It’s Friday! You worked all week, made healthy meals, hit the gym, ran errands, did laundry, walked the dog, and cleaned the house. Now, you think, it’s time for a reward – Happy Hour. So, do you ditch the diet and savor a sweet syrupy mudslide while popping pieces of fried calamari and gossiping with friends? Or do you go home and slump into your couch with a bowl of salad? Fortunately, staying healthy and leading an active social life doesn’t have to be so black and white. Enter Kelly Milton. Kelly is an expert when it comes to paleo entertaining and navigating the social scene. She blogs at paleogirlskitchen.com and is the author of Paleo Happy Hour. In this guest post, she outlines ten party rules that will help you stay paleo in a social setting without feeling excluded or falling off the paleo wagon.
One of the biggest challenges as a paleo follower can be the desire for an active social life. You still want to meet up with friends for dinner, attend parties and throw them; all while feeling included and true to your diet. Drinking alcohol is not paleo, it’s true, but it is a part of many people’s lives. The paleo community hasn’t spent much time laying out your options for alcohol and mixers. Also, even if you feel confident in what to drink, the social scene can still pose many other challenges. For some quick tips to keep in mind when attending social functions, I have created The 10 Paleo Party Rules.
Think about food before anything else. If you will be going out drinking, eat a high protein low carbohydrate meal beforehand. You will get plenty of carbohydrates in your cocktails, so stick to protein and non-starchy vegetables for your pre-party meal while making sure to get in some healthy fats. A full stomach helps slow down the absorption of alcohol. WARNING: Do not skip dinner because you are planning on “drinking” your dinner. Alcoholic beverages can cause blood sugar spikes. By skipping a meal you will only make blood sugar spikes worse, causing an increase in the absorption of alcohol.
Eating after you have been drinking is another issue. You may find yourself hungry without any paleo options. So, pack a snack in your purse, pocket, or car (like trail mix or jerky) so you won’t be tempted to eat pizza at 2 a.m. If you’re going to a dinner or house party, bring a healthy food option to share so you aren’t stranded with nothing to eat.
Set goals for the night before you go out. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men should have no more than four drinks on a single day and fourteen per week; women no more than three drinks per day and seven per week. Keep in mind serving sizes on typical drinks when counting. Decide how many alcoholic beverages you plan to drink that night before you go. Also, the act of planning a cut-off point can help you to remember to count your drinks throughout the night and stay at a low and healthy number. Rehearse turning down unhealthy options like sugary mixed shots or chips and spinach dip. This will make it easier when the foreseeable challenges arise.
This rule is to alternate water between each alcoholic drink. When you are at a party it is comfortable to have a drink in hand, but no one said that it had to be alcoholic. Try having water between alcoholic drinks. This will help keep you hydrated and reduce the number of alcoholic drinks you consume. There is a misconception that having water will sober you up. However, the hydration you will get from the water can help save you from a hangover and slow your overall consumption of alcohol.
Share your new favorite paleo drink or food recipe. Don’t hold out on your friends! Bring healthy food and drink options to any party. Nothing is worse than feeling left out because there are no paleo options at a party, so be proactive in bringing your own food and drinks with you. Here are 50 paleo appetizers and some paleo drinks that you can bring to any party. Also, check out this infographic for more paleo drink ideas (click to enlarge):
Ditch your drink, and get on the dance floor. Move while you are out partying. Dancing, walking between bars and restaurants, or standing (away from the buffet table) will help use up those extra carbs. Plus, getting on the dance floor allows you to leave your drink behind and free up your arms for dancing!
Oftentimes people say there are things you just don’t talk about with friends or at parties like politics and religion. I challenge you to add paleo to the list. Many paleo followers are very passionate about the health advantages that the diet brings, and on the flip side, can be very critical of the standard American diet. It is good to feel strong about your beliefs, but it is important to be a role model rather than a preacher. Be the person at the party with the most energy, a great figure and who demonstrates healthy food choices: be the example! Giving a five-minute lecture on why gluten is death will most likely not inspire your fellow partygoers, but will probably offend, alienate or enrage other guests. If someone asks you about it, give a short, heart-felt answer and then move on.
I’m typically not one to promote deception, lying, or faking anything. When it comes to alcohol, however, I think this can be a valid choice. No matter your age, there is still a lot of peer pressure to drink. Sometimes I think you can even pressure yourself to drink. To avoid friends questioning your sobriety, or chanting for you to grab a glass of wine, it may be easier to just fake it. I was recently at a brew fest where everyone’s beer steins were filled to the rim with glutinous beer. I quickly found the other refreshments and filled mine with iced tea and a splash of lemonade. It pretty much looked exactly the same. If you don’t feel like justifying your choice not to drink, and want the comfort of having something in hand to sip, this may be your best option. At bars, just order a club soda with fresh lime which easily passes as a vodka soda. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you later.
Whether you had two drinks or five and also devoured a late-night pizza, wake-up the next day and get back on track. You will have extra carbs to burn, so plan to exercise. Even if it’s just a long walk, moving your body is a good choice. Don’t fuel your hangover with greasy food. Pick up your paleo diet right where you left off.
Surround yourself with friends who share or support your health values. I great place to meet like-minded people is at the gym or health food store. Plan social activities together that don’t revolve around food or drinks. Participate in the paleo online community for even more support.
YOLO (you only live once)! You need to enjoy life and the paleo lifestyle. Beating yourself up and feeling bad every time you slip isn’t any way to live. Paleo isn’t a test. If you get upset about every little “cheat,” you are more likely to quit altogether. If you are eating real food and living the paleo lifestyle you are way ahead of the curve. So, don’t stress, and celebrate every small victory!
For more information on how to integrate paleo into your social life get a copy of Paleo Happy Hour. Also, here are some more resources on alcohol and its role in your Primal/paleo diet:
Let us know what you think, and share your party tips in the comment board!