Grazing Like a Grownup

I love holiday parties. I think one of the things I love most is how classy they feel. A lot of this has to do with the music. If Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby sang Super Bowl carols, those parties would be well on their way in the same direction. But add the festive decorations and a lit tree and a holiday party really feels like a high-class event.

And yet, surrounded by elegance and maturity, I find myself having to fight the impulse to eat like a total animal when I get within ten feet of a holiday buffet. The truth is that this is a situation I haven’t historically trained well to handle like an adult: the availability of many of my favorite foods all in the same place, with the added pressure that some short number of hours later, I will definitely be asked to leave.

My first real test of the year came last Saturday. Fortunately, I spotted this article from Canadian Living before the big event, which I’d like to share with you now. As it turned out, the hosts of Saturday’s affair outdid themselves and provided one of the most generous (and delicious) selections of appies, beverages, and desserts I can remember. I could have easily overindulged and had I not read this piece ahead of time, I certainly may have.

Some of the pointers in the article are obvious. (Guess what, it’s a good idea not to fill a giant plate with the least healthy options on offer.) But I do second a couple more subtle recommendations:

3. Eat before you go out

Such a simple one. On Saturday, we returned from a full-day outing with the kids and were already running late for our party. Still we sat down for a light meal and made sure none of us arrived hungry. The result: both our kids spent the night playing with toys and other children and gave barely a second thought to the platters and pastries that surrounded the living room. And while Joy and I sampled a few of the hot appetizers and desserts — I mean, really, it was only polite — neither of us needed to replace a meal with their collection of delicacies and were able to keep our cravings in check.

6. Take it slow

I actually don’t see any shame in returning to a buffet table for seconds or thirds, especially if I start with small portions and allow good food to complement good company (and not the other way around). In fact, taking a small sampling and making it last a while is a great way to eat sensibly at a holiday gathering.

Truthfully, if you really want to know the key to slow eating, have a kid or two.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

For us, with younger children who aren’t allowed to help themselves to a party spread, sharing plates with our kids naturally draws out our snacking. Whatever items we take for ourselves are typically half eaten by our little ones; whatever items we take for them are almost never what they actually wanted. And while we’re negotiating with each other over who’s going to have what, the one benefit it does deliver is extra time. This extra time helps us register our level of satisfaction with what we’ve eaten already before we consider enjoying any more.

Aside from stinging passive aggression, (“Haven’t you had three of those already?”), having a pre-party meal and taking your time to savor smaller portions are two great tools for managing temptation as a holiday party guest. Now, I might need a few more when it comes our turn to host.

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