Mary Teresi cooking

Splendido Pastry Chef Mary Teresi offers practical advice on ways to enjoy food and drink during holiday festivities and still practice moderation.

Tis the season… when many of us will gain unwanted weight from all the holiday parties, home-baked gifts, and irresistible goodies everywhere. “Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, people can gain weight that sticks with them the rest of the year,” says Mary Teresi, Pastry Chef at Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Oro Valley for those 55 and better. “You can exercise and try to burn off those extra calories—but it’s much easier to practice moderation in the first place.” 

Starting around this time every year, the Splendido culinary staff helps residents celebrate the holidays with catered private dinners, theme parties, and cocktail hours. Mary knows firsthand what people love about holiday eating and drinking—and she also knows how to enjoy festive functions like these and still moderate your celebrating.

Here are some tips she’s compiled to help party-goers of all ages avoid the annual holiday gain: 

Eat Well & Wisely

Cocktail parties... open houses... family celebrations... this time of year can be packed with special events, each with its own tempting treats.

1. If you’re an evening exerciser, try moving your workouts to the mornings for the remainder of 2018, so that the season’s get-togethers don’t interrupt your exercise routine. 

2. Don’t go to a holiday party hungry! You’ll have more will power near the buffet table or snacks if you eat a healthy, filling snack before you leave. Try an apple with peanut butter, or Greek yogurt mixed with fruit.

3. If you’re heading to a potluck or party where additional dishes are welcome, bring something healthy, like a veggies-and-dip platter. That way you’ll have at least one nutritious choice. 

4. When you arrive at an event, discreetly scope out all the food options before you start nibbling. Choose the healthiest options and decide which treats you must have—then skip the rest. 

5. Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating, recommends choosing only two items from the buffet or snack selection. (You can return as many times as you like, but stick with two items.) Research has shown that a variety of food can stimulate your appetite, and this will prevent that stimulation. 

6. Have a piece of sugarless gum or a mint ready for when you’ve eaten all you think you should. 

7. Throw your own party – where you can control what’s served. Include healthy options for drinks as well as dining.

Drink Well & Wisely

With all that food comes alcohol—which many people overlook as a source of calories. 

1. Stick with wine, sparkling wine, or beer as your drink of choice. You’ll avoid high-calorie mixers in many cocktails—including soda water, tonic, and juices.

2. Sip slowly to avoid multiple refills—which add up to a lot of empty calories.

3. Alternate each alcoholic beverage with a glass of still or sparkling water. This will help keep you hydrated and sober, and save the calories for the goodies at the buffet!

4. Be aware of how many calories (and how much alcohol) is in your glass. Depending on the size of your glass and the generosity of your bartender, your glass of wine may hold more than a standard serving (5 ounces).

Bake Well & Wisely

If baking is an annual tradition at your house, consider these tips:

1. If you give baked goods as gifts, get them wrapped and out the door as soon as possible. (Try Mary’s recipe for Sugar Pecans, provided here.) Keep a few treats for yourself, but any surplus should be given away. Extras make great gifts for your hairdresser, your doctor’s office, your neighbor, your mail carrier…

 2. As with a cocktail party, keep gum or mints handy. Having something minty will help keep you away from the newly baked goodies. 

3. If you’re lucky enough to get a big batch of someone else’s baking—share it! See #1 for ideas on removing yourself from temptation. 

Once you’ve mastered some or all of these tips, you’ll be in great shape to continue good habits in the New Year. 

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