Fall off the diet wagon and enjoy yourself, or stick to the plan and avoid the social event. That seems to be the quandry you face repeatedly when you make a commitment to eat healthier.
These 12 tips can help you navigate the buffet line, the potluck, and the dinner party successfully.
Meal principles, not meal plans
The goal of a meal plan is to teach you how to eat. So take what you know, and go to the party, confident that you can follow general guidelines for health without counting portions or over-analyzing ingredients. Start with the basics: balance your carbs, fats, and proteins; eat only until satiated; avoid empty calories; eat color and variety.
Food quality over food quantity
Research is now showing that the type of food is much more important than how much of it you eat, because you will stop after consuming a certain volume, regardless of what was in it. Brussels Sprouts and pretzels are both carbs with equal filling power. Which will nourish you?
Watch hunger cues, not calories
People who only eat when hungry and stop when they feel satiated are more successful at maintaining a healthy weight and normal metabolism than those who try to outsmart their bodies’ needs by calculating an externally-specified number of calories. Do you think that a coach on the internet knows your daily needs better than your own body does?
Progress, not perfection
You are on a continuum of growth. You know how to nourish yourself better today than you did when you were 2. But you are still learning. Bodies change, and science continually adds new knowledge and research to our understanding, so it is unlikely that you will ever reach a state of flawless food consumption. The point is to do a little better each day, perhaps hydrating more, selecting a few more fresh vegetables, or simply adding more Omega 3’s to your routine. Wherever you are, shun complacency, but be realistic.
Your uniqueness is a gift
Instead of being ashamed that your are making different food choices than those around you, who may be over-indulging or piling detrimental options on their plate, see yourself as a ring leader. Perhaps your family and friends just need a little encouragement to follow suit. Your initiative could be the factor that changes your office culture.
More water, less soda and coffee
Have you ever mistaken thirst for hunger? Have you consumed too many calories by drinking them? Since the body is 80% water, you can never go wrong by asking for a glass of fresh water to hold in your hand while you socialize.
The best diet is whole foods
There are many conflicting philosophies out there, from vegan to keto, and from intermittent fasting to eating every 2-3 hours. But all nutritionists will agree that food from nature is superior to processed food. So regardless of what food plan you are following, opt to eat REAL.
Add before you subtract
No one wants to feel deprived. In fact, going without something can actually drive you to it! So instead of sitting at the table with an empty plate, grab a safe option to fill up on. You might try fruit, olives, avocados, crudites, or even nuts to replace dessert.
More IS better with veggies
Fill half your plate with vegetables, if possible. They are so low on the glycemic index, so high in phytonutrients, and so full of fiber and vitamins and minerals, that by the time you finish them, you probably won’t want more food. Even if you do, you will have provided yourself with a nutrient-dense foundation.
Eat protein for breakfast
Breakfast buffets are killers for blood sugars. The swings set up with those pastries and pancakes will plague you with fatigue and cravings for the rest of the day. So do yourself a favor, and opt for the eggs, meat patty, and plain Greeek yogurt to keep yourself stable all day.
To reduce sweets, increase natural fats
Sugars can leave you hungry and roaming for more, like an exhausted fire waiting for kindling. Fats are satiating, providing long, slow, burning fuel, like a log on the fire. Stick to unprocessed choices, like butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or avocados.
DIY is always in style
Special diets are accepted these days: there’s always the gluten-free, the dairy-free, or the meat-free crowd, so by all means, if you are uncomfortable with the menu, bring your own! It’s not hard to say, “I have food sensitivities,” or “I have special dietary considerations.” Most people won’t even ask why, but if they do, you have an opportunity to share your food philosophy!