2005. Twitter, Dora the Explorer, and the iPhone did not exist. Gwen Stefani taught us how to spell “bananas”. Brad Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston. And I graduated from high school.
Like typical Midwestern parents my mom and dad hosted a graduation open house party for me. If you’ve never been to a graduation party before basically, your parents lay out a killer spread of food, all your naked baby pictures, everyone you’ve ever known comes by, eats the food, gives you a gift, and asks you what you’re doing after high school. It’s truly fantastic.
I actually enjoy graduation open houses…the close of a season and celebration of passing into a new stage of life is exciting and bittersweet, but they can prove quite challenging for healthy eating, especially when you are attending a few parties. Nate and I have a few of these parties on our schedule the next few weeks, and I don’t want to get tripped up and blow all my hard work exercising and eating healthy during these open houses. Over time I’ve developed the following strategies for navigating healthy eating at graduation open houses.
1. Decide what this party means to you
Are you celebrating? Making this your “treat” day? If so, then use moderation to enjoy some delicious food that you might not get everyday. If you are just stopping by or have other treats in your foreseeable future keep as close to what you would be eating regularly at home.
2. Don’t come hungry.
As much as possible I tried to eat regular meals before the open houses and not take a chance having reasonably healthy choices available, especially as the main dish. With that being said, most grad parties have veggie and fruit trays so I try to fill up my plate primarily with fruits and vegetables. I try to think of the open house food as a “big snack”.
3. Use common sense
At some parties eating my meal ahead of time is not possible. My plan for these was to use my good judgment, then fix and enjoy a plate of reasonable food choices. I skipped the meatballs which I don’t love, had some delicious chicken and noodles, and loaded up on the frozen fruit. I ate dessert, as long as it was something truly delightful– like a special cheesecake or dirt pudding, not dried out white cake.
4. Limit mindless snacking
Once I ate my plate of food my goal is to not go back for chips or Chex mix or mini cheesecakes. The only mindless snacking is fruits and veggies! During my brother’s grad party (when I was there for hours!) I ate 5 fruit cups and countless pieces of celery!
5. Drink a lot
First of all, sometimes it is ridiculously hot and you need to stay hydrated. A general party tip is to keep a drink, preferably water but at least sugar-free and non-alcoholic, in your hand. You have one less hand to eat with and you are keeping yourself full with liquid.
6. Talk a lot
When I’m engaged in a good conversation or long catch up I don’t even think about eating cause I’m too busy talking! Also, volunteering to watch a toddler or infant is a great way to stay active and you won’t have time to eat anyways!
Like many situations eating healthy at a graduation party involves intentionality. Take time to think through the experience you want to have and what role food will play in it. Just don’t check your brain at the door–you can confidently make healthy choices at grad parties!
Do you go to many graduation parties? How do you deal with unhealthy eats in this situation?