Navigating the Apps

BruschettaI’m not talking smart phone apps. I’m talking appetizers. Food that whets the appetite, designed to get you eating. Hors d’ouvres. Crispy bruschetta topped with spoonfuls of tapenade or roasted peppers. Hungry yet?

How are you going to retain your shape this holiday season when fattening temptations lurk around every bedecked corner? Here are five ways to handle the little bites without sabotaging your hard earned success:

Scope the scene and prioritize. Get nosy and ask someone in the know what’s for dinner. Caterers, chefs and waitstaff are used to fielding questions from guests. Everything from severely allergic attendees to picky foodies who need to confirm that the olive oil is cold pressed extra virgin. You have a right to know what’s for dinner. Once you know, you have a map, and with this map you can plan. You know what you can do without—without feeling resentful or deprived. Be honest with yourself in order to stave off overeating later. And you know your weakness. Whether it’s shrimp cocktail, spinach dip cleverly served in a bowl made of bread, salty oily mixed nuts, stuffed mushrooms or flaky pastry puffs filled with cheese. Whatever your favorite is, plan to eat it, but also prepare to skip the stuff you could make easily at home. If you’d rather eat the chicken or the fish, forgo the pre-dinner snack. But if you love appetizers more than main courses, make sure the main course isn’t something you’ll miss if you only eat a small portion of it, and then you can indulge—but of course not too much. How not to go overboard?

Pace yourself. If you’re afraid you’ll eat so much that later at home you’ll be crying into your pillow, ask the bartender for a club soda with lime. Gently curb your appetite with intermittent non-alcoholic, non-sugary beverages. And mingle. You’ll have a harder time shoving food in your face if you’re in the middle of a conversation. Bonus points if you talk about things you’re thankful for this holiday season, it might remind you how full you already are. Cue the violins. No but seriously. This kind of thinking can help to curb emotional eating, which rears its scaly head during the holidays. Remember: the holidays are about togetherness, community, respect and gratitude. Food supports the celebration, but the celebration is not about the food.

Create a hierarchy. If you know your body thrives on protein and healthy fat but blimps out on starchy carbs, indulge in the cheese and nuts, and the beautifully arranged meats and shellfish. Skip the chips, crackers and bread. In fact, skip anything that looks processed or packaged. Why waste your time, food intake and health on something that’s not really so special? If you’re low-carbing, the holiday can be a real treat. Go ahead and eat the creamy spinach dip, just not on a pita chip. Have it with a slice of red pepper instead.

Know thyself when it comes to imbibing. Are you the type who after one drink says, Screw it! It’s Christmas! I’m pigging out! If so, I know who you are. Just kidding. Sort of. I know I talked about booze on Monday, but it’s an important topic if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight and body composition during the holidays. So you have two choices: drink and suffer the bloated, guilty consequences of your overeating, or retain your self-control with the aid of club soda. This will not only save you from overindulging, but it will also allow you the opportunity to begin the following day with more confidence and resolve. Too much alcohol can derail you and blur your vision in more ways than one, impairing your judgment not only when it comes to table dancing at the office party, but also with food choices and knowing when you’ve had enough.

Plan ahead. Personally, I hate the oft-heard suggestion that you should fill up on healthy food before hitting a party. Instead, why not save yourself for it? Eat small during the day. Come to the party hungry (not starving though) and ready to celebrate. Food eaten together is food enjoyed. Standing in front of a waiter who’s holding a tray of, say, your favorite crispy spring rolls with sweet plum dipping sauce when you’ve just filled up on quinoa and cottage cheese alone in your kitchen is not fun. These parties are not every day. Plan well for them and you can indulge without sacrificing your healthy, hot body.

Next time it’s time for the Main Course and Dessert