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Whatever your party eating habits, we’ve got some seriously clever ways to up your satisfaction levels without expanding your waistline
The minute you arrive at the party, you start shovelling food down faster than you can say: ‘I love a mini burger, me.’
When faced with so much temptation, it’s hard not to be ruled by FOMO (fear of missing out). But if you barely taste or notice what you’re eating, then what’s the point? ‘It’s important to try to eat more mindfully,’ says Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington. ‘By focusing on the experience and the enjoyment of each mouthful, you’re less likely to lose track.’ Easier said than done after a glass of fizz, though. Dr Meg Arroll, psychologist and author of The Shrinkology Solution, has a few simple rules. ‘Before taking a bite, really look at the food,’ she advises. ‘Notice the textures and colours. Now breathe in its aroma. You might feel a bit daft, but smell is a crucial aspect of taste, and when we truly experience our food in all its flavour, it’s more satisfying.
‘Next, chew each and every mouthful at least 15-20 times, to give your brain time to catch up with the body’s satiety (fullness) signals.’ Can’t resist going back for more? Dr Arroll suggests chewing gum. ‘It gives you time to take stock of what you’ve eaten before you return to those food platters.’
You’ve bypassed the sausage rolls for the vegetable crudités and dip. You get a gold star for restraint, right?
Well… maybe half a star. While veggie crudités are a good choice in theory, you do need to be aware of what you’re dunking them in. Even houmous – which a lot of people consider to be a healthy option – has a surprisingly high calorie content, so you still need to watch that you don’t go overboard. Don’t be fooled if it’s labelled ‘light’ or ‘reduced fat’, either: the World Cancer Research Fund warns that these labels are often applied to food such as mayonnaise or houmous and, even though it does mean there’s a reduced-fat content compared with the regular version, it’s still a high-calorie food. Plus, sometimes, the fat is replaced with sugar, so the calorie count is much the same.
Of course, we’re not saying that you can’t dunk at all, but Dr Arroll recommends these hacks to help pace yourself. ‘Eat with your non-dominant hand, as this will slow down the rate you munch ’n’ dip,’ she says. ‘And try to only dunk every second crudité, as that will help reduce the number of calories you’re eating.’
Eat a healthy breakfast, and a pre-party meal if dinner’s not going to be on offer
You’ve eaten as little as possible all day so you can indulge in that lovely party food without feeling guilty.
Uh-oh, this is not a winner. You’ll make bad choices at the bash because you’ll be so hungry that you won’t be able to think straight. And, in the long run, skipping meals doesn’t mean you burn fewer calories, because your metabolism slows down when your body’s trying to preserve energy. Plus, it’s likely to make you feel sluggish and tired – er, who wants to have to leave early to go to bed? Then, of course, there’s the potential for headaches and shakiness. Doesn’t sound like a party-friendly strategy to us.
So don’t neglect a healthy breakfast and lunch, and eat a pre-party meal if dinner’s not going to be on offer later. Vicky suggests filling up on the right balance of vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates before you go. ‘Cover half a plate with lean meat, such as chicken, or plant-based proteins, including beans and pulses. Then fill the other half with high-fibre carbs, such as wholegrain bread, and green vegetables. This should stave off hunger pangs so you can make better choices at the party.’
After a couple of hours busting out your best moves to Kanye, those mini sausage rolls are calling your name. Cue darting back and forth between tunes to pick at them.
If you’ve been throwing some serious shapes and working up a sweat, it could be that dehydration is disguising itself as hunger. So before you start stalking the canapé waitress, try drinking a large glass of water, then see how you feel after 20 minutes. Still peckish? Dr Arroll has a few tricks up her sleeve. ‘If side plates are on offer by the buffet, take one, and instead of drip-feeding yourself snacks over the course of a few hours, put them all on your plate at once,’ she explains. ‘As the food stacks up, this visual prompt will allow your mind to see how much you’re eating.’
Another sneaky tip? Dr Arroll says if coloured napkins are available, opt for one with a red background to eat your food off. Why? Because research shows that red signals the brain to stop and helps us consume less. Mind blown.
These will help plug the gap until you get to the buffet
Here's a shout-out for the perfect pre-party protein snack: Boots Delicious Egg & Spinach Snack*, £1.20/120 points (98g).Available in store only
To help stop canapé cravings, munch on a Boots Nutritious Chicken & Egg Grain Box*, £3.25/325 points (185g), before you leave work.Available in store only
Keep high-in-fibre Graze Smoky Protein Power, £2.99/299 points (131g), on hand for when you want an on-the-go nibble.Available in store only
A plant-based drink that tastes great? Try Adez Awesome Oat, Strawberry & Banana Smoothie, £1.60/160 points (250ml).Available in store only
*Available in store only.
Words Alexandra Jones Photography Alamy, Getty Images