Your Perfect Day of Eating Before a Holiday Party

You know you'll be tempted by canapes and eggnog in the evening, but nourishing yourself properly the day of the party can help you make better decisions later.

Start with breakfast


You’ll be eating a lot of rich food at the party this evening, so you should save calories in the morning, right? Wrong. Skip breakfast and you’ll probably end up eating way more fatty food at the event, adding up to even more calories than you “saved” earlier. “When we’re starving, it’s harder to make healthier choices,” says Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. “We want sugar for instant energy and fat to build calorie stores in case we don’t eat again soon. It’s an evolutionary response to going too long between meals.” Just don't make these surprising breakfast mistakes.

Pack in protein early


Getting 10 to 20 grams of protein at breakfast will keep you full and reduce cravings for the rest of the day, says Armul. Pair it with fiber for an even more satisfying meal. “Fiber helps fill you up, and protein helps keep you full,” she says. Steer clear of simple carbs like a bagel or white toast, which don’t have much of either. Instead, fill up on eggs with a side of fruit, or peanut butter on whole-grain toast. Check out these other nutritionist-approved hacks for a healthy breakfast.

Skip the sweet coffee


That seasonal peppermint mocha might be calling your name, but you could save 250 calories by ordering a plain low-fat latte without the sugary syrup and whipped cream. “People are busy during holidays and have more things on their plate figuratively, so they’re having high-calorie energy drinks or sweetened tea or specialty coffee drinks,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. For that cozy flavor you crave, she suggests sprinkling cinnamon or cocoa powder on a plain latte. Pay attention to these signs you could be drinking too much coffee.

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Do a smoothie right


A smoothie can be a healthy option in the morning, but be careful—it might not be the produce-packed breakfast you thought it was. “You think you’re ordering a really healthy fruit smoothie, but if it doesn’t have protein, it isn’t going to fill you up for long—it’s just a sugar bomb,” says Armul. Smoothies usually don’t have as much fiber as whole fruits or vegetables, so make sure to add Greek yogurt, peanut butter, or protein powder for staying power. Don't miss these other morning habits of naturally thin people.

Don’t replace lunch with snacks


Grazing throughout the day instead of sitting down for lunch likely won’t save you calories. Heading to the kitchen once an hour for nuts or a banana could make you overeat without actually feeling full. “You don’t feel like you’ve eaten much, but those calories add up,” says Angelone. “Have your meal, because then you’re satisfied physically and emotionally, and then you’re done.” This is what healthy people do on their lunch breaks.

Lighten up a sandwich


Again, eating too lightly won’t do you any favors if it means showing up to the party famished. A healthy, filling lunch will have protein and carbs to keep you satisfied. Aim to make your plate half produce, a quarter carbs, and a quarter protein. A sandwich can be a healthy choice as long as you keep the ratios right, without overdoing the bread. “If you think of a sandwich, it’s half bread (on top and on bottom) with just a little meat and cheese,” says Angelone. Eat it open-face or sub out the bread for lettuce, and have some fruit on the side to balance it out. Try this guide to making the perfect sandwich.

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Eat a salad that’s actually filling


“The problem with salad is people often have just lettuce and vegetables, and no protein with a heavy salad dressing,” says Angelone. “They’re easily eating 300 calories of dressing and not feeling emotionally satisfied.” She recommends using salsa as a flavorful, low-calorie alternative in a Tex-Mex salad with chicken and beans. Toss in some of these cancer-fighting foods for an extra health boost.

Stay hydrated


Thirst signals often feel like hunger, making you break into a bag of crackers when you’d be better off refilling your water bottle. “People think it’s not as hot so you don’t need as much liquid, but you do, particularly in heated rooms, which can be hot and drying,” says Angelone. Calculate half your body weight in pounds, and aim to drink that many ounces of water during the day. Try these sneaky tricks to make sure you drink enough water.

Resist your coworkers’ cookies


“Be careful about starting desserts and sweets and unusual foods too early,” says Angelone. Visual cues, like the candy jar on your coworker’s desk, tempt you into food you wouldn’t have craved otherwise. Promise yourself you’ll have just one small taste, but save it for later in the afternoon so you’re not tempted to keep going back for seconds. In the meantime, arm yourself with healthy snacks like a banana and almond butter, or Greek yogurt with blueberries to satisfy your munchies. (Related: Here's how to make healthier choices when snacking is ruining your diet.)

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Snack before you leave

iStock/Elena Elisseeva

Eat a snack with protein and fiber two to three hours before you leave for the party to curb your hunger. “That’s enough to give your body something so you’re not arriving too hungry,” says Armul. “But it’s not so close that you’re feeling bogged down and full from the last time you ate.” (Related: Here's how to eat for more energy.)

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