We’ve all been there (or at least, I have)—you’re a few days into your new healthy-living plan and stuck front and center at a cocktail party (or a dinner party, particularly tasty bar, et al). You wince each time a tray of fried deliciousness is passed directly under your nose, and you’ve never seen fizzy cocktails look quite so refreshing. Everywhere you look, guests are having a seemingly better time than you are, as they bite down casually on lobster rolls and tiny hot dogs and take satisfying swigs of their drinks.
The choice seems clear: Either you’re going to have a terrible time at an event where you should be celebrating, or you’re going to indulge, throw caution and diet rules to the wind, and chow down. Then you’ll have to deal with the guilt when you wake up the next morning.
With a little planning and strategy, sticking to a diet and maintaining your social life doesn’t have to be so stressful. I tapped fitness expert Brooke Alpert and holistic nutritionist Eve Lynn Kessner for their best hacks for staying healthy… but still happy.
The best way to make sure your social gathering has healthy options? Throw one yourself. If you can plan your own menu, the sky's the limit. Trying to cut out carbs? No problem: Prepare really delicious roasted vegetables. Kessner suggests,"I love tapas for a celebration. The sharing component makes for good conversation and fun vibes. Most tapas menus are veggie heavy, so it’s easy to make good choices."
"Go for the crudité! It's simple, crunchy, fresh, and often comes with great dips (I'm a hummus girl myself). Avoid baby hot dogs, knishes—anything fried. Choose foods that are simple, grilled, or raw. Shrimp cocktail is a great choice if you need something a little more substantial. It’s bright, fresh, and totally party-ish." We're obsessed with Kessner's incredible homemade hummus recipe.
Alpert agrees: "The crudité, shrimp cocktail, or any dish that’s mainly protein or veggies is clearly the best bet. All those delicious puffed pastry ones are a big no! If you're going to a more casual affair, offer to bring your own, you won't be the only person relieved at the option."
You want to stay away from sugar (read: juice, simple syrup, and grenadine). If you must drink alcohol, go for a glass of rosé or sparkling wine. Margaritas are often filled with sugar (bottled sour mix is terrible!). That said, fresh margaritas made with agave in place of sugar and fresh lemon and lime juice could be a great choice as well, though no more than one or two! But, Kessner offered up quite possibly the most delicious sounding alcohol-alternative: "I love to make watermelon matcha iced tea (inspired by my fave, MatchaBar). It's super simple and totally refreshing—just mix matcha green tea with watermelon juice and voilà!"
Alpert recommends you try sparkling water with a lemon or lime wedge if you're looking to stay away from booze. It still looks festive but has no sugar whatsoever. If you do want a glass of something boozy, however, she agrees you should go for vodka mixed with club soda, "so you keep hydrating even while drinking," or red wine. "You will at least get some healthy antioxidants out of it," she mused. Although, it's a better idea to skip the wine and take some resveratrol by Reserveage.
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Though you may be able to find (or bring!) healthy options, it's best not to show up to events hungry. "Always have something small before you go, so you can make a thoughtful decision about what you will opt to eat. Once you are there—take a second to do a quick survey of what's available and make a game plan," recommends Alpert. That'll help you turn down the fried stuff.
If you do eat and drink to your heart's content, don't beat yourself up the next morning. Instead, sweat it out. "Start your day with a green juice and some lean protein in your breakfast (think almond butter on a banana) and hit the gym," Kessner says. "SoulCycle is a great way to sweat out any toxins or bad choices, but anything that can get your heart pumping and the endorphins flowing will make you feel better, fast. My favorite green juice is a simple mix of kale (or any dark leaves), cucumber, apple (light on the apple), lemon, [and] ginger (heavy on the ginger). It's fresh, has a zing, and feels like robust health as it goes down."
Alpert echoes a similar sentiment: "I don’t believe in cheat days; instead, my clients are prepared to eat healthily or make an intentional indulgence. If it’s planned for, then we don’t consider it a 'cheat,' as that just sets you up for the yo-yo of on-a-diet or off-a-diet mentality." Basically, forgive yourself, don't be too hard on yourself, and you'll have a better relationship with food in general. That way, the next party you attend won't be such a struggle.
It's your life, so if you love going out and letting off a proper amount of steam, so be it. I'm the same way. But it is true that it may lead to less than healthy decisions. You just have to do what makes you feel good. Kessner offers her best advice, "Give yourself the opportunity to reframe your vision of fun. Drinking and staying up till all hours may have been fun in college, but it didn’t serve us then, and it certainly doesn’t serve us now. I like to wake up feeling fresh and ready to go. I love a face mask party. There are tons of fun ones these days; multi-masking is all the rage. Get a few quality masks, put out some fruit to snack on, find some good Netflix, and (actually) chill. That to me defines a life filled with fun. Replace your negatives with positives, and your party will redefine itself for you!"
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Not into clean eating? We tried the J.Law Fitness Plan, aka how to eat pizza and still lose weight.