Holiday parties that don’t pack on pounds

With Thanksgiving upon us, it seems everyone’s focus has shifted to food—giant meals, potlucks, and holiday parties abound. Don’t let holiday parties become a source of stress this year! With the following tips, you can stay social and stay on track with a healthy diet this season.

Tip 1. When you’re gearing up for Thanksgiving dinner or an evening holiday party, don’t skip meals throughout the day. If you show up starving, it will be very hard to make good choices and maintain small portions. Have a light protein- and fiber-containing meal or snack an hour or two before the event.

Some good snacks include:

  • Plain Greek yogurt with berries
  • Hummus with veggies
  • Hard-boiled egg with whole-grain crackers

Tip 2. If you’re attending a potluck, bring a dish that you know fits in your meal plan – then you can be certain there will be at least one healthy food choice available. For buffets, scope out the spread before you start filling your plate. This way you can decide on the foods you definitely want and skip the ones you don’t.

Tip 3. Use a small plate instead of a dinner plate to help with portion control, and avoid alcohol and liquid calories such as soda, punch, and eggnog. Not only do these empty calories add up quickly, but alcohol can lower your inhibitions, making you more likely to choose higher-fat foods and sweets that you would normally avoid. Stay hydrated by drinking 64 ounces of calorie-free fluids such as water or herbal tea every day.

Tip 4. Don’t forget to keep practicing mindful eating throughout the holiday season to prevent mindless eating from sneaking in. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If the answer is “no,” don’t eat it! Try to recognize what is actually driving you to eat – stress, habit, tradition, fatigue, depression, happiness, etc.—and find a different outlet for dealing with those emotions. To prevent mindless eating at parties, sit down and focus on eating your food instead of standing and chatting while you eat.

Tip 5. Finally, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Take some time this holiday season to reflect on the healthy habits you have formed and maintained over the past year. Be grateful for the blessings in your life and start thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2015.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tracy Severson is an outpatient clinical dietitian at OHSU. She moved to Portland from Tucson in 2010, and has worked at OHSU since 2011. Tracy works with the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction clinic and Cardiac Rehab program, and also provides medical nutrition therapy for General Adult Outpatient Clinics at OHSU.