Social eating can be healthy and enjoyable

Healthy eating can be challenging around certain people or in certain social situations. These strategies can help keep you in the right mindset at your next social gathering.

By Angela L. Murad

Think about the last time you went out with your friends. Did you make choices that were in line with your healthy-eating habits? If you said no, don't beat yourself up. It can be hard to make good choices — particularly in terms of food — when you're around certain people or in certain social situations. This doesn't mean you should give up — either on going out with friends or on making healthy choices when you do go out.

These strategies can help keep you in the right mindset at your next social gathering.

Make a plan

Before you head out the door, try these ideas:

  • Have a small snack before you leave so you won't be starving when you arrive at the party.
  • Socialize more than you eat.
  • Work out or take a walk before you go out.
  • Before you go out, decide how many drinks you will have.

A note about alcohol: Alcohol provides extra calories without any nutrients, so the calories can add up quickly depending on your drink and the amount you take in. Alcohol can also make you feel hungrier, leading you to eat more. When you drink, consider mixing alcohol with nonalcoholic drinks, such as diet soda or tonic water, to save on calories.

Be mindful

Research shows that it takes your brain 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is full. So if you eat too quickly, you may eat too much. Take a mindful approach to eating that helps slow your pace. Focusing on the people around you is one strategy that can help you eat more slowly.

Be strategic

Think about your food choices and where you stand (literally!) at a party. Scan the food options before you eat so you give yourself the opportunity to choose healthy options that contain more vegetables or whole grains. Consume extra calories only as a special treat. Stand away from the buffet table so you won't be tempted to continuously graze. Finally, bring some fruit or veggies, so you know you already have a healthy option available to you.

Visualize

Be the change you want to see. Think of other ways you can be social besides going out to eat or for a drink. Get together with a group of friends for a walk or a workout at the gym. As a bonus, research has shown that people are motivated to work harder when they exercise in a group than when they work out alone.

One last point: Don't throw in the towel just because you had one night of overindulgence. Get right back on track and continue on.

Dec. 11, 2016 See more In-depth

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