You are here

Holiday Party Guide: Eat, Drink, and Still Be Slim

1 of 5

Prevent Party Pig-Out

If they're not in the bathroom line, you know exactly where most women are: Hovering over the buffet table, thinking, I'm famished. This stuff looks scrumptious. Forget the diet. Now, you don't have to be one of them.

You'll bust your seams if you...

Skip meals all day long.
Why? "Arriving at the party hungry will make you reach for the first thing you see (and the second, and the third!) — whether it's healthy or not," says Elisa Zied, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Feed Your Family Right!
Instead: "Cut back on refined carbs and fats throughout the day to give yourself some leeway," advises Zied. "And include protein and fiber in every meal to help you feel full." For example, at breakfast have oat bran cereal with skim milk, a low-fat yogurt, and a piece of fruit. At lunch, throw some beans into your salad and swap the oil-based dressing for balsamic vinegar with a little mustard mixed in. Have a healthy snack — a handful of nuts or air-popped popcorn — right before the party.

Work out as an excuse to eat more.
Why? "One exercise session is not going to make up for the hundreds of extra calories consumed at a party," says Zied.
Instead: "Add an extra 10 minutes to your workout for a week, if you know you may be overly tempted," recommends Zied. "When you exercise just to compensate for calorie intake, you're setting yourself up to feel bad when you can't work off a high-calorie meal."

Taste a little bit of everything.
Why? "Studies show that eating too many different types of food may turn on your appetite," says Zied.
Instead: "Survey the entire food spread first," says Zied, "then choose a few things that you really want." Count the party grub as one meal — aim for 500 to 600 calories, including your drink, she adds. Take two small-size plates of food — one for snacks, the other for appetizers.

Secrets of a Successful Dieter

Forty pounds lighter, lotsa parties (and two years) later, Weight Watchers meetings leader Liz Josefsberg finally has a grip on her munchies. Her formula:

  1. Relax. "I realized that I can become very anxious at social events, and I eat to keep myself busy. Now I take a half-hour walk before the party to calm my nerves."
  2. Strategize. "Early in the day, I create a plan for what I will and won't eat. If I decide to have a drink, then I won't have dessert. And I don't eat standing up, because experts say our brains may not properly register it."
  3. Hit rewind. "If I have too many mini quiches, I don't continue to stuff my face and wait until the next day to resume my diet. Each minute is a chance to start over."

What to Eat: Before You Dip

Just because you eat it on a celery stick doesn't make it healthy. "Many dips are oily, sugary, and high in sodium," Zied says, which is why two tablespoons should be your portion limit.

What to Dip

  • Hummus (54 calories, 2.6g fat, 0.3g saturated fat)
  • Salsa (9 calories, 0.1g fat, 0g saturated fat)

What to Skip

  • Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese (70 calories, 6g fat, 4g saturated fat)
  • Spinach (78 calories, 7.6g fat, 2g saturated fat)

Your Best Choice?

Salsa! "Tomatoes are a low-calorie source of vitamins A and C and lycopene, which protects the heart," says Zied.

What to Eat: More Cheese, Please!

Cloned, packaged queso is so cheesy. "Consumers want an artisan-quality product now, bursting with flavor and creative flair," says Peggy Smith, cofounder of the California-based "cheesery" Cowgirl Creamery. One thing that hasn't changed is the fat content. Your serving should be no more than two ounces, Zied says, about the length of two fingers. Pick only two or three varieties, so as not to provoke your appetite.


229 Calories 19g Fat 12g Sat. Fat
Chevre 207 Calories 17g Fat 12g Sat. Fat
Brie 189 Calories 16g Fat 10g Sat. Fat
Swiss 215 Calories 16g Fat 10g Sat. Fat
Gruyere 234 Calories 18g Fat 11g Sat. Fat

Mozzarella (whole milk)

170 Calories 13g Fat 7g Sat. Fat
Blue 200 Calories 16g Fat 11g Sat. Fat
Gouda 202 Calories 16g Fat 10g Sat. Fat




Your Best Choice?

Fresh mozzarella is the lowest in fat and calories, but its mild taste may not satisfy your craving. "All the varieties here are good sources of protein," says Zied. Gruyere, Swiss, and cheddar contain the most calcium.

What to Eat: The Best Finger Foods

Bite-size poppers can be dicey, Zied says, because the calories can add up quickly. Select three items as your main course, but get your fill early on. Celebrity event planner Colin Cowie, author of Colin Cowie Chic, says, "I like to serve lighter dishes first and heavier ones afterward."

  • 3 California Sushi Rolls = 125 calories, 2g fat, 0.5g saturated fat
  • Mini Burgers (1 burger) = 111 calories, 5g fat, 1.8g saturated fat
  • Shrimp Cocktail = 83 calories, 0.8g fat, 0.2g saturated fat
  • Chicken Skewers = 94 calories, 2g fat, 0.6g saturated fat

Your Best Choice?

Shrimp is the leanest, but each item listed here has some nutritional value, says Zied.

What to Sip: The Best Holiday Cocktails

It is a cocktail party — you expect to see some neon-tinged fizz. Unfortunately, these trendy drinks are often chock-full of sugar. Choose the one you really want, Zied suggests, so you won't even miss the second round.

  • Sangria (4 ounces) = 82 calories
  • Mojito (one drink) = 135 calories
  • Champagne with Chambord (4 ounces champagne, 1 ounce Chambord) = 159 calories
  • Lemon Drop (one drink) = 237 calories

Your Best Choice?

If all of these sound equally delicious, go for the Sangria. "Both the red wine and the fruit contain antioxidants," Zied says.

Yes, You Can Have Dessert!

Dessert's gotten such a bad rep, but no longer. Eat up!

  • Apple pie (1/8 of a 9-inch pie): 411 calories, 19g fat (5g saturated)
  • Pumpkin pie (1/8 of a 9-inch pie): 316 calories, 14g fat (5g saturated)
  • Carrot cake (one 3-inch square): 250 calories, 11g fat (3g saturated)
  • Gingerbread (one 2-by-3-inch slice): 263 calories, 5g fat (3g saturated)
  • Shortbread cookies (2 cookies): 160 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated)
  • Chocolate chip cookies (3 cookies): 234 calories, 14g fat (7g saturated)
  • Dark-chocolate-dipped strawberries (4 berries): 166 calories, 9g fat (0g saturated)

If All Else Fails, You Can Dress 10 Pounds Thinner

Style maverick Carson Kressley, host of the new Lifetime show How to Look Good Naked, dresses you slim.

  • Spoil yourself. "Visit your hairstylist or get a fresh manicure — do the thing that makes you feel extra pretty. You'll have a boost of confidence before you even arrive at the party," says Kressley.
  • No restrictions. "Tightly fitting clothes are too constricting; you came to the party to let loose," he says. "Wear the dress that makes you feel the most attractive. You won't want to spoil your look by overeating, and you'll be too busy flirting to think about food." Curve-hugging cashmere and wool knit dresses are very "in the moment," he notes. For a festive spin, swap your little black frock for a tomato-red number that shows some leg.
  • Be self-assured. "Remember, no one at the party is offering the unique package that you have," says Kressley. "Flaunt what you've got!"