With the end of the year and warmer weather comes celebration. And celebration often means delicious, decadent food and lots of it. Whether it be at a graduation party, family reunion or backyard barbeque with friends, there always seems to be a scrumptious spread calling your name. And let’s not forget the dessert table.
Overindulging at one celebration might not be so bad, but what happens when you have three parties to attend in one weekend? Before you know it, you’ll find yourself feeling tired, bloated and a perhaps a few pounds heavier—just in time for swimsuit season.
So how can you keep your body happy and healthy without missing the fun that summer celebrations bring? Read on for nine tips on how to enjoy parties while still keeping your health in mind.
1. Eat before you go.
Heading out to a graduation soiree where you know there will be killer desserts? Try eating a light, healthy meal before you go. You won’t be hungry for the main event like fatty fried chicken and instead will have room for that slice of cake. Even the smallest snack can help when it comes to having control over the buffet table. Just remember, no matter what you do, don’t go to a party starving. You’re likely to enter a “see-all-eat-all” mentality and go overboard.
2. Bring a healthy dish to pass.
By bringing a dish to pass, you’ll at least know there will be one healthy option to eat. Serve yourself a portion of your healthy contribution and supplement it with smaller portions of a few more indulgent items. Not only can you keep your diet in check, but you’ll also enable others to enjoy a lighter option.
3. Taste test.
The first time you visit the food spread, take a little bit of everything you want to try. Give it all a taste and decide on your favorites. Then go back and dish up what you know you will truly enjoy. This will prevent you from eating foods that are just so-so to your taste buds but are also high in calories and fat.
4. Distract yourself.
After trip one to the dessert table, walk away. Don’t stand or sit near it, as this can increase the temptation to make a return trip. Instead, offer to help the host out with dishes, take a break from the party to walk around the park or venture to the backyard to check out what else might be going on.
5. Be active.
After eating, don’t just sit around. Instead, get up and join in that slow-pitch softball game, round of cornhole or sand volleyball match. You might even burn enough calories to warrant an extra piece of cake!
6. Be mindful of your beverages.
Sure, nothing says it’s a party like a cold Spotted Cow or a fruity margarita. And by “a,” I mean one. Calories from beverages — whether it be from beer, mixed drinks, lemonade, punch or soda — can add up fast. Guzzle down two cans of Coke and you’ve just consumed 280 calories and nearly 80 grams of sugars. That’s about 20 teaspoons! Bottom line: it’s just as important to choose your beverages carefully as it is to choose your eats. Stick to one beverage of choice and then switch to water, diet soda or unsweetened tea.
7. Pack along a piece of gum.
After you’ve finished your first plate, whip out this little lifesaver. Choose a minty flavor to curb any cravings for another piece of chocolate cheesecake and to help take your mind off of food.
8. Balance your plate.
Just as you would for a typical dinner around the table at home, try to balance your plate. Load at least half of it with fruits and veggies, a quarter with lean protein, and the other quarter with grains. (Whole grains are best!)
9. Use a dessert plate.
Swing by the dessert table first before hitting up the food, but only to snatch a smaller, dessert-sized plate. Ditching an oversized dinner plate in favor of a smaller plate aids in portion control and will prevent you from overindulging right off the bat.
Now, I’d have to admit that part of the “party” is definitely the food, and that it’s perfectly okay to indulge every once in a while. But for all those other times, stick to these nine tips and you’ll be on your way to celebrating not only the occasion but also your commitment to a healthier lifestyle!
Sweet Pea, Spinach and Watermelon Farro Salad
This healthy, creative combo of flavors is sweet and refreshing and is perfect for a warm summer party, making it a potluck favorite. Farro is a whole grain that offers much more protein and fiber than noodles used in traditional pasta salads often served at parties. Make this the night before, as the flavors are even better once they’ve had a night to mix and mingle. This salad tastes great at room temperature or cold, straight from the fridge.
Yields: 4 servings (1 cup each)
- 1 cup uncooked farro (may substitute wheat berries or barley)
- 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen (may substitute edamame)
- ½ t salt
- ¼ t freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup cubed, seedless watermelon
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup coarsely chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup shaved Roman cheese
Place farro in a large saucepan and cover with water to a level about 2 inches above the farro. Bring contents to a rapid boil. Cover, reduce and simmer for 20 minutes or until farro is chewy.
Add peas to the farro and cook for 2 minutes or until peas are just crisp-tender. Drain farro and pea mixture; rinse with cold water and drain again.
Combine farro mixture, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add in watermelon, spinach and parsley. Toss gently to combine. Sprinkle salad with Romano cheese.
Serve or refrigerate.
Recipe originally adapted from Cooking Light.