Season's Eating! How to Navigate the Holiday Buffet

shrimp cocktail


Photo by: Brian Kennedy ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Brian Kennedy, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

For many of us, holiday overeating is a tradition, a ritual that leads to weight gain, not to mention enormous guilt. The good news is, there are plenty of wise food choices at most soirees, so you can enjoy the revelry, nosh on great food, and still feel great in the morning. Here are some strategies to help you navigate any party spread.

1. No Need to Skip the Shrimp: In fact, Shrimp cocktail is, by far, the best cocktail at any party. The low-calorie crustaceans are brimming with protein as well as zinc, a mineral that may boost the immune system (great during cold and flu season). Four large shrimp have just 22 calories and 1/4 gram of fat. Just avoid lots of cocktail sauce (some are loaded with sugar) and dip the shrimp in salsa instead. (Get the recipe for Bobby Flay's Shrimp Cocktail with Tomatillo Sauce, above, here.)

2. Bring Booty: Ask the party host if you can provide a dish. If the answer is yes, bring something you love that is also healthy and vibrant (such as chicken skewers and/or vegetable skewers, a veggie tray with hummus, or colorful fruit kebabs).

3. Downsize the Dishes: Put hors d'oeuvres on salad or dessert plates (instead of dinner plates) to maintain portion control.

4. Observe the Obvious: Everyone knows the common hazards on most buffet tables. So avoid or limit foods that are fried, buttery, creamy, cheesy or wrapped in bacon or dough.

5. Go Slow and Steady: Eat slowly and give your brain the 20 minutes it needs to realize you're satisfied. (Amazingly, you can easily consume an entire day's worth of calories in under 20 minutes.)

6. Delay Drinking: Curb the cocktails until you eat; this will help ensure you keep your resolve.

7. Go Nuts -- At Least a Little: Nuts are loaded with satisfying protein, heart-healthy fats, fiber and other nutrients. Although keep in mind that two small handfuls (1/2 cup total) can add up to about 450 calories.

8. Undress: The vegetable tray is a healthy eater's best buddy, but the ranch dressing served alongside can hit 300 calories per 1/4 cup (a relatively small amount for dunkers). If it's available, dip the veggies in hummus, which delivers just 100 calories per 1/4 cup.

9. Say Cheese (Just Occasionally): Those cute squares of party cheese pack a punch: Five little cubes boast 345 calories. Oh, and that's without crackers.

10. Turn to Toast: Bruschetta is one of the simplest and healthiest party foods on the table. It's usually a small piece of toasted Italian bread with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil. At just 30 calories apiece, it's safe to enjoy a few.

11. Swim Upstream: Salmon is crammed with Omega-3s, fatty acids that may help keep blood pressure down, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease and promote vibrant skin. One 2-ounce piece has just 85 calories.

12. Holy Guacamole: Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy fats and beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that appears to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. As long as the dip isn’t made with cream cheese, 2 tablespoons have just 50 calories.

13. No Prob Kebabs: This Asian-inspired appetizer typically boasts skinless, grilled chicken and little else. One ounce of chicken (about 1 kebab) has just 47 calories and a whopping 9 grams of protein.

14. Say Yes to Sushi: The combination of rice and protein in these party bites will keep you satisfied for hours. Plus, the seaweed wrapper holding everything together, aka nori, is crammed with nutrient-rich minerals from the sea. One 3-ounce roll is about 120 calories.

Robin Miller is host of Quick Fix Meals, a nutritionist and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Robin Takes 5” and “Robin Takes 5 for Busy Families.” She is the busy mom of two active boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at

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