What’s the first dish that comes to mind on a Friday night at home with friends? Pizza! When you go to the movies? Popcorn! A ballgame? Hot dog! Birthday party? Cake! Our food choices are often influenced by the social situation at hand. Sometimes those selections don’t have your waistline top of mind. Learn how to take a leaner approach to festive feeding.
At the Movies
The usual grub: One bucket of large popcorn dripping with butter can weigh in at 1,200 calories and 60 grams of fat.
The healthy hook: Choose the smallest size possible (like a kids’ size!), skip the butter, and share with a friend. Many theaters now offer low-calorie flavor packs to sprinkle on popcorn. Even better, make the air-popped kind at home for 31 calories per cup and sneak it in. If you get caught, don’t mention my name!
At a Ballgame
The usual grub: One hot dog and a 16 ounce beer come in at just over 400 calories and 17 grams of fat — and who can stop at one dog or beer?
The healthy hook: Eat before you go, so you aren’t famished when you arrive. That way, you’re more likely to make mindful food choices. Choose a hot dog without chili and cheese, or look for turkey or veggie dogs, if available. For your bevvie, stick to light beer.
At a Birthday Party
The usual grub: Pizza and birthday cake are traditional party fare which can easily add up to over 1,200 calories — especially if you chomp on more than 1 pizza slice.
The healthy hook: Make your own (it’s easy — and a fun party activity!). Buy fresh dough from your local pizza joint, or pick up whole wheat dough from the market. Top each pie with one cup of shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, and pile high with your favorite veggies. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and yum! Now that you’ve saved hundreds of calories on your pizza, you’ll feel guilt-free about having that sliver of cake.
At a Street Fair
The usual grub: Funnel cake, fried candy bars and cotton candy are just a few of the sugar and fat-laden goodies you’ll typically find. Funnel cake alone has 760 calories and 44 grams of fat — yikes!
The healthy hook: Pick your poison. Scout the grounds and choose one or two of your favorite goodies and take a few bites. There’s no need to down a whole day’s worth of calories in one sitting and then suffer through a massive tummy ache.
At the Bowling Alley
The usual grub: Cheesy nachos weigh in at 1,384 calories and 76 grams of fat. Add in a few pints of beer and a $.25 hot wing special, and you’ve got the makings of a triple bypass.
The healthy hook: I won’t tell you to eat carrot and celery sticks on bowling night, but you can lighten up alley offerings. Skip the nacho cheese and stick to 15 chips (about one ounce). Opt for one beer and you’ll likely make more mindful food choices — and bowl more strikes than gutter balls.
Toby Amidor is a registered dietician and the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @tobyamidor.