5 Healthy Party Swaps
After a busy week of work and working out, the weekend is an excuse to go out and celebrate two days free of colleagues, commuting and coffee queues. That Friday feeling can hit hard, making even the most committed weekday gym-goer a happy hour hedonist. I regret to report that even a few hours of cocktails and canapés can undo an entire week of working hard, eating well and exercising.
Canapes and snacks served at parties and bars are generally high in fat, sugar and salt, so while they taste delicious, they add unnecessary calories and fat to our food intake for the day. Worse, salty food makes us feel thirstier; so say hello to another round of beer and wine. And the more alcohol we drink? The less we care about the careful healthy eating plan we have followed all week.
Look, it’s super easy to overeat canapés and bar food. We’ve all been there, one minute you are so hungry you think ‘Í’ll just have a few bites to tide me over’ and the next you’re undoing the zip on your pants as you pop another brie-laden cracker into your mouth.
We end up eating far more food when it’s from trays, buffets or share plates compared to a plate.
- If there is more variety, we will eat more. We are driven to try the different tastes, flavours and textures.
- Small bites of food here and there don’t register in our brain the same way as seeing a plate of food in front you gradually become smaller bite by bite. Our brain is really bad at knowing how much we have eaten when we are grazing and snacking here and there.
- Eating from trays, buffets and from share plates is often in a social setting, so it can be mindless as we engage in talking, drinking and dancing – again meaning we are less likely to register the amount eaten.
So next time you find yourself faced with trays of food and snacks have a plan in mind. Know the healthier options and choose accordingly.
For an extra mental kick, challenge yourself to eat with your left hand. The slight change of habit will cause you to stop and think before you take each bite of food. Use this as a chance for a mental check in to see if you are actually hungry, or just eating the food because it’s available and tastes good.
Swap 1. Cheese
The cheese platter is a classic found at parties and restaurants alike. Make a healthier swap by steering clear of the creamy brie and camembert cheeses and going for the goat or feta cheese. Feta is lower in energy and fat and has a richer flavour so you need less to feel satisfied.
Swap 2. Crunch
Potato chips hit the spot when you feel like something crunchy. But deep-fried means high in fat. And it takes a lot of potato chips to feel full or satisfied; one handful becomes two, then three…
Try pretzels instead for a lower calorie and lower fat alternative. Pretzels are also slightly higher in protein, containing about twice as much per 100g compared to chips. It’s worth noting though, that pretzels are still very high in salt – so don’t see this as a green light to eat as much as you like.
Swap 3. Meaty Bites.
Protein options are generally a good choice; protein turns off the hunger switch and promotes satiety. Choose leaner cuts of meat, BBQ’d or grilled options where possible. These methods of cooking will be lower in fat and calories. Avoid (or just be very mindful when eating!) salami, chorizo or bacon due to their high fat and salt content.
Swap 4. Asian options
A good rule of thumb with party food is to fill up on fresh foods and limit anything deep fried. Fresh food includes salad, vegetables and fruit. These foods are low in fat and salt, and high in fibre and antioxidants.
Swap 5. Bar snacks
Some bars offer small bowls of snack foods such as peanuts, pretzels and popcorn. While nuts are normally a good option, be aware of those roasted with oil and salted, making them less healthy. A good option instead, is a handful of rice crackers. They are lower in fat and still have a satisfying crunchy texture. However, they are higher in sodium so enjoy mindfully!
Want more swap ideas? Check out my 5 Super Easy Swaps for Healthy Eating here
Rice paper rolls: vnwrapnroll.com.au
Rice crackers: tooshfoods.com.au