Tips for Healthy Eating At Weddings or Dining Out in General

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on September 22, 2010

This weekend, we went to Baltimore for our friends’ wedding – and it was an amazing weekend – filled with dancing, good food, and hanging out with good friends. One of the great things about weddings is the awesome food (and cake!) – but that generally also ends up being a diet pitfall for many people who are trying to watch what they eat. A few of our friends suggested I do a post on eating at weddings – to provide some tips on how to enjoy wedding food without breaking your diet. So here goes – tips for eating at weddings – The Picky Eater way! 🙂

So, let me start by saying that weddings are a time to enjoy yourself, have fun and not worry too much about your diet. If you’re the type of person who can have a day of “cheating” with no problems getting back to eating healthy, then my suggestion would just be to have fun at the wedding and resume your diet when you get back home. Even if you ate 3000 calories at the wedding (double the amount normally recommended for a grown adult), you’re not going to gain like 5 lbs just from that one day, especially if you eat much lighter the next day. But – if you’re the type of person who needs to stay on your diet, because if you go “rogue” and pig out at a wedding, you’re never going to return to eating vegetables again, then you might want to try some of my suggestions 🙂

Generally, I think there are three strategies you can use when eating out / eating at weddings:

1) The Small Portions / Picky Eater strategy (recommended for people who don’t want to go off their diet, but still want to indulge and enjoy a bit – I generally eat this way when I go to weddings). You can also use this strategy when you go out to dinner and don’t want to break your diet!

The key here is “a little bit” – those three words will be your favorite words when navigating the wedding buffet or eating the plated dinner. Take a look at this post on Portion Sizes for a bit more guidance on what “a little bit” means. But generally, think of it as little tastes from the buffet, or 1/2 the portion you’re served in a plated dinner.

Other helpful guidelines:

  • Look for healthy items during cocktail hour. Oftentimes people will put out veggies and dip, fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. If you take a ton of the veggies and fruit, complement them with a tablespoon of dip, and 1-2 cubes of cheese, you’ll walk into the reception feeling pretty full and likely won’t feel the need to pig out at the buffet
  • Avoid things that are deep fried, breaded, regular soda (if you want soda – go for the diet version – it has zero calories!), or anything in a cream sauce (salads, pastas, this goes for soup too – creamy soups pack almost double the calories of broth-based soups!). Again – if you want any of these things, try the “little bit” strategy 🙂 1-2 bites of anything isn’t going to break your diet!
  • For salads, take off the croutons – they randomly have tons of calories and fat
  • If there is a bread basket, don’t eat more than 1 roll or 1 slice – each one is about 150 calories at the very least! Think of it this way – if you had a choice between a bread roll now or the cake at the end… which one would you choose? 🙂
  • Beer and wine generally have fewer calories than mixed drinks (which can run up to 500-1000 calories depending on what’s in them!)
  • For dessert, share. That way you won’t end up eating the entire piece of cake yourself. Most buffets will also have fruit options or lighter fare for dessert which you should definitely go for. You can also use the “little bit” strategy with the cake – take a few bites and savor them – if you don’t eat those few bites mindlessly, you might find that your sweet craving has been satisfied without downing the entire slice!

2) The Going Rogue / Detox strategy (recommended for people who can easily discipline themselves the day after the wedding to detox and get back to eating healthy).

This strategy is simple – eat what you want on the day of the wedding, but the day after the wedding – do a complete detox. This doesn’t mean starve yourself by any means. Detox guidelines (note – this is JUST for the day after you get back from the wedding – it’ll revitalize your system and make you feel lighter/healthier!):

  • Eat whole foods. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t understand
  • Eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies – you can have as much of these as you like 🙂
  • Eat whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, quinoa are some of my favorites)
  • Drink lots of water (no sodas, sugary juices, etc)
  • No desserts – 1 small piece of dark chocolate (70% cacao is a good choice) is probably ok though 🙂
  • For protein, try to stay away from meat – focus on dairy (1% milk, fat free yogurt, low fat cheese), tofu, 1/4 cup of almonds or walnuts, etc.
  • Minimize your intake of oils, fats, etc. (so basically, no french fries)

3) The Complete Avoidance strategy (which I wouldn’t recommend because honestly it’s not that much fun, but if you’re the type of person who can’t even have a taste of a cupcake without wanting to eat 5 of them, this strategy will probably work best for you). There aren’t really guidelines here – except that you’d basically stay away from all of the unhealthy foods (all desserts, anything fried, anything made with cream, any entree where the oil is visible or pools out in the sauce, etc.) If you did use this strategy, you’d probably have to bring a few snacks from home in order to supplement your meals throughout the day like fresh fruits, nuts, Lara Bars, etc. otherwise you’d starve!

Phew! I think that’s it 🙂 Hopefully these tips are helpful in navigating the world of wedding food – but remember, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself and have fun!!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Belinda @zomppa September 22, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Great tips – I always tend to falter when I travel. Baltimore looked like fun.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater September 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

Thanks Belinda! I definitely tend to falter when I travel too – the important thing is to just go back to your regular healthy eating routine when you get home!

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Vijay September 23, 2010 at 7:36 am

Good advice. Drinking beer also is practical when on the dance floor!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater September 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

Thanks Vijay!! Haha – yes, very practical 🙂

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Vishal September 23, 2010 at 8:33 am

Ha haaaaa. I definitely “go rogue” at weddings. I also definitely cannot have a taste of a cupcake with wanting to eat five of them.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater September 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

hahahaha that’s funny 🙂 hopefully you get back on track after you get home! 🙂

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May Ling Wu September 24, 2010 at 7:18 am

Can I tell you that I ave been looking for such an article! I am on weight watchers but being 28 have A LOT of wedding to go to these days. Great tips!

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anjalim September 24, 2010 at 7:39 am

Oh good! I’m so glad it’s helpful 🙂

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Neesha October 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

Great post Anjali, thanks for listening to our idea:)

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anjalim October 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Thanks Neesha! It was a really good idea 🙂

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Shelby May 20, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Great tips! I think once you commit to a healthier eating lifestyle it is so important to continue this through all aspects of your life! Especially if you go out to events that will have tempting choices. Portion size is a good point because i think its important to eat food you love but in moderation!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 24, 2013 at 10:32 am

That’s exactly right Shelby! It’s important not to totally deprive yourself — so having things in moderation is the way to go!

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