Navigating a Buffet on a Restricted Diet

Holiday parties and family celebrations are often an excuse to indulge, but if you have a chronic condition like high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, you know how important careful food selection is to managing your disease.

Finding Balance

Yael Reich, a Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist with VNSNY, offers a solution. Instead of avoiding dishes or foods completely, find a healthy balance. “Research shows that dietary patterns are some of the most difficult behaviors for adults to change,” she says. “As a nurse, I’ve found that showing people how to adjust the amounts they eat, as opposed to changing the actual foods, is usually more successful.”

If your condition is under control, check with your health care provider to see if there’s room for small indulgences. (Tip: Be sure to find out how frequently you can indulge as well as the portion size for each treat.) Rather than skip the cake at your own birthday party or a wedding, for example, enjoy a small slice.

Here, some other helpful tips for those on restricted diets:

Smart Strategies

  • If you have a lot of parties within a few weeks of each other, plan each day and each meal. Consider eating less at other meals the day of a party, but do not skip meals so you can over-indulge later!
  • At the party, go on a scouting expedition. Before you pick up a plate, walk around the buffet to see the offerings and make note of dishes that fit into your eating plan and that appeal to you. If you’re allowing yourself a splurge, identify it now.
  • Make two fists and put your hands next to each other. Each fist is about the size of one cup, and the average adult’s stomach can hold about two cups of food and beverage. Keep this image in mind as you load your plate!

Winning Choices

  • Start with a clear, broth-based soup and green salad in a clear (not creamy) vinaigrette.
  • Go for color. Deeply colored or jewel-toned fruits and vegetables are usually more nutritious than their paler counterparts. Limit the mashed (white) potatoes, rolls, and sweets.
  • Choose lean protein. Pass on meat or fish with skin, crispy coatings, or that are batter-fried, and avoid cured meats if you’re watching sodium intake.
    Limit alcohol, which can alter blood sugar levels.

Maintaining Balance

  • In general, choose recipes and foods that are lower in fat and sugar and incorporate whole grains when necessary.
  • Find creative ways to exercise. You might not have time to go to the gym or pop in a DVD, but a 10- to 15-minute walk at lunch or after dinner can help to keep you on track.
  • To limit stress, set realistic expectations and goals—and remember that one slip-up is just that. Don’t let it undermine your goal of protecting your health!
  • Take any medications on time and keep up with healthy habits. If you have diabetes, for example, remember to monitor blood glucose levels and maintain regular foot care.

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