If your calendar is jam-packed with holiday parties, get-togethers with friends, and family gatherings, you know you’re going to be faced with food and drink temptations. We talked to LEVL resident weight loss expert, Liz Josefsberg for her experts tips on navigating the holiday parties and staying on track with your healthy eating and exercise plan so you don’t head into the new year with a gain.

Plan your workout. Look at your week ahead to determine your workout schedule. If you have a party on Thursday night, recognize that you might be out late and there’s a chance you won’t get to exercise on Friday. Schedule your workouts in your calendar or put them as reminders in your phone for the rest of the days of the week. Exercise on the day of the party, to give yourself a little bit more room to indulge. “Getting a workout in tends to help us make smarter decisions and healthier decisions throughout the day. “It puts your head in the right spot,” says Liz.

Eat smart the day of the party. People always want to under eat on the day of the party. “That’s the biggest mistake you can make,” says Liz. Have your standard, healthy breakfast; then eat a healthy lunch, and have a small snack before you arrive at the party. Don’t skimp all day because of the food you think you’ll face night. It’s better to arrive at a party having made healthy eating decisions all day than to show up starving, drink alcohol on a mostly empty stomach, and pile junk on your plate all night long.

Sip this before reaching for alcohol. Order a seltzer first. Get yourself hydrated and order a seltzer with lime from the bar—everyone will think it’s a gin and tonic. “This gives you a chance to settle in and see what kinds of food situation you’re in,” says Liz. Sipping a seltzer first gives you about 20 minutes to get your head on straight at the party rather than beginning with an alcoholic beverage and feeling the effects of it before you’ve had a chance to survey the food scene.

Survey the scene. If it’s an appetizer-based party, give yourself a number of appetizers you’re going eat. “I allow myself to have five to seven passed appetizers depending on how big they are and how hungry I am, and that’s my dinner,” says Liz. Use those 20 minutes that you’re drinking your seltzer to see what kinds of foods are being passed around, if there are hors d’oeuvres or a buffet, or if you’ll be sitting down to a plated dinner.

Follow these alcohol rules. Stay away from high-calorie high sugar drinks like margaritas, sweet holiday martinis, and other cocktails made with sugary mixes. “No only are these high in calories, but I think the sugar they contain creates more sugar cravings,” says Liz. “When you have those sweet cocktails, you might find that you’re more inclined to want other sweets that are around you.”  Have one alcoholic drink and then one glass of water. Don’t allow yourself to have another drink of alcohol before you’ve had a glass of water. This will help you stay hydrated and prevent making poor food choices that can happen when we’re inebriated. “If the party is buffet style, my goal is to get to the buffet and plate my meal before I’ve had my second drink,” says Liz.

Buffet the right way. Take a walk through the buffet to see what your options are before getting in line with your plate. You’re only going to get in this buffet line one time so make sure you’ve left room on your plate for the foods you’re most excited to eat. Skip the bread basket in the front of the line. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, whether that’s salad greens, steamed or grilled veggies. Leave space for a portion of protein and a more indulgent food, like the macaroni and cheese you saw when you scoped out the line.

“Allow for some indulgences at these parties,” says Liz. As long as you know when your parties are in the week, you can make up for those indulgences by eating very healthy the rest of the meals in your week. “If you go to a party and don’t allow yourself to have any special foods that you wanted to eat, you feel sorry for yourself and then you might think you have to stop for a piece of pizza on the way home or eat snacks from the comfort of your couch,” says Liz.

Prep a healthy snack for when you arrive home. If you don’t know what to expect at the party, you might think you have to eat every option as it appears on a passed appetizer plate because you’re afraid of being hungry later on. “No one is going to fall over starving if they didn’t eat enough at a party,” says Liz. “It’s the mental piece of this process, we tell ourselves we’re going to be hungry later if we don’t eat enough at the party so we might be inclined to eat more than we normally would if we ate dinner at home.”

It might be a good idea to have a healthy option waiting for you at home so that if you eat lightly at a party, or skip the desserts, you’re not feeling deprived and have more control over your snacking choices. “I’ve had clients tell me that they were ‘good’ with their eating at a social event but then they went home and overdid it on the snacking, especially after having a few drinks,” Liz says. Have a healthy snack option and one small treat waiting for you at home—like a small piece of good dark chocolate, or a low-calorie ice cream bar, she suggests. Put the snacks where you can see, and leave yourself a note, like, “Hey self, you promised you’re not going to eat the Halloween candy, Christmas cookies, and other snacks around the house when you get home.” This can help keep you in check and is a reminder that everything else at home is off limits.

Beware of saboteurs. When you’re filling your plate with healthy foods, other people might notice and question your motives or call attention to what you’re eating and ask if you’re dieting.  “From being a ‘weight loss expert’ over the years, I realize that people are always watching what I do and what I’m eating,” says Liz. “They might say to me, ‘Look at you, you’re being so good,’ but it’s kind of a backhanded comment because they aren’t feeling good about their choices,” she say. Just say, ‘Thank you,’ and walk away, she advises. “When someone comments on what I’m eating at a party, it has nothing to do with me. They want me to validate their choices,” says Liz.  “I might respond with something like, ‘This food looks so delicious and great.’ Just be very gracious and change the subject. No one wants to be at a party talking about weight loss! The only reason you’re talking about it is because it’s an issue, and it’s not going to get wrapped up at this party.”

Focus on the real reason you’re at the holiday party, to socialize and catch up with friends and family members you haven’t spent much time with all year. Concentrate on conversations instead of food and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier holiday party season.

Bring this healthy appetizer from Refinery 29 to your next potluck party!

Baked Brie & Maple-Rosemary Pecan Apple Wedges
Serves 6-8

1 cup pecans
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp sea salt, plus a few extra pinches
2 apples, sliced to 1/4 inches
1 small-to-medium wedge brie, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces


  • Preheat oven to 450º F.
  • Place 1 cup pecans on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons maple syrup and 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves and a few pinches of flaky sea salt. Toss to coat.
  • Bake for 3-5 minutes, or until pecans are bubbling and becoming aromatic. Remove from heat.
  • Slice apples 1/4 inch thick and top with a small slice of brie. Place on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 7-8 minutes. Top brie and apple wedges with pecans. Serve.