It maybe picky party food, a full on three course affair or more on the liquid side of things, but please don’t throw out all the good habits in one go. A little sugar and health sense can go a long way to making you feel your best this Christmas.
You could argue it’s a once a year blowout, but when Christmas lasts the best part of a month, on top of your birthday, holidays, Easter and Halloween, you can effectively indulge on special occasions for nearly half the year.
A little moderation throughout December, especially when it comes to sugar is not a bad idea. Leave the real treats for Christmas day and you’ll look forward to it even more. It’s not too hard and it will make the January detox a little easier, so my Happy Sugar Habits Christmas party food tips are as follows:
Go for soups, they are filling and have been scientifically proven to make you eat less throughout the rest of the meal. I’ve gone for a creamy lobster and champagne number this year – decadent I know. Alternatively look for a high protein starter like smoked salmon or chicken skewers.
The big one to note with a starter is avoiding white bread, the instant glucose sugar spike, will play havoc with your leptin hormone – the clever little thing that tells you when you’re full. Messing with this at the start of the meal will set you up with the ability to gorge on everything without stopping. Go brown or skip the starter bread altogether.
Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, so if you’re feeling the need for tradition then rock on. Pay attention to the amount of cranberry source or leave off altogether as this is full of sugar. Bulk up on the vegetables over the potatoes and fill yourself up.
If you’ve got a few meals on the cards, then you may well fancy something different (five turkey meals and the fun can start to wear off). The key is to make sure you’ve got a good portion of protein i.e. fish, meat or cheese with some veg. With a three course meal, you probably don’t need many starchy carbohydrates so really go easy on the spuds.
Try to avoid things completely covered in a sauce as many of these, particularly tomato based can have added sugar (don’t be ever afraid to ask for it on the side). Avoid honey glazed vegetables and opt for a little butter flavour instead.
In an ideal world, the aim of your starter and main is really to satisfy you enough so you can’t fit a dessert in, but I understand that sometimes this doesn’t happen or you want to join in for the third course.
The next best thing is a cheese plate. As a former die hard sugar fan, ordering this over dessert was like cutting my right arm off i.e. the worst sin the world. I appreciate it’s quite a mental shift for those who are particularly sweet inclined. Make an effort to try it once in a while to start the habitual shift. You do get a few grapes and there’s nothing like a nice bit of stilton with your red wine.
Failing that, look for desserts that are fruit based, thus opting for more natural sugars over the refined ones you would find in a chocolate cake. Some baked apple or apricots for example.
If you know it’s just a craving you’re satisfying after the meal, then skip dessert and hold out for a dark chocolate with your coffee.
What’s your biggest Christmas weakness?
I’m sure everyone has one, that one treat Christmas wouldn’t be the same without. A simple strategy I am trying this year. Identify yours and save it for the 26th only.
Christmas pudding is mine. It’s dried fruit dense and therefore pretty damn high in sugar which is probably why I love it so much. It’s without doubt, my biggest weak spot this time of year, so I’m saving as my treat for Christmas day only. Previously I would have eaten about 5 portions throughout December and when I was younger I started microwaving mini ones all year round (bad eh?!).
My own experience with party food is that vegetables don’t feature in a big way, unless you count the carved carrot flower which your host probably wouldn’t appreciate you eating (although I have to admit I did this once). If there are some crudités or veg options, then tuck in to these first.
The next best tip in terms of picky party food, is don’t go to the party starving or with low blood sugar. Make sure you’ve snacked through the day adequately so you aren’t relying on the food to fill you up. It will also help with being more social i.e. talking whilst not stuffing your face, and it will stop the fizz going straight to the head.
Next up, look for the protein. We’re talking chicken, prawns, smoked salmon, cheeses etc. Unlike refined carbohydrates and fruit, you can’t over eat on proteins and you know when you’ve had enough – ever tried eating too much chicken?! Avoid or limit sauces, especially the sweet chilli which is usually the prawn combo of choice.
By the time you’ve exhausted all vegetable and protein options, you may still be a bit hungry to try a few other fancy looking bits. Pick delicate over stodgy i.e. elegant canapés over the sausage rolls, and be wary of too many refined pastry or white carbohydrates which can trigger the deadly I-could-eat-everything-forever feeling.
Other than all that, have a serious amount of fun! If you do eat too much then alternatively make sure you dance it all off to Mariah Carey.
I hope a few of these tips are somewhat helpful. Maybe you adopt them all or maybe you just decide to eat the vegetable buffet garnish and look a bit odd like me.
I don’t mind as long as you inch a little closer to a healthier Christmas. Break the old habit and mentality of a ‘write off’ December, because it really doesn’t have to be. You can still have lots of Christmas fun without sending your blood sugar through the roof.
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How do feel about ordering a cheese plate over a dessert? Can you identify your weakness food? Even better, write it in a comment below and commit here and now to it being a treat only on the 26th.