10 Don’ts a Nutritionist Sticks to at a Holiday Party

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Holiday party time is in full swing.  Celebrating this special time of the year with your colleagues, friends and family typically comes with more eating, more drinking and more indulging in our favorite comforts.

I love to enjoy holiday parties just like everyone else, but I do my best to not let the season drag my health and wellness goals down. So if you’re wondering how a nutritionists navigates a holiday party while still having fun, here are the 10 Don’ts that I follow when going out. Hey, even if you stick to just 7 of these you are doing yourself a favor!

1. Don’t Go Hungry. 
This is definitely rule #1.  Think of the party as more of a marathon not a sprint.  If you go in hungry you’ll quickly make a break for the buffet and fill your belly with food and drinks before you realize you’re overstuffed.  Taking the edge off with a fiber and phytonutrient rich snack beforehand, can allow you to have the mental energy to take the time needed to peruse the scene and choose your food and beverage wisely.

Try these energizing, light recipes:

2. Don’t Go Thirsty.
Being underhydrated can zap energy levels and ramp up sugar or salt cravings or simply the desire to eat just about anything!  Don’t just sip water at the party as an anti-overeating strategy.  Plan ahead and start the day before.  Try to fit in an extra cup or two of water with a goal of at least 8, 8 oz. cups (64 oz totally) per day.

3. Don’t Arrive Empty Handed.
Not only are you being a good guest by bringing a snack or fun {healthy} cocktail to the party, but you’re also bringing something that you know is good for you and that you can enjoy! Many times party foods are set to please the masses and that includes fried foods, cheese-heavy snacks, fatty dips, and so on. Bring an exciting flare to the party with one of these options:

4. Don’t Pass on the Veggies Just Because it’s the Holidays.
Red and green is festive, so eat more of the red and green veggies. I like to go for a heaping pile of about 75% of my plate.  It’s good to be an overachiever sometimes!  This can help keep the heavier foods that leave me feeling lethargic the next day at bay and also leave room for indulgences I may want to prioritize like chocolate or alcohol.

5. Don’t Sit in the Corner All Night. 
Catch up with friends, be social, and be the life of the party! More time talking is less time eating and the social connection is truly what the holidays are all about.

6. Don’t Park Too Close (or stay until midnight).
The later you stay, the more alcohol is likely to be drank and the more food to be consumed. I like to have an exit strategy in place –the reassurance of being able to scoot out of a party when we’re ready to roll (or the babysitter calls) is key so parking a bit further out means no need to ask others to move their cars.  Plus, knowing we can walk off a bit of our food and drink in the brisk, cool air feels really good at the end of a fun night.  See if you can skip driving altogether and take public transportation or just skip the drinking and at the next party your husband can be the DD.

7. Don’t Consume the Triglyceride-Raising Trifecta.
Bread, dessert and wine (or any alcohol) are all metabolized to sugars and can contribute to raising triglyceride levels in the blood, which is bad for your heart.  Be picky!  Decide to enjoy just one of these three amigos per party or if you can pull it off, a super tiny amount of each.

8. Don’t Commit to “Just One”.
Watch out for those “Oh I’ll just have one” moments (which can quickly turn into two, three, many more).   Sometimes it’s easier and less stressful to simply abstain.  Although it’s actually not simple at all!   Walking by certain foods and identifying them as “off limits” can help – especially when it comes to being mindful of food sensitivities.  I find an all or nothing approach works best for me; otherwise that just one bite of calamari turns into about 20 more and boy, will my belly ache!

9. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Sleep.
Get a good night’s sleep before the party to help curb cravings. Low energy can spike those cravings and leave you reaching for not one, not two, but 10 bites of the spinach artichoke dip.  Here are more tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

10. Don’t Skip Exercise.
Go on a walk or exercise that day and plan for the next day’s physical activity.  Nothing too strenuous if you are exhausted, but a nice brisk walk, jog, yoga or workout class with a friend can boost body and mind to gear up or decompress from the festivities.

What’s your favorite tip for staying {somewhat} healthy at a holiday party?

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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