We’re in the midst of the holiday season, and as we’ve discussed leading up to this time of year, it can wreak havoc on our health goals. With access to so many opportunities to indulge, especially with holiday party after a social gathering, it’s tough to stay on track. As we make the most of this exciting time of year, we like to be sure we’re prepared to make healthful choices, both for our diet and exercise routines so to stay on track the best we can!

What works for the experts?

When you’re the host, there’s much more flexibility, as you’re the one choose what you’re going to offer and serve. This gives you the opportunity to delegate additional items, that are lower in carbohydrates and sugar, for your guests to bring. Attending and be more of a challenge. Most traditional holiday foods are very high in carbohydrates and sugar, and are commonly served with high-calorie beverages. It’s okay to allow yourself a low-calorie, low sugar holiday cocktail (or mocktail), but follow with a glass of water. Walker, a Pack Health Health Advisor suggests, to keep carbs to a minimum, chicken nuggets and meatballs are better than sliders and chips and dip. If you can’t pass up on a festive dip, opt for fresh vegetables like cucumbers or celery for dipping.

What are a few problem areas for people trying to stay on track when they’re placed in a social and fun environment?

It’s imperative that we start with the holiday food choices made this time of year. When you’re at a holiday party, or having a holiday meal with friends, you’re open to more food options than you’d normally have – thick creamy, cheesy dips, like we just discussed, high-calorie baked goods and high-calorie drinks. It’s easy to be tempted, we get it! And not everyone around you will have the same health goals as you. It’s normal to not want to be a party-pooper, it’s okay to relax and enjoy yourself, especially if you have a solid plan of action. The holidays are a great time to get together with your friends, and if those friends are indulging, it’s exceptionally difficult to exercise portion control.

How can we tackle those pain points this upcoming holiday weekend and on the weekends to follow?

If you’re not the host, and the host is okay with it, bring an item that’s healthier! Whether it’s vegetables and hummus, a low-sodium nut mixture, or vegetarian chili, bring something so at least you know you’ll have one healthy option to choose from. If you can, bring drinks as well. One of our favorites is infused water! It’s so important to stay hydrated, especially while grazing at holiday parties. A lot of times, dehydration can be mistaken for hunger, so before digging in, drink up, you’ll feel less inclined to splurge!

Check out these swap suggestions.

Opt for homemade hummus, low-calorie nuts, slow-cooker meatballs, vegetable crudites with a low-calorie dip, and shrimp cocktail! Like we said before if you simply can’t pass up on a dip, or say, a decadent holiday cheese ball, be sure to use fresh vegetables instead of chips or crackers, you’ll save calories and instead of added fat, you add vitamins and minerals to the mix. It’s a win, win! For a bit of protein, try a slow-cooker meatball recipe. They’re great for finger food, and although the sauce has a bit of sugar, if they’re eaten from a toothpick instead of a bun, they’re a great low-carb option.

How can we personalize this?

The challenges of social eating are so unique to each individual. Before attending a holiday party, be sure you take a moment to pinpoint your motivation. Sometimes we regret food choices we make, so in hopes of avoiding that in the future, set a tiny goal. Such as, I’m going to have x drinks or x servings of my favorite holiday snack, or something like I’m not going to hang out near the food, instead, I’ll spend time visiting with friends and family. The nature of our culture is to congregate around food, but use it as an opportunity to invest in others. You might even forget there’s a food table! If you’re focused on your motivation, and you’ve got an alternative plan, it’s a lot easier to reach your goals.

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