What to pick at parties

Looking forward to the holiday season but worried about piling on the pounds? Discover our top tips for eating well whilst staying in the party spirit...

What to pick at parties

We've all done it - an over-generous handful of peanuts here, a couple of cheese straws there, the odd glass of wine or two before you know it, that little black dress you'd planned to wear on New Year's Eve is a little too tight for comfort.

The good news is that by making a few simple changes, you can enjoy the festive season without missing out on all the fun. Most buffets offer healthy choices as well as high-fat, high-calorie items, so with our top tips you can make the best choice from the options available.

Good intentions...

Almond butter

If you're heading to a party straight after work, have a low-GI snack, like a bowl of cereal, a couple of oatcakes spread with reduced-fat cheese or a yogurt before you go. That way you won't arrive hungry.

Make your first drink a large glass of sparkling water. It will help to both fill your stomach and quench your thirst. That way you can pace yourself when you get to the alcohol.

Don't let the buffet table be your downfall - put some food on your plate, then move away. Studies show that the greater the choice of food on offer, the more calories we're likely to eat. Instead of trying a little bit of everything, limit yourself to three or four choices.

Avoid anything with pastry - even filo and steer well clear of anything that's been deep-fried.

If canapés or nibbles are constantly being offered while you're chatting, just say no or follow the 'one in three' rule – accept once every three times an item is offered. It's really difficult to gauge how much you're eating if you're constantly nibbling - much better to wait and have a more balanced snack or meal when you get home.


Foods to avoid...

Avocados are full of fat - it may be the healthy, unsaturated variety but, sadly, the body doesn't differentiate between good and bad fats when it comes to your hips or waist. Just 1 heaped tablespoon of guacamole contains around 120 calories. Add a handful of tortilla chips and it's easy to consume the equivalent of a full-blown meal in just a few minutes.

It's high in fibre (which is good) but also in fat (not so good) - 2 tablespoons (60g) contains 120 calories.

Crisps, tortilla chips and prawn crackers
Just say no - how many of us can stop at just one handful? The problem with high-fat foods is that they don't send the same 'I'm full' signals to the brain as fibre-rich foods. Don't try to kid yourself that trendy vegetables crisps are a healthier option - they're not! These options also tend to be high in salt which can disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling bloated the next day.

Better for you than crisps, but still high-fat, so proceed with caution. a small handful (25g) of salted peanuts contains 150 calories.

Build your own bruschetta Healthy swaps - Instead of...

  • Hummus, choose tzatziki
  • Cheese straws, choose bread sticks
  • Pringles, choose Twiglets
  • Garlic bread, choose bruschetta
  • Mini sausage rolls, choose cocktail sausages
  • Prawn crackers, choose tiger prawns
  • Cream cheese dip, choose yogurt dip
  • Mini pork pie, choose mini pizza
  • Spring rolls, choose sushi
  • Peanuts, choose olives


What's your tipple?

Orange bellinisThere's no reason to miss out on the fun, but remember that alcohol stimulates the appetite and may weaken your resolve to eat sensibly. Unless otherwise stated, 1 glass equals 125ml:

  • 1 glass dry white wine 94 cals
  • 1 glass sparkling white wine 105 cals
  • 1 glass sweet white wine 118 cals
  • 1 glass red wine 95 cals
  • 1 glass Champagne 95 cals
  • Vodka (25ml) and tonic (100ml) 85 cals
  • Bloody Mary 75 cals
  • Cuba Libre (rum, diet Coke and lime juice) 60 cals
  • 1 glass (50ml) Bailey's Irish Cream 160 cals
  • Gin (25ml) and tonic (100ml) 90 cals
  • Gin (25ml) and slimline tonic (100ml) 56 cals
  • Pina Colada 260 cals
  • 1 bottle (½ pint) lager 82 cals
  • ½ pint dry cider 105 cals
  • 113ml tomato juice 18 cals
  • 1 glass (250ml) cranberry juice 122 cals
  • Sea Breeze (vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice) 180 cals

All calorie figures given are averages. Information sources: Nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens and DrinkAware. For alcohol advice, including UK alcohol unit guidelines, information on how drink affects your health and much more, visit the DrinkAware website.

This article was last reviewed on 9th October 2017 by Kerry Torrens.

A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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