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Healthy Party Food Ideas- Enjoy Life, Feel Great!

Serving up major inspiration for healthy party food ideas so you can enjoy all the celebrations in your life without compromising your goals.

Serving up major inspiration for healthy party food ideas so you can enjoy all the celebrations in your life without compromising your goals.

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Why Do People Eat More at Parties?

Have you ever had the experience of going to an event with the intentions of eating healthily or following your calorie goal but it becomes difficult to follow through once you’re there?

Most people would say, “YES!”

This is a very common experience and science explains why it happens. Events are considered external “cues” for overeating, meaning that they are experiences you have little control over (once you’re there) and they “cue” or trigger your brain for seek out tasty foods as part of the celebration (Hetherington, 2007).

The reason your brain tries to motivate you to eat higher calorie foods is because they are biologically rewarding to the dopamine system in your brain, which is responsive for seeking out pleasure (Gómez-A et al., 2020; Volkow et al., 2011).

Think of it this way, your brain says, “Hey! We’re at an event, this is really fun and we’re celebrating! You know what would make this even MORE fun?! Eating some really tasty foods- let’s forget about those goals for a bit and focus on feeling good NOW!

Even if you recognize in the moment that you may experience some regret about your eating decisions later, the brain has some powerful signals to get you to focus on feeling good ASAP.

Specific “cues” at events that may trigger you to eat more than you wanted to are:

  • Peer pressure from others at the event to eat whatever you want (comments like “Come on, we’re celebrating tonight! Just eat it!”)
  • Drinking alcohol, which makes it more difficult to prioritize goal-oriented behavior
  • Having tasty high-sugar, high-fat foods all around you, making it difficult to make healthy choices, especially if you’re hungry!

For this post, we’re going to focus on what you can do about the last one.

The Power of Availability

You are much more likely to eat the foods you have available to you, and the power of availability increases if you are 1) hungry, 2) experiencing very positive or very negative emotions, and 3) around people who are also eating those foods.

Sometimes a social event checks all three of these, making it a highly tempting experience!

One of the most effective strategies to set yourself up for success is to increase the availability of healthy foods around you. Then, you have something else you can eat if you are hungry that will make you feel good both in the moment and at the end of the day.

If the healthy foods are also delicious and satisfying, then other people may enjoy them with you! And, just like that, the event isn’t so triggering any more.

Now, let’s get into those options for super tasty, healthy foods you can bring to a party.

Healthy Party Food Ideas!

In the spirit of making healthy eating feel convenient, these foods can all be purchased at a grocery store or very quickly assembled. If you’re motivated to cook healthy food for a party, then I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes in later posts.

This list is for those of you who don’t want to add a major task to your schedule just because you want to follow through with your goals AND attend all the celebrations in your life!

Appetizers

Think of appetizers as a way to fill up on fresh, whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, and protein are your go-tos here. This is a way to set the tone for the evening and create some momentum for healthy eating decisions.

  • Fruits and veggies
    • Fruit tray with any kind of fruit (a great way to satisfy your craving for sweet tasting foods)
    • Cut vegetables (red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery- whatever you enjoy!) for any dips being served at the party
    • Olives
  • High-protein options
    • Shrimp cocktail
    • Creamy salmon snacks: use Thin Stackers rice crackers and lightly spread whipped cream cheese on each, then top with wild-caught salmon (amazing source of high-quality protein, canned will work just fine!)
    • Mini Babybel cheese

Snack Foods

There are so many incredible products on the market right now that are designed to mimic processed snack foods but are made with better ingredients. This means they are more nutritious and often lower in calories. Your family and friends may not even be able to tell how healthy these are!

Desserts!

To finish the evening strong, prioritize the flavor you’re craving, whether that’s chocolate, gummies, or cookies. These options are packed with fiber and protein to help you feel satisfied by your choice in the moment and when you look back on the event!

For More Inspiration…

If you’re looking for a place where you can find TONS of healthy food inspiration (and another place to buy many of the other items on this shopping list), check out Thrive Market! I’ve been a big fan and customer of Thrive Market since they were founded in 2015. They keep an incredible selection of organic groceries, delivered to your door for very affordable prices. They have a special offer for my audience to receive a free gift (like one of the options on this list!) with their first order! Click the picture below!

Dr. Schulte’s Summary

One of the best ways to stick to your healthy eating goals without skipping a social event is to make sure there are plenty of delicious, satisfying, and nutritious food options available to you. Remember, you still want to be thoughtful about practicing portion control, especially if you are pursuing weight loss.All of the options on this list will support whatever goals you have!

Hopefully this list provided you with a ton of ideas for what you can bring to the party you attend. Let the celebrations continue!

What will you bring to your next event? Let me know in the comments!

Click here to get my free guide that outlines the first three specific steps you should take ASAP to kickstart your weight loss journey!

Follow me on Instagram @drericaschulte and the Weight Management, Optimized Facebook page!

References

Gómez-A, A., Shnitko, T. A., Caref, K. L., Nicola, S. M., & Robinson, D. L. (2020). Stimuli predicting high-calorie reward increase dopamine release and drive approach to food in the absence of homeostatic need. Nutritional Neuroscience, 1-10.

Hetherington, M. M. (2007). Cues to overeat: psychological factors influencing overconsumption. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society66(1), 113-123.

Volkow, N. D., Wang, G. J., & Baler, R. D. (2011). Reward, dopamine and the control of food intake: implications for obesity. Trends in cognitive sciences15(1), 37-46.

Disclaimer: all opinions are my own and are not affiliated with my employers. Please seek medical guidance before pursuing weight loss or making significant changes to the way you eat or your physical activity routine.

4 replies on “Healthy Party Food Ideas- Enjoy Life, Feel Great!”

Hi there, being at a party event is the absolute classic time when you throw any ideas of sticking to a healthy eating regime overboard. Although I am pretty good at choosing the healthy options, you are sometimes presented with only unhealthy choices, and that is when I find it very hard. 

So I love your suggestion of Thrive Market and will certainly check them out. 

This is a very insightful post. Even I have this problem; there’s always unhealthy, high calorie, high fat food at family gatherings and such. When there’s no other healthy alternative, I end up feeling not so good because I’m hungry but also don’t want to eat the unhealthy food. You have provided a way to avoid my problem, and I will definitely recommend some of these snack foods, appetizers, and desserts to my family. 

-Gabe

I’m so glad you found this information helpful, Gabe! It is much easier to set yourself up for success with healthy eating if others around you are doing it too!

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