As the holiday season approaches, health conscious people all over the world cringe. The “holidays” are synonymous with social gatherings, potlucks, dinners, and drinks making a healthy night out unheard of! Many times our nutrition clients tell us they avoid going out all together during the “holidays” just so they are not tempted to partake in all the festivities.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Enjoying time with friends, and family is part of living a holistically healthy lifestyle. It’s not good for us to hide in our houses avoiding social situations that may tempt us to eat “bad” things. Learning how to not always pick the unhealthy option will help keep us focusing on our goals, while still being able to enjoy some of the things we like. Even when those things aren’t always the healthiest choice.
If you struggle to resist temptation when going out, and find yourself avoiding time with friends because you are on a “diet”, or you are trying to be ‘healthy”, this blog post is for you! We will show you how to have a healthy night out, and still have a great time!
What Is A “Healthy Night Out”?
A healthy night out is about balance, and making choices that support your overall health goals, well-being, and satisfy the human need of socialization. They about having fun, but also being mindful of your body, and mind’s needs. A big misconception is that a person cannot go out, and have a good time without extremely indulging in alcohol, and junk food. We are going to help you see the light!
The two most tempting situations people find themselves in are centered around food, and alcohol. They are part of almost every social occasion, and are often the reason why we gather; To have a dinner, and some drinks.
Finding Balance With Food Choices While Enjoying A Healthy Night Out
First let’s talk about food choices, and how we can have a healthy night out when we engage, and gather with friends around food. I’m speaking from experience when I say that 99% of the time I go out with friends, it is to have some dinner. Wether going to a restaurant, hitting up a food truck, or going to some other type of potluck appetizer gathering, food choices can be challenging when focusing on health.
Here are some tips to get your night started off right when you want to go have fun, but also keep healthy eating on your mind.
Tip #1 - Don’t leave the house starving
Leaving the house starving is a recipe for failure! As soon as you get to dinner, or gathering the first thing you are going to want to do is find the food. Because you are so hungry, you will end up mindlessly eating more calories than you want to. Doing so will leave you feeling deflated mentally.
Instead, have a protein shake with some carbs mixed in like oatmeal and banana, or a small balanced meal before you leave that is full of healthy fats, lean protein, and some filling carbs like whole wheat toast, or other whole grains. This will keep you satiated enough to not gorge yourself at the event, but not so full that you won’t have room for some tasty appetizers.
Tip #2 - Make balanced choices
A balanced choice is one that involves consuming an option that has high protein, a healthy fat, and a whole food carb. If you are at a party with appetizers, sometimes a whole food carb may be limited, however there is almost always fresh fruit, and that is a great choice! High protein choices at potlucks for parties will include things like meatballs, shrimp cocktail, and chicken bites. If you are at a restaurant, high protein choices will be much more abundant.
When looking for a healthy fat, guacamole or avocado is a great choice. Also a tasty balsamic vinaigrette as a salad dressing is another great option if you are dining at a restaurant. When at parties, nut are are an option. They are made up of a healthy fat, and also have filling fiber.
Simply remember the plate method!
It works for appetizers, and snacks just like it does main meals. A thumb or two of healthy fats paired with the protein will definitely keep you full. Things like snack crackers, and chips have a ton of preservatives, and excess calories. Eating them in moderation is completely fine, just remember to pair them with lean meat, or other sources with an adequate protein content.
Tip #3 - Eat slowly, practice mindfulness, and stay away from the snack table
Get your food and get out. That’s a great rule to follow when at a party. Don’t hover around the table where all the food is placed. Doing this is not setting yourself up for success. Even if you are choosing a healthy option, you can still over eat. And, it’s much easier to do if there is food surrounding you.
Fill your plate with the healthy proteins, fats, and carbs, then grab some of the things you just love. Eat healthy things on your plate first, then enjoy the things that you would not normally choose but really enjoy.
Part of this tip includes eating slowly, and practicing mindfulness.
Did you know that eating slowly can help you feel full? It takes several minutes after you begin eating for your brain to catch up with your belly. Seems strange right? Well it’s true!
Hormones such as ghrelin, and leptin are responsible for telling your brain when you are full, and when you are hungry. But, they aren’t secreted immediately when you start eating. It takes a few minutes. If you eat to fast, your brain doesn’t have time to catch up with your belly which results in that “stuffed” feeling. I have witnessed hundreds of times someone finish a meal in under 5 minutes! The moral of the story is SLOW DOWN.
Navigating Drink Choices When Enjoying A Healthy Night Out
The sugar in beverages, such as soda pop, and alcohol makes up for 50% of adults daily sugar intake. And, calories from these beverages average between 18-20% of their total caloric intake. This means that if a person were currently drinking around 250-350 calories per day, they could simply swap some of their sugar laden beverages for something low cal, without the added sugar, and lose weight.
Man, who wouldn’t want to do that?
There are so many beverages available these days that are low in sugar, but still taste great. Many of them get a bad rap because people are simply not willing to try them. But if weight loss is your goal, going out with your friends drinking is part of your normal routine, my opinion is, why not try drinking some new things.
If you love soda pop, at dinner either try a diet soda, or ask for a soda water with a splash of cranberry or orange juice. A splash is much better than a whole glass, and still adds the fizz associated with pop. Other fizzy drinks without all the sugar include Zevia, Bai Bubbles, and Poppi. Adding fruit to sparkling water is also another great alternative to soda and you get some extra vitamins when going this route.
If you love drinking alcohol, try a mocktail! Mocktails are cocktails that mimic alcoholic beverages without the alcohol. There are even non alcoholic spirits that can be mixed in these mocktails that taste like the real thing.
If mocktails are not your thing, and you want some real liquor, drink in moderation, and limited the sugary mixers. Margaritas, moscow mules, and other cocktails are mixed with high sugar add ins. Being mindful of what your drink is mixed with can help reduce your caloric intake from sugar laden drinks.
There are 4 teaspoons of sugar in 1g. That means that in one average can of soda (Pepsi, Coke) that contains 44 grams of sugar, there are 11 teaspoons of sugar per can. Imagine in your head eleven teaspoons full of sugar being dumped into a pop can. That is how much sugar is being consumed with one can of pop.
The moral of the story is that simply reducing the amount of calories you drink is a great way to make sure you are keeping health at the forefront of your mind.
Going out to gather with friends should be fun! Dreading these events will only lead to isolation, stress, and sadness. But learning how to navigate them in a way that is balanced will provide you with wealth that isn’t measured with dollars.
Speak to your friends about your health journey! Let them know what you have going on. Having friends that support you as part of your social circle is an amazing thing. And, you never know what they are going through. Many people feel challenged, or a little bit of anxiety around food, and alcohol at social events. Having someone that each of you can rely on during these situations could provide great value.
And, if you continue to really struggle with navigating these social events, maybe hiring a nutrition and wellness coach would be a next step. We partner with hundreds of nutrition coaches worldwide that collectively have helped thousands of people. If you want to find someone near you, the link below will lead you to a directory of nutrition coaches in your area. We are here to help!