Committing to a Paleo lifestyle can be challenging at the best of times; but when the holidays roll around sticking to it can become quite difficult. The best way to follow through with your healthy choices and eat paleo at a party is to first develop a plan of action. All the best intentions in the world won’t do you any good unless you support your good intentions with a strategy and a roadmap to navigate the parties and social gatherings you’ll encounter over the holidays.
The first step is to make sure that you prepare, prepare, prepare. Do everything you can to avoid being caught off guard at a social event, be it a work luncheon or an evening out at a restaurant. If you are asked to bring a dish, make sure it is a Paleo dish that you enjoy. Don’t worry too much about making a splash with your cooking, just focus on making sure that you’ll have something you’d like to eat at the event.
You might also consider always having a few Paleo-friendly snacks on-hand in case of party emergencies. A pack of nuts in your car, purse, or coat pocket is often enough to keep you from going off the rails when you encounter the decadent treats on offer.
How to Eat Paleo at a Party
If you’re dining out at a restaurant or attending a catered event be sure to make use of the vast number of menus available online. Simply glancing at the establishment’s menu can let you know if you need to eat beforehand, or if you will need to make extensive modifications to any menu items. Eating previously might not seem very festive, but making sure that you’re not famished can make all the difference.
Striving to eat paleo at a party can be difficult. Make sure that your own kitchen is stocked with quick and paleo snacks so you’re always able to grab something before running out the door to an event. Raw vegetables and some protein are always a good choice, providing both vitamins and a feeling of fullness to help you resist the holiday goodies on offer.
You might also make sure that you have a brief, but friendly, statement ready to differ any questions you might receive regarding your diet. You don’t want to seem rude by refusing certain foods or drinks, but you also don’t want to go on and on about your lifestyle. Unless someone asks, of course!
When you arrive at the event, you should first survey the food offerings. Make sure to have several servings of water or acceptable beverages. Luckily meats and raw fruits and vegetables often make up a large part of many holiday tables.
Choose foods that are the least processed and as close to their natural state as possible. An unsauced piece of meat is a much better choice than a slice of deli meat. Raw vegetables are preferable to a mixed salad that could be hiding extra sodium or dairy products.
While making your selections you should keep an eye out for hidden dangers. Dairy, sugar, and gluten can be hiding in anything from a vegetable dip to the subtle glaze on a chicken wing. Sauces and dips are often jam-packed with extra sodium, sugar, and dairy. If you do choose to dip, look for something oil based, with herbs. Anything white or creamy should arise suspicion!
There’s no shame in asking what an item is, but try not to get too technical with the host. You want to walk a fine line between enjoying the party and supporting your health goals, so don’t demand to see the recipe or read the label of a food on offer (unless there’s a severe allergy).
Nuts are a superb choice at a party and are often presented relatively plainly, dressed only with oil, herbs, and salt. Make these a staple of your plate. Supplement your plate with roasted meats, but check for sauces, which are usually made with both butter and sugar. Barbeque sauces are quite high in sugar, and many hams are marinated in brown sugar as well. Roasted red meat is a good bet and it is usually prepared without too many additives.
Raw vegetables and fruits are always a great choice. These are not only in line with your dietary restrictions, but holiday parties often feature plenty of exotic offerings that you might not otherwise come across, such as blood oranges or pomegranates. Skip the dip, but pick the veggies!
The most important thing to remember this party season is that it is, after all, the holidays, a time to have fun, cut loose, and enjoy time with friends and family. If you’re going to splurge or give yourself a treat, make sure it’s something you’ve planned for and that it is something you really enjoy.
Don’t blow your healthy lifestyle on subpar appetizers at a catered event, save your treats for the pumpkin pie your grandmother bakes every year or traditional holiday treats that only come around once a year. Planning, keeping your long-term goals in mind, and making careful choices can ensure that you’ll still be in your best shape when the New Year comes around!
About the Author: D. Scott Caruthers has always had an interest in food, from the time he was a youngster. His family worked in the culinary arts, and after discovering his talent for writing in college he funneled his food interests into writing for various newspapers and publications about what he loves the most: food!