Tips for Eating Healthy During Holiday Party Season

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How do you fit in at holiday parties when you’re on a special diet or are simply trying to eat healthy? How do you avoid putting a damper on the party?

Mara Z. Vitolins, Dr. P.H., a nutritionist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, has some suggestions.

“I hear complaints from people that they have a difficult time ‘fitting in’ at social events because of their diets,” said Vitolins, who conducts nutrition research, especially research focused on preventing chronic disease. “I have been told that they have offended hosts by not eating the foods offered at a social event.”

Some doctors may put patients on diets that prohibit red meat or cheese, which are commonly used in developing the hors d’oeuvres for parties. Some may limit calories from fat.

“Offering explanations seems to get them in deeper trouble rather than helping the situation,” said Vitolins, assistant professor of public health sciences (epidemiology) and a member of the Center for Research on Human Nutrition and Chronic Disease Prevention. “Regardless of the reason, it makes all involved very uncomfortable.

“One of the first things I do is to encourage people to talk to their friends about the changes they are making and gain their support,” she said. “In some instances, they gain the friend’s support and end up helping the friend make the same types of changes to his/her diet.”

Vitolins has some other suggestions:

1) Bring your own food: “When attending a party held at someone’s home, offer to bring a dish or side dish. At most events, eating is part of being ‘social’ and by supplying your own food you can eat without abandoning your healthy diet, bypass the higher fat or sodium foods, and still feel like a part of the crowd.”

2) Control portions: “Eat very small portions of everything offered so you can comment on how good the food is without overdoing it.”

3) Plan ahead: “If you know you are going to attend a social event, budget your food intake. For example, if you are limiting your intake of fat, decrease your fat consumption even further than you normally do for one or two days prior to the event. This will allow you to have a bit more fat at the party without feeling guilty.”

4) Throw your own party: “Have more parties in your own home. That way you are in control of what is offered. ”

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