Don’t Make These Holiday Buffet Mistakes
These sure-fire strategies and recipes will let you enjoy the parties and buffets without sabotaging your health.
Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is one long party season. And you know what that means: From parties in the teacher’s lounge to family celebrations, you’ll find holiday buffet tables filled with tasty temptation.
But what if you could enjoy it—all of it—without regret? You can, with a little planning. Here’s what to avoid, with some helpful strategies to help you navigate the season:
DON’T: Skip meals
DO: Plan your indulgences
Holiday food is special for a reason: You only get it during this brief time of year. The key is to plan for your indulgences. Focus on what you like best and leave the rest. If you love Aunt Bessie’s pecan pie or your co-worker’s creamy artichoke dip, enjoy them in moderation and savor every special bite.
But planning ahead doesn’t mean skipping meals the rest of the day just so you can pig out. Arriving hungry to a party invites overeating. Try this trick: Have a small handful of almonds before the party. The healthy fat in the nuts will slow down your digestion so you’ll be satisfied with modest portions of the food you really want.
DON’T: Load up on a little bit of everything
DO: Tour the table first, and choose wisely
Do you usually amble over to the buffet table, grab a plate and start mindlessly loading up? Before you know it, you have a mountain of random food.
Try something different this year. First, take a moment to tour the food. Enjoy looking at everything. Ask folks about the food they’ve brought—it’s a great icebreaker. While you’re having a look, decide what you want to eat most. Then, and only then, fix yourself a plate. If you’re watching calories, gravitate toward dishes made with fresh vegetables. Go easy on anything that’s breaded or doused in a creamy, cheesy dressing. Enjoy a modest serving of one dessert and make it your favorite! Make the meal truly special.
DON’T: Use multiple plates for multiple trips
DO: Follow the one-plate rule
Holiday buffets invite grazing, so beware. Play by the one-plate rule. It can be a full-size dinner plate, but only fill it up once and only with the food you really want to eat. Once your plate is filled, step away so you’re not tempted to keep grazing on “just a taste” of this and that.
DON’T: Blow all your calories on drinks
DO: Plan your drinks like you plan your food
Both virgin and alcoholic holiday sippers can be loaded with calories. Whether it’s your host’s signature cranberry martini (78 calories), Grandma’s eggnog (343 calories) or classic hot chocolate (200 calories), remember to account for these libations in your planned indulgences.
Of course, you’ll want to go easy on alcoholic beverages for safety’s sake, but here’s another reason: Alcohol can weaken your resolve to enjoy all that great party food in moderation.
One final “DO”: Share your own healthy holiday recipes!
One way to ensure you’ll have something good to eat at the party is to contribute a healthy dish to the potluck. Both of these are best made the night before.
Quick White Bean Dip: Place two (15-ounce) cans drained and rinsed cannellini beans in a food processor or blender. Add ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 1 garlic clove. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with a light dusting of smoked paprika and pomegranate seeds. This dip is delicious with cut-up veggies and toasted pita wedges.
Quinoa Confetti: Any variety of quinoa will work in this recipe. If you can find multicolored “rainbow” quinoa, use it for an extra-festive touch. Combine 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth and 1 cup quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Whisk together ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard. Stir into warm quinoa. Before serving, stir in ½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts and ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries.
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