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Healthy celebrations

OCT 21, 2014
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Holiday parties and celebrations can make it harder to stick with your healthy habits.


Your best bet is developing a strategy to survive temptation. Try these tips to enjoy the festivities without diet setbacks.


Take the focus off food


Be creative. Plan fun, meaningful events for your friends and family where food isn’t the main attraction.


  • Host an arts and crafts night to make gifts, cards, or scrapbooks.
  • Plan a game day.
  • Play outside.
  • Take a group walk in the neighborhood.
  • Volunteer at a local charity or help those less fortunate.


Trim your appetite


Eating small, healthy snacks will help control your appetite when goodies appear. Whether it’s a big event or just a tray of cookies, these tips will help you keep your healthy eating goals in sight.


  • About an hour before a party, eat a light, healthy snack like a small salad, half a sandwich, or a bowl of cereal.
  • Expecting treats at work or school? Bring a smart snack like carrot sticks, crackers, or low-fat cheese to munch on instead.
  • Move away from the buffet. Catch up with friends and family in another room, where it isn’t as easy to graze on unhealthy foods.


Share the health


Want to guarantee there will be healthy foods at the next celebration? Bring a healthy dish to share. Great party-ready foods that won’t take your healthy eating plan off track include:


  • colorful fruit skewers or salad
  • fruit and veggie platter with low-fat dip
  • green salad or a vegetable tray
  • hummus and pita wedges
  • low-calorie drinks like club soda mixed with a little fruit juice
  • roasted seasonal vegetables
  • muffins baked with applesauce instead of oil


Indulge wisely


One night of eating and drinking more than usual probably won’t ruin your weight-loss goals. But a few parties, several large family feasts, and a basket of cookies in your kitchen just might.


It’s ok to allow yourself a small treat during a party. To avoid overdoing it, try these tricks:


  • Ask friends and family not to bring gifts of food.
  • Check your hunger level before you go for seconds. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full.
  • Practice mindful eating. Enjoy each bite and notice the flavors, textures, and smells.
  • Serve up appetizer-sized helpings of each dish instead of full servings.
  • Send leftovers home with guests to avoid post-party temptation.


Drinking alcohol not only adds extra calories. It can also cause you to overeat — and eat foods that aren’t normally part of your healthy eating plan. It’s easier to stay healthy if you’ve got a festive, low-calorie drink in hand.


  • Ask for a light beer.
  • Choose calorie-free drinks like diet soda, ginger ale, or sparking water.
  • Drink 1 or 2 glasses of water between each alcoholic beverage.
  • Use a diet mixer in your favorite drink for a lower-calorie cocktail.


Plan ahead when you think you’ll be eating and drinking more than your body needs. You can always eat fewer calories the rest of the day or get extra exercise.


Got a few minutes? Get moving.


When you’re planning a party or celebration, it’s tempting to skip workouts. But being active will give you extra energy, reduce tension, and balance out some of those extra calories. Every little bit counts!


  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to the grocery store instead of driving.
  • Park farther away from the mall.
  • Plan your get-togethers to include an after-dinner walk.
  • Rake leaves or shovel snow.


Take a moment to de-stress


Stress has been shown to increase weight gain — big events and holidays are often a big source of stress.


Just breathe. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with commitments — writing invitations or greeting cards, mailing gifts, planning for guests, and cooking feasts would stress out anyone. Set aside time to get together with a friend to chat, go out for coffee, go for a walk, or see a movie. Taking a break can help cut down on stress.


Relaxation techniques like breathing or meditation, and programs like HealthMedia® Relax®, can also help you handle stress.


Related links


20 ways to cut 100 calories


Make a healthy eating plan


Maintain, don’t gain during the holiday season


Reviewed by: Keith Bachman, MD and Trina Histon, PhD, August 2013
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers
©2013 Kaiser Permanente

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