Kristi Wempen, R.D.N.
Ever wonder why big-game parties and other large gatherings are classic situations for eating food that’s notoriously bad for you? Perhaps it’s because everyone wants to serve food that’s going to please their guests, and often, these traditional favorites aren’t very healthy. Maybe it’s the fact that food is so intertwined with emotions. Either way, food is how we celebrate — it tends to bring people together. Food is associated with friends and fun. Sometimes people even get more excited about the food than the game itself.
Some of the most popular foods people bring to parties
- Fully loaded nachos
- Fried chicken wings
All are among some of the most popular yet most fat-laden offenders. They all have around 800-1,000 calories and about 50 g of fat in a typical party-sized portion. For example, two pieces of all-meat pizza contain 940 calories and 56 g of fat.
Negative effects of unhealthy food
On average, party-goers consume a whole day’s worth of calories during these events. The high-fat, high-salt load might temporarily increase blood pressure and lipids in the blood, but if you’re healthy, you should be able to recover without much difficulty. However, if you have heart disease or diabetes, it can be even more serious. And whether you are healthy or not, overeating leads to weight gain, especially around your middle, which can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Thankfully, there are healthier alternatives to consider that are both nutritious and delicious.
Healthier food options for your next party
Some healthier options include:
- Veggie tray with hummus
- Low-fat yogurt-based dips
- Whole-grain chips and salsa
- Fruit skewers or a fruit plate
- Roasted chickpeas or a homemade trail mix made with whole-grain cereal and low-sodium nuts and seeds
- Infused or sparkling water
You don’t have to sacrifice health for great taste! There are plenty of healthy options that taste great, such as the ones listed above. Otherwise, just put a healthy spin on some of these favorites:
- Baked wings instead of fried
- Homemade veggie pizza with whole-grain or cauliflower crust instead of an all-meat pizza
- Whole-grain chips with salsa instead of cheesy nachos
Additional tips for eating healthy at parties
- Smaller portions make a big difference
- Slow down and enjoy; the slower you eat, the more full you’ll feel
- Get away from the food table so you’re not tempted to go back for more
Is it OK to cheat with a few of my favorite foods?
You’re allowed to have fun and enjoy what you eat. There shouldn’t be forbidden foods as this often leads to overindulgence later. Balance is the key. Another tip: drink a lot of water. It may help you feel more satisfied with less food, where alcohol will lower your inhibitions and make you more likely to overeat.
Kristi Wempen and Kelly Tasky are registered dietitian nutritionists at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.