Weight Loss & Diet

Tips for Staying Healthy and Losing Weight During Holiday Parties

Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

In this article:

  • Holiday parties and gatherings with family, friends, and coworkers may be back this year. They may be modified due to COVID-19, but food is likely to be a central part.
  • You can bring or serve healthier foods, eat slowly, and limit alcohol to keep calories in check. Another tip for weight and health is to follow your healthy eating and exercise plan the rest of the time.
  • It is still important to follow COVID-19 precautions. 
  • It is possible to manage health and weight during the holidays. Lark has more tips to guide you through the season and beyond.

Parties and gatherings pop up as the holidays approach. Get-togethers can include gatherings with friends and family from in and out of town. Work holiday parties may also be back this year, though likely toned down because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and precautions.

Regardless of who is getting together and what time of day the event is held, there is certain to be food. Usually, there is a lot of food, and most of it is unhealthy and tempting. How can you get through the holiday season, enjoy your social events, and get to January 1 feeling healthy and on track? Here are some tips for staying healthy at social events.

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1. Serve Healthier Options

If you are hosting an event, you can control most of the food. It is okay to serve some less-healthy traditional dishes, but you can be sure to serve some more nutritious ones. Examples include roast turkey, a green salad, and roasted vegetables. You can also make minor swaps to make recipes healthier. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has tips.

  • Using applesauce instead of butter in baked goods.
  • Making dips with plain yogurt instead of cream cheese.
  • Using low-fat cheese instead of full-fat in casseroles.

Serving fresh fruit with dessert gives you something healthy to eat while others are eating sugary, fatty dessert.

2. Bring Something for Yourself…to Share

If you are a guest, you can bring a dish or two to share. When you bring a low-calorie dish, you can load your plate up with it. That way, you can keep calories in check even if the host or hostess only serves high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. You might bring a crudite platter as an appetizer, a nice green salad with dressing and toppings on the side, or a fruit platter for dessert.

3. Choose Lower-Calorie Foods

There can be a lot of high-calorie foods, but there are usually some “better” choices. Load your plate up with raw fruit or vegetables, plain cooked vegetables, or lean protein such as fish, chicken, or turkey. 

Look for… Limit…
  • Cocktail shrimp
  • Raw vegetables or crudites
  • Nuts or cheese – small portions
  • Fresh fruit
  • Turkey at a carving station
  • Green salads with dressing on the side
  • Roasted vegetables, such as brussels sprouts or butternut squash
  • Water, sparkling water, coffee, hot or iced unsweetened tea
  • Fried or battered foods, such as cocktail franks or fried shrimp
  • Doughy foods, such as quiches or puff pastry appetizers
  • Bacon
  • Prepared creamy salads, such as potato or seafood salad
  • Creamy or cheesy dips
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Creamy or cheesy pasta dishes
  • Hot chocolate or sweetened coffee

4. Watch the Alcohol

Avoiding alcohol at gatherings may be best for many reasons.

  • Alcoholic beverages have calories and often sugar.
  • Alcohol reduces inhibition. It can lead you to eat more.
  • Alcohol can affect blood sugar unpredictably if you have diabetes.

Take precautions if you choose to drink. 

  • Limit yourself to one drink if you are female, or two if you are a male.
  • Eat at least a small snack while you are drinking.
  • Drink plenty of water.

And absolutely do NOT plan to drive if you choose to drink, no matter how little you drink. With easy and low-cost choices such as ride shares or having a designated driver, there is no reason to put yourself and others at risk.

5. Use a Small Plate.

If you have a choice, take a small plate to serve yourself at a buffet. It holds less food. You might look for an appetizer or dessert plate or small bowl instead of a full-sized dinner plate.

6. Load Your Plate with Healthy Choices

Fill your plate with lower-calorie choices, such as undressed salad, roasted vegetables, and lean protein, such as shrimp or fish. Leave only a small amount of space for one or two carefully-chosen higher-calorie treats.

7. Be Social

Anything you can do besides eating will be helpful for your waistline. Talk to others as much as possible to distract yourself from the food. You can also help serve or clean up food and chairs, or focus on the entertainment, such as dancing, listening to a band, or playing party games. These help pass the time without eating much while you enjoy the party.

8. Drink Water

Drinking water or other low-calorie fluids can help you take in fewer overall calories at the event.

  • They can help reduce hunger without adding many calories.
  • They save calories if you choose them instead of alcoholic or sugary beverages.
  • They can help you eat less by giving you something to do besides eat while milling around or sitting at the table.

Water, sparkling or seltzer water, unsweetened coffee or hot or iced herbal, green, or black tea, and diet sodas are low in calories.

9. Sit or Stand Away from the Food

Stand or sit far from the buffet table. That makes it harder to refill your plate. And you will not see the food as well. That can make it easier to resist going back for extra helpings. If possible, move around the room or sit down across the room from the food. 

10. Stay Safe

You may feel safer this year than last year, but COVID-19 is still present. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge Americans to exercise precautions. These are some tips.

  • Outside is safer than indoors.
  • Masks are safer when indoors in communities with high transmission. 
  • Individuals 5 years and older are safer with their COVID-19 vaccinations. 
  • Stay home if you have symptoms.

Staying healthy can help you stay on track with your healthy eating and exercise routine, which can help with weight loss during the holiday season.

11. Get Back to Your Routine

The choices you make in between holiday parties matter a lot more than the choices you make at parties. No matter what happens at the parties, you will be better off if you eat right and stay physically active the rest of the time. Eating right for the majority of the time during the holiday season can keep weight off so you feel better on January 1. 

12. Modify Desserts

Desserts can double the calories in your meal, or add more than a day’s worth of sugar. You may even realize that you do not even want one if you have already eaten and are just relaxing with the other guests. If there is table service, feel free to tell the server, “No, thank you!” At a buffet, consider skipping dessert, taking only fruit, or serving yourself a small portion of the single item that looks the best. You can always serve yourself, or order, coffee to savor during this time.

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You can eat the holiday foods you love and still stay on track this year. Lark can help. Lark’s nutrition and weight loss coaching includes daily check-ins, meal logging features, and instant feedback. And if motivation is what you need during this busy season, Lark is available 24/7 to provide it. 

Healthy eating during the holidays does not mean giving up everything you love. There are ways to fit in your favorites and stay true to tradition while making healthy choices. Lark can help you make small changes that can keep you on track. 

Your health insurance might cover Lark at no cost to you. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark!

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