Navigating Office Holiday Parties

Maintain your goal of a svelte, elf-like physique, rather than channeling Santa and his bulging belly.
Published December 10, 2015

The holiday season is a grueling stretch marked by party after party and finger foods galore. You know the culprits, like avocado- and sour cream-based dips, world-cheese platters of Brie, Camembert and Stilton, deep-fried calamari — and that’s not even counting the beer, wine and booze. As if that’s not enough, you’ve also got employee birthdays, retirements and engagements as further reason for celebration at the office.

But being on plan doesn’t mean you need to insult your boss by passing on her prize-winning strawberry cheesecake. With careful planning and a little bit of discipline, you can continue to lose weight through the holidays.

Portion control 

One of the simplest ways to monitor how much you’re eating is to consolidate your food for the evening onto one small side plate. 

“Fill half your plate with vegetables, 1/4 with a lean protein such as chicken or fish — not fried, breaded or soaked in oil or a marinade — and 1/4 with ‘your choice’ as long as it stays within your SmartPoints budget for the day. If you go back for seconds, choose mostly vegetables and a serving of protein,” says Jaimie Sherry, MS, RD, CDE, CDN a nutritionist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College.

Foods to be wary of

According to nutritionist and recipes editor Leslie Fink, MS, RD, “Anything that comes in a dip or chip basket is dangerous territory.”

It’s hard to keep track of how many times you reach for yet another guacamole covered tortilla chip or handful of nuts. Instead, take single items on a plate and look for friendlier alternatives like sushi, grilled chicken skewers or stuffed mushrooms. 

Bellying up to the bar 

Another red flag is the open bar, offering a bounty of sugary cocktails and creamy frozen drinks, not to mention hearty beers. But if you get looped into doing a few rounds with your work buddies, stick to bottled, light beer or a glass of red or white wine or sangria.

As Fink suggests, “Think of ways to add flavour but not calories to your favourite drinks, like an extra splash of hot sauce in a bloody Mary, a twist of lemon or lime in your vodka or Diet Coke with your rum.” 

Mind over consumption 

Instead of having a handful of pigs-in-a-blanket, get out on the dance floor and practice your best Dancing With the Stars moves for some added exercise. Or, how about just chatting with the guy in finance you never see. By keeping your mouth and hands occupied with things that don’t involve food or booze, you’ll end up consuming less of both. 

Remember, 'tis the season to celebrate, not overindulge.

Office party tips

Tips from Jaimie Sherry, New York Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College nutritionist:

  • Don’t go hungry. People often skip meals or eat less before an event. But you're more likely to overindulge if you haven't eaten all day.
  • Exercise the day of the party. Feel good about yourself, burn extra calories and remind yourself that you're working hard.
  • Determine ahead of time at least two ways of turning your attention away from food.
  • If you're going to have an alcoholic beverage, enjoy it at the end of your meal. Don’t let your glass of wine determine how much you're going to eat.