Tips for Eating Healthy at Parties
I love a celebration among family and friends! But there is the very real threat of temptations galore that call to me like the siren’s song. In Fall and Winter activity turns indoors. This usually means an increase in sedentary outings like dinner parties. Plus there are all the wonderful foodie holidays, kicking off with Halloween and wrapping up with New Year’s Day. Then in Spring and Summer with weddings, graduations, 4th of July BBQs, pool parties, and events of this nature, it seems I go to more events centered around food than any other time of the year. So, let’s discuss strategies for eating healthy at parties.
Plan a Course of Action
As I see it, we have three choices for how we handle eating at parties:
1. “Eat it all”
Over-indulge at the event followed by a crash diet and exercise regimen for the next day or two to balance the extra calories we packed in at the party.
2. “Just say no”
Take a vow of abstinence from all tasty temptations being served and bring along your own healthy meal.
3. “Take the middle road”
Indulge in menus that are extravagant yet still part of our bariatric diet (or Paleo / Primal or whatever diet you follow). Allow yourself some leeway, but do not overdue it with the sugars and starches.
Having made your choice, you hereby vow to stick to it. So choose wisely. There’s no good, better, best choice. The best choice is simply the one that works best for you. Having said that, let’s look at some tricks to empower you to stick to your guns at the party.
Tricks to Party-Proof Your Diet
- We all know not to arrive to the party hungry. Fill up on some high quality protein before leaving the house.
- We also know not to stand by the food at the party — keep food out of arm’s reach. Stand as far away from the buffet as possible and keep your back towards the buffet when seated. Eating healthy at parties is about what you eat, as well as how much you eat.
- And we know to keep our mouths busy by chewing gum and sipping water to avoid bored mouth syndrome.
- Try to see the menu before hand when invited to a party. It really does make a difference if you can plan what you will eat and what you will stay away from.
Eating Healthy in the Real World
This shows how I applied the “eating healthy at parties” guidance above to an event that I attended several years ago. It was a high-end business affair for which the menu was, thankfully, circulated ahead of time. It was quite the feast and I was glad to get the lay of the spread ahead of the event and plan a course of action. I decided to take the middle road: Indulge in rich foods that were complaint with my bariatric diet.
There were a number of hors d’oeuvres stations (Temptation with a capital T for me) before a seated lunch was to be served. I planned to steer clear of the canapés, which surely are full of white flour, and head straight for the table of grilled vegetables, cheeses and charcuteries.
Open/cash bar is not stated, so I assume no alcohol will be served. I no longer drink wine, beer, or alcohol, so that’s a temptation that fixed itself. But when I did drink, I would plan one glass of dry champagne and as much mineral water as I cared to drink. I have found that once I was mingling it really did not matter whether it was wine or water in my glass. I always was too tuned into the conversation to be mindful of what I was drinking.
Lunch was four-courses and I knew that I could not eat all of them. My stomach just isn’t big enough. Neither am I able to eat grains/flour per the pouch rules of the gastric bypass surgery.
The first course was a beautiful salad of greens topped with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, fruit, blue cheese, and raspberry vinaigrette. This has a fairly high sugar and carbohydrate content. I’ll indulge in the salad and skip dessert: Italian pastries. I also planned to skip the second course: pasta. For the main course, I chose Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. It likely is made with some flour. But it is one of my favorite dishes and a delicacy that will be quite the treat.
Once at the party, I did not at all feel deprived passing on the canapés, pasta, and dessert. I dined on rich cheeses and cured meats, deliciously roasted vegetables and a gourmet salad, and fresh jumbo lump crab. I topped it off with a cappuccino sweetened with some Stevia (I carry my own). That was quite enough and left me feeling fully that I had enjoyed a marvelously decadent meal and happy that I had stuck to my bariatric diet. Healthy eating at parties is not mission impossible.
It’s Not All about Eating Healthy at Parties
It is important to take the focus off of eating and instead turn your attention to the friendships and conversations around you. This is a time to give your attention to someone rather than some food thing.
Before my gastric bypass, all I could think about was the food and drink being served. I was oblivious to what was happening around me! That has long ago changed for me… the reverence and importance of the gathering of friends and family is most important. For me it is a time of gaiety. And that is the richest experience of all.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo: Milner Fenwick