7 Healthy Eating Tips for Holiday Parties

The seemingly endless string of family gatherings, office parties, and other social events during the holiday season can feel like total diet sabotage. While one indulgent party won’t derail your whole healthy eating routine, multiple events over the course of several weeks can definitely add up. These simple tips will help you keep it real without feeling deprived. 

Make a plan

Decide ahead of time whether this event will be a meal, a snack (or appetizer), or simply a bit of face time. If there’s going to be alcohol, decide ahead of time how much (or if) you plan to drink. Take into account what your hunger and energy levels are like that time of day and maybe even how long you want—or have—to stay. 

Don’t show up hungry

A small snack before you go helps you avoid inhaling the first passed appetizers you see. Some smart pre-party bites:

● A cup of broth-based vegetable & bean soup
● An apple with 1 tablespoon nut butter
● ¼ cup of nuts or trail mix
● Half a turkey or PB & J sandwich on whole wheat bread
● Sliced veggies with 2 tablespoons hummus or guacamole
● 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and ground flax

Prioritize protein and veggies

The hanger-quelling protein in foods like roasted beef, chicken skewers, shrimp cocktail, and smoked salmon will fill you up better than pastry-wrapped whatever-the-heck is going around. If it’s a buffet, add some vegetables from the crudité platter for some extra fiber to keep you full even longer. At dinner, crowd out simple carbs like white bread, rice, and potatoes with meat, fish, or chicken and veggies. 

Play Favorites

Save room for favorite treats by passing up stuff you’re indifferent to. If you always look forward to your aunt’s scalloped potatoes, don’t feel you also have to take the mashed just because they’re there. If you really want a cocktail, skip the bread or pasta. Or maybe you turn down chocolate cake because, honestly—you really just want a couple cookies and a glass of milk for dessert. 


Rather than parking yourself in front of the snack table (or bar), meander and make conversation with other guests. Need an ice-breaker? Ask them how they know the host or compliment their shoes/manicure/Santa hat. And yes, it’s okay to talk about the weather if you can’t think of anything else. 

Alternate booze with water

Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or club soda to avoid a hangover and keep calories in check. If you’re worried about people giving you a hard time for not drinking, don’t be—chances are no one will even notice what’s in your glass. If they do, then that’s their problem. As far as what alcohol you should drink, champagne does have fewer calories than wine, beer, and most mixed drinks, but a good rule of thumb is to go with whatever you’ll enjoy the most. 

Give yourself permission to be successful

Own your choices and feel good about doing what works for you. Everyone’s needs, preferences, and goals are different, so honor yours. And if you do wind up going a bit overboard one night, know that you haven’t blown it for the entire season. You can move right on with your life starting with your next meal or workout and keep right on enjoying your usual feel-good healthy habits. 


Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and writer. She blogs at Keeping it Real Food and is a regular contributor to a variety of print and online publications.

Photo from Death To The Stock Photo