The fall and winter holidays are thought of as a time for feasting but there are lots of opportunities to overeat during the summer, too. I thought I would share some of the tactics I use to control my calorie intake at events like this. Most can be applied to any party or celebration involving food.
Eat before you go – You may be tempted to skip a meal or two during the day to compensate for extra calories. This can mean that you arrive at the party so hungry that you just fill a plate with everything that looks good. To avoid this eat your regular meals during the day and consider eating a snack just before you go to take the edge off.
Take something healthy – If it’s a potluck and you’re taking a dish, make sure it’s something you can fill up on if there are no other good options. You won’t be the only one who appreciates it.
Survey the spread – When you are standing in line with someone breathing over your shoulder you can feel pressured to move quickly and take a spoonful of everything. Before you grab a plate take a moment to look over the offerings. This gives you an idea of what’s there to choose from and some time to think about what you are going to take.
Use a small plate – The size of your plate can influence how much food you take by as much as 30-40%. If the only plates provided are platter sized ask your hostess if she has a smaller one (or take your own.)
Map your plate – A great visual for building a healthy plate is to picture your plate divided into quarters. Attempt to fill an entire half of your plate with fruits and vegetables; one quarter with a lean protein; and the remaining quarter with some type of starch. For more information about this concept please refer to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate information.
Be a picky eater – To fill your plate as I have described you may need to get creative. Maybe the only vegetables available are the cherry tomatoes and broccoli in a pasta salad. Don’t be shy about picking them out. You can bet there is somebody behind you who is going to pick out only the pasta because they don’t want the vegetables.
These are just some of the habits I’ve adopted to navigate food related events. I will share more of these “behavioral” tips in my next column.