Eating Hacks for Party-Happy Holidays

Eating Hacks for Party-Happy Holidays

Now that the three-month long holiday season is in full-swing, we could all use a few tips on how to curtail holiday noshing. Nurses are often deluged with treats from well-meaning doctors, administrators, and families right about now. And that’s just at work; food favorites follow you home, to the homes of friends and family, and out into the community. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Solstice, New Years eve – the list of reasons to eat, drink, and make merry are never ending.


That’s where hacks come in handy. Lifehacks (as opposed to the computer program kind) are tips, tricks, and savvy methods of making everyday parts of life run better, quicker, and easier. Here are some science-based suggestions for getting yourself to rein in your eating at holiday time, inspired by Brian Wansink Ph.D., Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.


Wansink has studied how we eat for over 20 years, in that time he’s come to believe that sensory cues are what lead us to overeat – and what we can use to keep out of harm’s way. Cues include the sight of friends, the smell of brownies baking, the shape and size of plates, and the distance between you and that bowl of chocolate kisses.

Those cues can lead to scores of bad food choices over the course of a day, easily leading to an additional 100 calories. Is that enough to derail your diet? You bet it is. Over the holiday season, a daily 100 calorie surplus would lead to a weight gain of five pounds. But you don’t have to, if you’re mindful of what you put in your mouth. Here are four ways to do that:

1, When being entertained at a holiday party (especially if it’s a buffet!) step back from the food and take it all in. Then make a choice of our favorites and fill up a small plate. Determine that that’s it. No seconds! Can’t decide on what are healthful choices? Fill half your plate with plant-based foods such as veg, fruits, beans, and nuts. You won’t go too far wrong with whatever you decide on to fill the second half of your plate.

2. Don’t attend parties on an empty stomach – eat small, healthy meals throughout the day. That way you’ll be able to resist rich, fatty, salty, or calorie-laden celebration dishes . If you’re ravenous when you hit the appetizer or buffet table, then dig into the plat-based foods first, such as veggie crudities and hummus. Go back for a second round of cheese, meats, and breads and you’ll eat less of those diet-danger foods – often nearly half as much as the first round.

3. Use your clothing as a kinesthetic cue that you best stop eating before you bust a gut. Tight pants or a snug belt are a good way to do that. Even if you’re not in pain from the restricting items around your middle, tight clothes send a subliminal signal to your brain. That makes it easier to say No to second helpings or rich desserts.

4. Pre-set a special rule about dessert for yourself. It’s too easy to say Yes, unless you’ve promised to make another choice when you were clear-headed, not facing down a cherry cheesecake.

Wansink’s rule is that he doesn’t allow himself to eat any dessert unless it’s something he’s never tasted before. He figures if it’s an ordinary type of treat there will be plenty of opportunities to partake at a future time.

Another good rule of thumb is to only take three bites (those are the best ones anyway) and share the rest or leave them on your plate.