Holiday Eating, Fo’ Real – The Buffet

The Holidays are in full swing! Time again for my “Holiday Eating, Fo’ Real” Series: real world strategies for helping you survive all those holiday parties and events.

I despise most holiday healthy eating blog post and articles. They’re usually filled with strategies that I just don’t find helpful, or more like it, realistic. “Don’t stand next to the food table”, “Nibble on the crudité”, “Eat before you go” (admittedly this one can be used successfully). Blah blah blah. The only problem is the office mates you want to socialize with are all hovering over the baked brie, the crudité pales in comparison to the crab dip, and in spite of the fact the you ate before going to the party, you can ALWAYS find room for Aunt Betsy’s sour cream pound cake.

This time of year is a time for celebration, and while I don’t think anyone should eat their face off, I do think that refusing every treat of the season will leave you feeling deprived, only pushing you to eat other sugary and starchy foods when you return home from the party.

So how can you eat, really eat (and drink), during the season without feeling deprived or overindulging? Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some (hopefully) useful strategies with you.


BuffetIt’s you against the beautifully laid table, piled with plates of holiday delights—perhaps your table includes things like glazed ham, Caesar salad with jumbo croutons, roast beef, rolls and butter, mashed potatoes, and maybe mama’s homemade mac and cheese. Drooling yet? Panicking?

You work so hard at boot camp or kettlebells, or during your personal training sessions. You watch what you eat year round, or at least you try to. Your intentions might not show completely on your waistline, but you don’t want to blow the gains—or losses—you’ve achieved so far.

Here are a few nibbles of advice for conquering the buffet table:

Hit the buffet as if you’re on a holiday hunt for protein, especially if you’re making the choice to have a spectacular plate full of desserts later that evening. Let’s face it, the Christmas cookies taste so much better than the mashed potatoes you can have year round. So have the ham—especially if it’s not loaded with brown sugar—and salad. Skip the croutons, or at least go easy on them. Roast beef’s a fine choice if you forgo copious amounts of floury gravy. And naturally, just say no to the rolls. They’re a dime a dozen.

Remember that fat is not your enemy. Fats satiate you and keep you from overindulging. Conversely, scarfing copious carbs increases your appetite and keeps you eating. And eating. And yes. Eating. Protein is filling too, and it includes that mucsle-building wonder macronutrient—protein!

Be discerning. If you know your glazed ham recipe is out of this world but the one you see before you lacks luster, skip it. Don’t be afraid to get your food snob on.

Be a body snob too. Your body is your temple. Cheesy but true. So how are you going to treat it this holiday season, and every other day of the year? Like a garbage disposal, where you shrug off indulgences like donuts, frozen pizza and French toast? Or like a finely crafted machine custom designed to carry you through this—let’s face it—miracle of existence? Get spiritual, metaphysical, sappy if you have to. In the end, mind over matter gets you through everything—the holidays, a twenty-lap medicine ball run, a fattening feast.

Get real. If reaching for the spiritual heights doesn’t do it for you, here are some cold hard facts regarding weight loss.. Processed foods filled with partially hydrogenated industrial seed oils and enriched refined flours and sugars including the dreaded high fructose corn syrup will, over time, destroy your health as they pack on the pounds.

Conclusion? Eat real food whenever possible. Real foods are things you could grow yourself or slaughter if you had to—vegetables, unadorned meats like roast chicken, steak, pork and fish. Eggs. Oils that don’t require a refinery are real. Examples include olive oil, coconut oil and—surprise—even goose fat from your Christmas feast. Sweet potatoes are real. Pringles are not. I think you get the picture.

Prioritize your goals and be honest with yourself about instant gratification—i.e., deep fried rice balls—versus slow and steady progress toward toned arms and a flat belly. It’s been said that up to 80% of your body composition is determined by what you eat.  Body composition is lean versus fat mass. A sobering thought when you’re hovering over the buffet.

Which reminds me:

Indulge in your thoughtfully chosen dinner s-l-o-w-l-y, preferably with a few other guests, so that you can enjoy conversation while you eat, without shoving your face and racing back to the table for more. And finally:

Step away from the table. Fill your plate one time, or if you really want to because you love returning to the table, make a plan to fill it twice with lesser amounts. If you keep approaching the table, you might be bored. You will also most likely grab another plateful. Erase the temptation by avoiding it. You’re human after all, you glorious temple, you. Get yourself a seltzer with lemon or a glass of white wine. And save yourself for dessert (we’ll, um, dive into that next).