see if you still feel hungry. Only go back for a second helping if you still feel hungry afterwards.

4. Bring a dish you feel good about sharing.
Bring an appetizer such as a fruit salad, fresh vegetables with yogurt dip, or shrimp cocktail. If you bring a baked good, try substituting unsweetened applesauce for half of the butter or two egg whites for one whole egg.

Schoeller, D.A. "The Effect of Holiday Weight Gain on Body Weight." U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: March 21, 2014. Originally published in Physiology & Behavior.
2014 Jul;134:66-9 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.018

Dahl, Wendy, and Maria L. Stewart. "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber." U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: Originally published Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015 Nov; 115(11): 1861-70

"How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). June 04, 2015.

Wansink, Brian. "Environmental Factors That Increase the Food Intake and Consumption Volume of Unknowing Consumers." Originally published Annual Review of Nutrition 2004 July Vol. 24: 455-479 10.1146/annurev.nutr.24.012003.132140


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