From November’s Thanksgiving kick-off until January 1, temptation slides past on silver platters and dazzles deliciously from buffet tables. With parties scheduled thick and fast, it can be incredibly hard to resist the urge to go wild and overindulge. But a few simple tricks means you can still have some cake and eat it without having to draw up a diet-heavy list of resolutions come New Year.
Nutritionist Karin Reiter loads up on healthy goodies before she gets to the party. Think a handful of raw nuts, an apple, or even a bowl of vegetable soup or Greek yogurt with berries and chia, she says. If you go out to a gathering with a half-full stomach it makes sense that you’ll have less room, and less interest, in whatever the waiter wafts in front of you.
And talking of waiters with canapes, be warned. These small and oh-so-perfectly-formed pre-dinner snacks are still potential blowout zones. “Everything you put in your mouth matters, every bite counts,” says Reiter, so it’s better to hold off until dinner if possible. However, if the urge to fill your napkin takes over, go for protein-based options, which are likely to be healthier.
Simple switches to your mindset will go a long way to conquering overindulgence. Try some reframing whenever the buffet table lures. Rather than approaching the table with a notion of ‘I should not have that’, ask yourself, ‘What are the healthiest foods I can fill my plate with?’ advises Reiter.
“If you think like that you will naturally load your plate with salads,” she says, and when you choose to treat yourself with more indulgent options, your portions will be smaller and more in balance.
Still, food is only one half of the temptation on offer at any good gathering. “Alcohol is unavoidable during the holiday season,” says Chef Bjoern Alexander, group executive chef at KEE, a private member’s club in Hong Kong. Alexander’s strategy for slowing the path to inebriation is to sandwich a glass of water between each glass of wine or cocktail. (If you are watching your sugar intake, it’s worth noting that some cocktails have as much in them as a slice of cake, making wine or clear spirits better options).
But if you still wake up sluggish the morning after, a feel-good pick-me-up is in order. Coconut water rehydrates and tastes even better blended in a berry smoothie, and creamy avocado or a bowl of oatmeal is more fortifying than standard greasy standbys, says nutritionist Sheeba Majmudar, author of Edible to Incredible. “Choose something hydrating, light and easy on the stomach,” she says.
In the end, how you view the season’s festivities can have a massive impact on what you consume at them. Parties are primarily about people, and enjoying good company will keep you far happier than enjoying good crudites. Turn your focus from food and drink to the guest list. “The holiday season is the time to spend with your loved ones and cherish good moments together. The quicker you shift your way of thinking away from indulging foods and drinks and make it about the people you are with, the less mind battles you will have with yourself,” says Karin Reiter.
A good place to start those resolutions.
Festive and Feel-good
Bjoern Alexander just added his Japanese flavoured Green Valley warm salad to the menu at KEE. Mixing fresh leaves with tempura-fried veggies achieves a light, healthful dish that is still filling and feels indulgent enough for the festive mood. “Different textures and flavours makes you forget that you’re not eating any fish or meat,” says Alexander. Add it to the table whether you are hosting at home or need a healthy dish to bring to a potluck.
For the salad:
Japanese white cabbage, chopped
ice lettuce, chopped
For the tempura:
1 small piece eggplant, sliced
1 Japanese corn, sliced
1 piece nigauri bitter melon
small bunch mini asparagus
For the dressing:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup mirin
sprinkling of dried konbu
Coat the eggplant, okra, asparagus, corn and nigauri in tempura batter.
Next, chop the mizuna, Japanese white cabbage and ice lettuce and add to a mixing bowl. Mix the lemon and mirin for the dressing and add to the leaves with the dried konbu to the mix, and taste.