Baby back ribs at a barbecue. Pizza at a pool party. Pot roast at a potluck. Every gathering seems to come with a signature dish (or four). And in order to fully partake in the party, you sometimes feel the pressure to eat more than you normally would – “Because they ordered a giant sub!” – or eat things you normally wouldn’t – “Because Aunt Ida made her famous rum cake just for you.”
It is hard not to let the party atmosphere take over and make all your decisions for you. Even if you can’t control the embarrassing childhood stories told, or any regrets from the dance floor you might have the next day, here are some tips to help you at least stay in control of what you eat.
1. Focus on the Activities Rather Than the Food
Unless you are all just sitting around drinking wine and chatting (which doesn’t sound like a bad time at all), most parties have some central activity, or multiple activities going on at once. You may be less likely to mindlessly eat bowls of dip if you are playing horseshoes instead of standing by the chips. So station yourself as far away from the food table as possible. I promise, the food will still be there after you’ve played a few rounds. And you might have actually had a chance to digest your first few servings before heading back.
2. Ask The Host to Include Some Healthy Options
If your parents are hosting, ask them to include a few healthy, low-fat options on the menu. Sure, your mom might give you grief about it, but chances are there are other people attending who would appreciate having a few healthy dishes on the buffet table next to the potato salad and ambrosia. And a lot of people actually have specific dietary restrictions that can be met by the same healthy dishes. Feel like you would be imposing if you made specific requests of your host? Bring something that you made or bought for you and other like-minded guests to enjoy.
3. Be Vocal If You Are Asked to Weigh In On A Food Decision
If there is a toppings poll being taken before the pizza is ordered, vote for veggies. If someone is making a soda and ice run, offer to go with and pick up some seltzer. Don’t think of this as a way to keep yourself and others from consuming “bad” things but simply providing yourself with options. If your host wants to know people's preferences, you have as much a right as anyone to ask for what you want.
4. Eat A Snack Before You Go
This may sound like a party pooper idea, but it really isn’t. Also, I’m not telling you to sit down and eat a meal before you go. I’m telling you to eat something before you leave so that you don't go to the party ravenous. This is important for a number of reasons, one being that you should really have something in your stomach before you get your first drink or if you're going to be outside doing activities. If you eat a small but filling snack before you go, you will not need to make a beeline for the buffet the second you get there. In fact, you might actually get a chance to say hello to your best friend who made that great seven layer dip before you eat the first layer.
5. Place Limits, and Stick to Them
You are in charge of you. You are a grown up. You have self-control. You are completely capable of placing limits for yourself and sticking to them. So try a two-plate limit at the buffet, and a two-drink limit at the bar. And stick to it. And if sticking to it failed, all hope is not lost. Instead, limit yourself to smaller portions of the heavier foods and filling the majority of your plate with salad, veggies, fresh fruit, whole grains, plain fish, or poultry items. And watch out for heavy salad dressings, fried foods, cheese sauces, or other gravies that are high in fat and cholesterol. They are just gonna weigh that plate, and you, down.
6. Share With Others
Sharing is caring, and usually much appreciated by everyone at a party. You know how easy it is to lose half your plate of chips during a 30-minute conversation standing next to your friend. If it is that easy to have food stolen from your plate, it is probably a million times easier to find someone volunteer to go halvsies with you on a plate of ribs, a giant piece of cake, or any food that is easily sliced down the middle. Everyone may want to try everything, but they may also not want to eat what is considered a standard portion by the host or other guests’ standards.
7. Stay Well Hydrated
It is easy to lose track of how much water you are drinking when there is soda and beer as far as the eye can see. But you need to down a glass of water as often as you are drinking those other beverages. It will do you, and your host, no favors if you get dehydrated at the party, especially if you're outside and it's hot. You know there's going to be one cooler full of tiny bottles of water. Make a mental note of that cooler and be the person helping everyone out once they have gone far too long without some H2O.
8. Know There Is No Damage That Cant Be Undone
Eating too many high-calorie, high fat, high-whatever foods at a social event is inevitable at times. And as soon as you start to keep track of every morsel you are taking in and making a mental list of all the food “mistakes” you are making, you are going to start to feel guilty. During a party. Don’t.
It’s a party! They don’t happen everyday. They're not part of your daily routine. There are people here you probably don’t see a lot and there are foods here you may only get to eat once a year. Enjoy it all.
And if you have any pangs of guilt whatsoever, just remind yourself that tomorrow is another day, and you are in control of what you eat then, too. And tomorrow there will probably not be five different kinds of pie within arms reach.
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