Never show up at a party when you're absolutely famished, which virtually guarantees that you'll overeat.
"You often hear the advice, 'Don't go to the party hungry' -- and it's good advice," says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, a Maine-based dietitian and author of several books, including "The Everything Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutritional Supplements Book."
"Have a protein-heavy snack before heading out the door, such as half a peanut butter sandwich, a handful of almonds, a cup of low-fat yogurt, or an ounce or so of cheese and a couple of whole-grain crackers," she tells Organic Authority. "If you run out of time and can't grab something at home beforehand, seek out the nuts, olives and cheese at the party, and start with those -- in small amounts -- before eating anything else. They'll fill you up so you don't attack the buffet with abandon."
Less Is More
Instead of plowing through everything your hosts have assembled, select the dishes that you enjoy the most.
"If your buffet table is loaded with more choices than you should take, consider passing on s that you can eat anytime, such as mashed potatoes," says licensed dietitian Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "Go for those special items that you only get once a year, such as Granny's sweet potato pie."
"Skip right over the items that you can get anytime, anywhere," echoes Broihier. "Save your party calories for the seasonal and specialty items that you only get to enjoy once or twice a year."
When dining, savor every single bite, focusing on each dish's flavor nuances. Be sure to chew food thoroughly to facilitate digestion, particularly when you're eating rich foods. Your stomach will then have the opportunity to let you know when it's full -- and when to "cease and desist."
Practice Portion Control
It's OK to treat yourself to your favorite organic foods, as long as you do so in small doses. Dark chocolate, for example, contains high levels of antioxidants, so don't deny yourself a few squares. (read my review of Dagoba's exotic organic chocolate bars and truffles, which make superb hostess gifts.)
"There are no bad foods -- just bad portions," says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, director of the Weight Management Center and associate director of the Nutrition Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Preplan your portion sizes. Become a 'taster': Take a bite, and throw the rest out -- or leave it on your plate. Maximize your sampling: Four bites make an hors d'oeuvre. Take one bite of four different types and you have variety, while saving calories."
If you're hosting a party, you can help guests curb their enthusiasm by providing smaller plates during holiday feasts, Sandon says.
"You also can place holiday offerings in smaller serving dishes," she says, which encourages guests to take not-too-extreme portions.
Eating should be a relaxing, satisfying experience -- not a race to the finish line. Start the party with a nice glass of organic red wine, such as the 2001 Petite Sirah, 2003 Sangiovese or 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon from Barra of Mendocino. Just be sure to drink in moderation.
"If you consume alcohol, limit your intake to one or two servings in an evening," Dr. Fernstrom says. "A serving is a 12-ounce beer, 6 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of hard liquor."
End the day with a cup of organic green or white tea, which will lull you to sleep while subtracting calories from your diet. (Check out our article, "Organic Tea: A Brewer's Paradise," for a detailed discussion of tea's health benefits -- and be sure to visit the Organic Authority Online Boutique for a peek at our special line of organic teas.)
Use Your Feet to Work Off Treats
Focus on your health by maintaining a regular exercise program. Take your dog on a long, heart-healthy walk each day -- an activity that will benefit both of you.
"Keep your physical activity up!" Dr. Fernstrom urges. "Instead of napping after a meal, take a 20- to 40-minute walk. Wherever you are, add extra steps in your day. Get off the elevator a flight or two -- or more -- too soon, and climb the stairs. Walk up an escalator. Park far away in the lot and walk to the store.
"Healthy holiday cooking doesn't mean you have to compromise on your favorite foods or flavors," she concludes. "There are some small and easy steps that can help you keep unwanted pounds off while keeping you in the spirit of the season."
Happy holidays and get healthy, go organic!