Surviving the office Christmas party (with your diet intact)

by Ali on December 5, 2008

Are you one of the lucky few who’s having a Christmas party at work this year? Maybe you wish you weren’t: many employers have cancelled company-paid-for events, in the current economic climate, and you might have been hoping that yours would be amongst them.

There’s plenty of advice on how to avoid making an idiot of yourself at the office party (which pretty much boils down to “don’t get hideously drunk”) – but how can you survive the office Christmas party with your diet reasonably intact?

Formal meal: make sensible choices

If the Christmas event at work is a formal meal out, you’ll almost certainly be asked for your food choices well ahead of time. This makes it easy for you to choose the healthier options.

  • Go for a salad or soup as a starter (studies show that eating soup at the start of a meal means you’ll consume fewer calories overall).
  • Choose a fish or vegetable heavy main course, rather than one involving large amounts of meat, cheese and/or cream.
  • Look for fruit-based options for dessert, or something light like meringue, instead of cheesecake, chocolate mousse or Christmas pud.

On the night itself, don’t feel obliged to clear your plate at each course. I find that chatting to my neighbour helps me to slow down my eating speed, and engaging people in conversation outside the workplace is a great way to get to know them better. You might find you’ve got more in common than you thought!

Buffet meal: fill up on proper foods

Buffet spreads nowadays tend to involve at least some vegetables and healthier options like breadsticks, hummous, wholegrain sandwiches etc – rather than just being a spread of crisps (chips to US readers), creamy dips, slices of quiche and so on.

Try to fill up on items that are “proper foods” – by that, I mean ones which would constitute a decent meal. Piling your plate with snacky foods makes it very easy to wolf down a lot of calories without filling up. Go for at least a couple of servings of vegetables, and try to get some lean protein too - if you just eat carbs, you’ll be hungry again well before the end of the night.

The main advantage to buffets from a dieting perspective is that you can choose whatever foods you want without anyone commenting on what you aren’t eating: trickier at a sit-down meal. And from the point of view of enjoying your work party, buffets are nice because you can circulate and chat to lots of different people – you won’t get stuck next to the office bore for a full three courses.

Go easy on the alcohol

My first response to office parties is often “ooh, free booze!” but this is not the healthiest way to approach such events…

Try to focus on the social aspects of the party – celebrating the year’s achievements alongside your colleagues, and having the chance to chat and enjoy yourself outside work. By all means indulge in the alcohol, but remember that it contains calories: about 100 in a small glass of wine, and over 200 in a pint of beer. Spirits and “lite” mixers are your best option, if available.

Alcohol also weakens your willpower and resolve, and makes you hungrier: not a great combination! Be particularly wary of snacking on salty foods like nuts, as these will make you thirstier and more likely to down that drink too fast.

Enjoy your office party! For more tips about dieting during December, make sure you’re getting free RSS updates – or just pop your email address in the box on the top right.

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