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Navigating holiday party treats By Emily Selph

The holiday season is filled with all types of parties. While they can put you in a festive mood and allow you to catch up with family and friends, they can also derail your diet when finger foods and delicious beverages abound.

Do you have to deprive yourself at these get-togethers? No! These parties come just once a year and should be enjoyable. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep yourself on track!

Focus on fruits and vegetables. If the party has a fruit salad or vegetable tray, make these the star of your party plate.

Fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, and no more than 2 tablespoons of dip, before moving to the more decadent items like cheese plates and desserts. Produce is lower in calories and the fiber will also help you feel full.

Pick your protein. Look for lean sources of protein on the snack buffet. Some party favorites you might see are cocktail shrimp, lean deli meats like turkey or ham, grilled chicken skewers, hummus or bean dip. These options will be lower in saturated fat, and the protein will round out the plate to make you feel satisfied.

Have dessert — in moderation. Holiday parties usually have a variety of sweet treats for you to choose from. It may be tempting to try several different desserts, but the best strategy is to be selective. Whether it is a holiday favorite you absolutely must have every year or a beautiful new treat you can’t resist, choose just one delicious dessert and enjoy every bite!

Make only one trip through the line. At a party where snacks are being served, it is tempting to graze throughout the evening.

However, by doing this you may be taking in more calories than you realize. A good plan is to limit yourself to one trip through the buffet line, then take your time eating those snacks during the party. Eating slowly will help you to gauge when you become full, enjoy your food and allow you to socialize more!

Plan your beverages. Some of the sneakiest sources of calories any time of year, but especially at the holidays, are drinks. Eggnog, punch or holiday cocktails are delicious ways to quench your thirst but are usually high in calories and sugar. Just one cup, or 8 fluid ounces, of eggnog is about 220 calories. You don’t have to avoid these drinks altogether; instead, alternate your beverage of choice with water or another low-calorie drink. You would be surprised how many calories this can save without missing out on the party fun.

Wear a tighter outfit. This may sound silly, but give it a try this year at a party and see what happens! This strategy can make you feel more confident and motivated to maintain your current size. Additionally, it can help you determine when you are full faster than wearing baggier clothing!

For more tips on eating healthy and staying active during the holidays, visit University of Georgia Cooperative Extension's online fitness resource, walkgeorgia.org.

(Emily L. Selph, BSFCS, Master's Student, Dietetic Intern;)

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