It's that time again. One holiday party after another seems to interrupt your intentions to eat clean, but party season and eating healthfully actually can coincide. These 7 tips with help give you a game plan for those nights when you can't control what's being served. 

It happens every year. You’re invited to holiday party after holiday party, but you are also trying to eat in a healthy way. It seems like every weekend, there’s a fun place to be, but you don’t have control over what’s going to be served.

Believe it or not, making clean, healthy choices is indeed possible during the holidays. This season doesn’t have to be a time where your goals are put on hold. You just might need a game plan for the nights that are filled with delicious drinks, finger foods, and multiple desserts. Holiday celebrations, especially the ones that involve food, can and should be enjoyed without feeling like you blew your nutrition goals. Life (and the parties that go along with it) and eating well can coincide.

Here, 7 tips for maintaining balance between eating right and partying hard at your next holiday soiree.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

1. Sip water.

… or another calorie-free drink. Drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks, as well as before and after eating. It will keep you hydrated and if anything, it gives you something to hold, preventing mindless eating and over-drinking. If you need a little flavor, drop a few slices of fruit or cucumbers in your glass. Let the water infuse for a few minutes, and then sip and enjoy.

2. Seek out healthy options.

Whether it’s a sit-down dinner party or a cocktail hour with appetizers, look for healthy options. Assess what foods are there and chose your favorites so that you know where your go-tos are from the beginning.

Credit: Randy Mayor

3. Make a plate.

If possible, make a plate rather than standing over the table of food or appetizers and socializing near the buffet. There is something significant about fixing your plate with your food for the night. This way, you can keep tabs on what you’ve eaten or will eat without having to think about it constantly. 

4. Ask for what you want.

For sit-down dinners, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want to eat. If you want to eat a plate that is half vegetables, request more. Don't feel pressure to finish everything on your plate if you feel that the portion sizes were too large. Your friends and family should respect your goals. Who knows? You may even inspire them to rethink their plate, too.

5. Offer to bring a dish. 

If it’s a party where it’s appropriate, offer to bring a dish. That way you know that there will be something there for you to snack on. You will be prepared and worry-free, and the host will appreciate the gesture.

Credit: Photo: Johnny Autry

6. Be mindful.

If you really focus on what you’re eating, you will enjoy it for its taste and texture. It may seem trivial, but mindful eating is a growing practice that is especially useful this time of year. Chose your favorite foods, fix a serving, and enjoy them! Studies have shown that people are less likely to overeat if they are mindful of their food when they are eating. 

7. Don't withhold your favorites.

Sometimes, chocolate cake and cheeseburger sliders call. And that’s okay. It’s the holidays! Eat your favorites; just do it in moderation. Always remember that enjoying your thing (we all have one) doesn’t mean that you gave in and should throw in the towel on your nutrition goals. Withholding dessert, or food in general, can lead to over-eating later or negative eating patterns.

Just knowing that a party doesn't have to ruin your clean-eating streak might change your party habits. Don't assume that being healthy doesn't include holiday foods. Aim for balanced, mindful eating, and choose to do small things for an overall big difference in the way you eat.