Nutritionists reveal top six tips for eating out at holiday parties

How to eat well at holiday parties: Nutritionists reveal why you should ‘go nuts,’ make a DIY cocktail and opt for marinara sauce to save yourself from over-eating this season

  • Two nutritionists gave their top tips for what to eat and drink at holiday parties
  • Choosing a snack of pistachios, which have protein and fiber, will keep you full
  • Marinara sauce has fewer calories and more fiber and nutrients than cream-based sauces
  • Switching between an alcoholic drink and water throughout the night will help you avoid feeling dehydrated

There is no better way to celebrate during the holiday season than by packing your calendar with holiday parties, family get-togethers and restaurant reservations – but as your schedule gets fuller, your figure often does, too. 

All the merry-making at never-ending buffets and open bars is sure to feature plenty of finger food and booze, often fare that offers fewer nutrients and more calories. That can lead to weight gain, fatigue and even poor sleep. 

So how can you eat, drink and be merry without feeling bloated – or hungover – the day after your holiday gathering?

Two nutritionists spoke to about why you should eat before heading to a party, how a DIY wine spritzer can help you cut back your liquid calories and why marinara sauce is your best option to save you from packing on the pounds.

Two nutritionists revealed to their top six tips for eating out and drinking at holiday parties this season (file image)


Andrea Chernus of Chernus Nutrition in New York City told that it’s always best to not arrive at a party feeling famished.

‘If you wait five to six hours from when you last ate until the party, you’ll tend to overdo it,’ she said.

Chernus explained that waiting too long to eat can lead to low energy, low blood sugar levels, irritability and overeating.

Overeating comes with its own problems – including bloating, excess gas, heartburn and feeling sluggish.

‘I recommend drinking some water and not having a full meal [beforehand] – just something small, like a cup of soup, an apple or a salad so you’re held over until you go out,’ Chernus said.  


Before you make a bee-line for the endless decadent dishes in the buffet, opt for a handful of nuts first as a snack.

Tammy Lakatos Shames of the Nutrition Twins in New York told that pistachios are her nutrient-packed snacking secret during the holiday season.

‘They’re the skinny nut, with only 100 calories in 30 nuts,’ she said. ‘You can only have about 10 to 12 nuts for the same 100 calories for most other nuts.’

A 100-calorie serving also contains about six grams of protein and about three grams of fiber, leaving you feeling satisfied. 

That’s about one-seventh of your daily protein intake and one-twelfth of your daily fiber intake.

Rich in nutrients and antioxidants, pistachios have also been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels, promote eye health and lower blood pressure.

You can even class them up to serve your guests some nutrition.  

‘They’re great on a cheese board, on on their own, with chocolate, with fruit, in a pesto – possibilities are endless,’ Lakatos Shames said.

‘You could also bring a mason jar full of pistachios tied with a ribbon and personalized with a chalkboard sticker to your hostess as a gift.’ 

Having a handful of pistachios before your entree will you leave you feel satiated. A 100-calorie serving contains six grams of protein and about three grams of fiber


Our nutritionists agree that one of the easiest way to keep your calorie count to a minimum while feasting this season is to fill up on grilled vegetables before touching any main dishes. 

Load up on classic holiday side dishes like butternut squash, green beans and Brussels sprouts. 

‘Always go for the grilled items over fried, marinated, sautéed,’ Lakatos Shames said. ‘You’ll save hundreds of calories.’

Grilling vegetables allows fat to drip away, so vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals. Frying vegetables in oil, however, adds unnecessary saturated fat and trans fat, which can raise levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

So stay sway from those maple-glazed carrots, candied-bacon dates and cheesy broccoli dishes.

Lakatos Shames also advises sticking to a small plate as you collect snacks so you are less likely to overfill it with food.

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Maybe you’re at a holiday party with a number of buffet pasta options or having calamari as part of customary Italian Christmas Eve meal the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Whichever it is, our nutritionists say to (modestly) slather on the marinara sauce instead of indulging in white or cream-based sauces. 

‘Marinara sauce has fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and four times the lycopene of fresh tomatoes,’ Lakatos Shames said. 

Lycopene is the pigment that gives fruits like tomatoes and watermelon their color, and it has several antioxidant properties.

Studies have shown that lycopene can lower your risk of heart disease by decreasing levels of LDL cholesterol and increasing levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. 

Additionally, studies conducted in test tubes have found lycopene to slow the progression of breast and prostate cancers by curbing tumor growth. 

A half-cup serving of marinara sauce contains 80 calories, four grams of fat, two grams of protein and 420 milligrams of sodium. 

Meanwhile, cream-based sauces like Alfredo are rich and high in fatty ingredients. 

A half-cup serving of Alfredo contains about 140 calories, 12 grams of fat, two grams of protein and 860 milligrams of sodium.    


No holiday gathering is complete without a stocked bar – but our nutritionists suggest pacing yourself.

‘Try to have water or a seltzer in between each alcoholic drink so you don’t overdo it on alcohol, because alcohol can dehydrate you,’ Chernus said. 

Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes water to be flushed out of your system, and your later thirst can then be confused with hunger.

Eating grilled vegetables over fried, choosing marinara sauce over cream-based sauces and alternating water with alcoholic drinks will give you a healthier holiday, experts say

Additionally, a 2017 study conducted on mice by The Francis Crick Institute in London found that the neurons that encourage us to eat can be activated by alcohol, meaning that many drinks could lead to binge-eating.

‘Alcohol makes you hungrier, thirstier and care less about what you eat, so giving yourself some time to make some good choice and stave off hunger before indulging in alcohol is key,’ said Lakatos Shames.


Instead of choosing mulled wine, eggnog, or hot buttered rum as your drink of choice, how about a do-it-yourself wine spritzer?

A traditional spritzer contains about three ounces of wine at 75 to 80 calories – and three ounces of club soda which has zero calories.

By comparison, a cup of eggnog has 223 calories and one hot buttered rum comes in at a whopping 316 calories.

‘The bubbles add to the festive event and you can cut the calories of the wine in half, which is ideal to help off-set the holiday party foods … typically heavy, calorie-loaded foods,’ Lakatos Shames said.    

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