What are some strategies to eat less during a social event or party?

Wendy Batts
When attending a social event or party there are many options to keep you from over indulging on foods that could compromise your weight loss success. Here are some strategies that you can try to help keep you from giving in to the temptation to overeat at your next social gathering:
Eat a small, healthy meal that you make at home before you go so you know the exact ingredients and how many calories you’re eating. Eating before you go will help keep you from making bad choices and snacking on everything that looks appealing.
Avoid snacking. If you hold your conversions away from the food tables, you will be less likely to grab a “snack” during or in-between your conversions with friends or party attendees. Time flies when you are having fun and if you are not careful you have eaten more calories than you are probably aware of.
Ask to see if it’s possible to order food prepared a particular way. If so, choose lower calorie options such as grilled chicken or fish.  While not always available, it never hurts to ask!
When deciding what foods to eat, look for the veggie tray. Most parties do have vegetables as an option, so you can eat these without feeling the guilt. Try to avoid using veggie dips or dressings (or keep it minimal) to help reduce unnecessary calories that can quickly add up.
Avoid liquid libations as much as possible. Make a deal with yourself. For every alcoholic beverage you consume, follow it up with 1-2 bottles of water. This will help keep you full so you will have less desire to consume “empty” calories from alcohol.
Lastly, try to keep in mind the goals that you have set and the WHY behind your decision to live a healthier lifestyle. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from achieving your goals and changing your life will far outweigh the temporary feelings that come from indulging during a social event.

Social events can easily sabotage the hard work you've been doing to make healthier choices and reach your goals, but they don't have to!  Try approaching these situations with a plan that can help keep you on track..even when tempted.

1. Eat something light shortly before arriving so your appetite is not calling you to grab those tasty, but caloric finger foods and snacks that add up quickly

2. Log your calories for the day so you are clear in your mind about how much you have already consumed and what you have left to eat/drink for the day- awareness can really help you stay focused and in control

3. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume (or skip it!) and you'll not only save calories but you'll be less likely to overindulge (we generally eat more when we've had a few drinks)

4. Hold a drink in your hand (try a club soda with lime and a couple of large green olives- delicious!) -that can occupy you and keep you away from the food tables- you'll only have one free hand!

5. While this may sound silly, keep away from the high risk locations! That means, don't tempt yourself by standing near the foods you love to eat...stay away!

6. When choosing foods, look for the veggie trays, fruits, low calorie items and take small amounts so you don't feel obligated to finish what's on your plate if it's a large portion

It's all about thinking through the event before you get're human and it's ok to enjoy yourself..just do so in moderation and you'll feel confident, in control and positive! Enjoy!


Dominique Adair
  1. Don’t go hungry.  “Calorie banking,” consciously or unconsciously saving calories for later, often backfires.  Not only may you eat more than you planned, but the discomfort of eating foods off of your plan can be really challenging to overcome for some people.
  2.  If you do eat off of your plan, move on, tomorrow is another day, and No, you don’t have to wait until Monday to regain focus.
  3. Watch what you drink.  Liquid calories are deceptive, and if you have enough cocktails you will also start to care less about what you’re eating.  If you are going to drink alcohol, at the very least alternate in a 1:2 ratio alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages (i.e. glass of wine, selzer, selzer…)
  4. Don’t get into the I’ll never have this food again trap – holiday party food is not banned the rest of the year and this will not be the last time you have access to these foods.
  5. Lastly, try to enjoy the company as much (or more) than the food.  Try to connect with people and share something interesting.  There’s only so much you can say to a hot dog!
Here are some tips to help you be in control of what you eat at a social event like the 4th of July. First, eat at your regular meal or snack times (and eat smaller portions or more fruits and veggies) before so you aren’t starving when you get to the party. Bring a dish that you know is low in calories and high in nutrition and flavor. 
Focus on socializing, not on the food, and don’t stay by the food table.  Control your portions by using a small plate, sharing the main course or taking a half portion and filling the rest of the plate with salad (and low calorie dressing), fruits and vegetables. Eat slowly, savor the food and don’t take seconds. Choose to spend your discretionary calories on a special drink or dessert, but keep the portions small. Keeping a cup of water in your hand will help you avoid drinking a lot of calories.
healthy diet, salad bar, nutrition, vitamins, nutrients
Rebecca Bitzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
It is important to focus on the social aspect of the event, and downplay the food portion.  Many times it is easy to get carried away with eating all kinds of foods that you might not typically eat, just because there are often an abundance of foods readily accessible at a party.  Oftentimes, alcohol is present which makes it even easier to lose track of what and how much you are eating.  A good rule of thumb is to have a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit and some nuts or a small sandwich before a social function so that you will not get carried away with all the food.  Focus on friends instead of food and you will end up having a more memorable time. Enjoy!

1. Don't go to the event with food on your mind: keep to your daily routine and make sure you eat 30 minutes prior to attending event.

2. Find the healthy options: most parties/events will have a fruit and veggie tray. Be sure to locate and use as your go to throughout the party.

3. Portion Control: If this is a sit down dinner, try to specify how you want your meal prepared, if that is not an option, eat 1/2 of the meal in front of you.

4. Liquid Consumption: Keep alcohol to a minimum. Have a full glass of water between each beverage. Overindulgence in #4 will render #1-3 useless!

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The golden rule is to NOT arrive at a party or event hungry. It’s a big mistake to try to “save” calories by skipping meals before the event. This inevitably leads to overeating and making poor food choices. So – be sure to eat regular meals (every 3-4 hours) before the event. Fill up on low cal items first – veggies, fruit and sushi are good choices since the fiber and protein in these foods help keep you full longer. If you decide to go for a cocktail, choose a low cal version like a wine spritzer or light beer. If there’s a wide variety of food, be sure to put only 2 items on your plate at a time. Studies show that having a several types of different foods leads to eating more calories.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.