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8 easy healthier holiday party choices

Healthy Eating at Work

It’s that time of the year — the season of weight gain and resolutions to lose it. The holidays certainly come with a unique set of challenges to healthy living.

But maybe the problem is not the holiDAY. Consider this for a moment: Studies show the average person may consume around 4,500 calories throughout the day on a holiday. That’s a lot of calories! The average person needs about 2,000 calories per day, so that’s around 2,500 extra calories. But mathematically, that’s not enough extra to gain one pound (you would need 3,500 extra calories to gain a pound).

So how do people end up with the reported five- to 10-pound per year gain? The answer lies in all those other days leading up to and following the holiday. Those holiday parties, a few cookies here and there at work, a glass of eggnog with dinner, that peanut butter fudge your friend gifted you. All those things combined with physical inactivity add up to create the perfect storm of weight gain.

This year, try making a point to thoughtfully indulge on the day of the holiday (or other important day of your choosing), and stay on track the rest of the month with these easy party swaps:

  1. Say no to chips and dip. Opt for a small handful of tortilla chips and salsa instead of nacho cheese. You’ll save about 125 calories per serving!
  2. Choose the cocktail shrimp. Shrimp is much lower in calories than most other appetizers, but watch that cocktail sauce. Four tablespoons can set you back 110 calories.
  3. Skip the nuts. While nuts can be a healthy snack, it’s easy to eat way too many. A small handful can be around 200 calories (even more if they’re covered with sugar or chocolate!). Opt for popcorn instead for only about 50 calories per cup.
  4. Pass on the eggnog and cocktails. Sip champagne or a mix half wine with half sparkling water instead. Alternate one alcoholic drink with a glass of water, iced tea, or diet soda to cut calories even further. This trick also helps you avoid overindulging due to alcohol-induced spontaneity.
  5. Mushrooms instead of meatballs. You can eat about four stuffed mushrooms for the calories in a single meatball!
  6. Sample and switch. Try a few pieces from the meat and cheese tray, but then switch to the veggie tray for the rest of the night. Vegetables are very low in calories, and will leave you feeling more satisfied because of the fiber.
  7. Hummus is a tasty winner. Instead of spinach artichoke dip, try the hummus. You’ll save almost 100 calories in just two tablespoons!
  8. Opt for meringue cookies. While two chocolate chip cookies can cost you 300 calories or more, two chocolate meringue cookies are around 50 calories.

If you stand next to the buffet table, you might be tempted to pick from it all night. Try and stand farther away. Make the evening more about socialization than eating. And if you’re not sure if there will be healthier options, bring a healthy dish to share. Most hosts won’t turn that down!

If you’re a UPMC Health Plan member, stay on track with help from a health coach. They can help with weight management, nutrition, and physical activity. Some employers — like UPMC — offer credit for participating in wellness programs. Check with your employer to find out if you can receive Take a Health Step (TAHS) points for participation.

What healthy swaps do you use to keep yourself on track during the holidays?