Cheers to the Cocktail Party Diet

Nothing is more fun that a cocktail party, and we use any excuse possible in LA to have them. I love getting dressed up, schmoozing, and meeting new people. But cocktail parties can be a total disaster for your diet if you don’t come prepared. So before you put your Spanx and heels on, make a game plan. I’m going to show you the best strategies for eating right and still having a blast at your next shindig.

How to Finagle the Tray Pass

Most likely, you won’t know what food will be offered at a cocktail party unless you’re the hostess. But it’s almost guaranteed that it will be tempting and delicious (smoked salmon salad rolls with mint and cilantro dipping sauce anyone?), so head into the event with your eyes open. If this isn’t going to be a cheat meal, fuel up beforehand on some complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats so you can stay full but not stuffed. Try a chicken breast and some veggies drizzled with olive oil.

If you get to the cocktail party late and realize you’re starving, you do have options. If it’s a tray-pass party, see if you can grab one of the servers walking by and just ask him or her what the spread is for the evening. If something that they mention strikes you as a good choice, then ask the server to come find you when they bring that item out of the kitchen. Listen for dishes that are protein-centered and are prepared as simply as possible (avoid anything fried or covered in a creamy sauce). Chicken skewers, mini sandwiches with the bread taken off, cubed fruits, or small vegetable dishes are all great choices. Unless they’re completely overwhelmed, catering servers are usually happy to help you out, and you can throw them $5 as a thank you (think of it as your skinny tax).

Working the Bar

For healthy imbibing, I try to limit myself to just spirits on ice instead of a cocktail with a bunch of added sugar. I find that when I can taste the alcohol, I drink my beverage more slowly. Plus, carbonated mixers have been shown to bring on inebriation more quickly; not the best idea when you’re trying to keep it classy.

Exceptions to the Rules

If it’s a special occasion, don’t deprive yourself to the point of feeling excluded from the festivities. Have a taste of the Michelin-starred chef’s soufflé or your Dad’s retirement cake. If it really is a once-in-a-lifetime event, it’s OK to have a taste so you can feel like you’re a part of the celebration. You only live once, after all. Just don’t let a bite of a pulled pork slider snowball into a gorgefest that you’ll regret later.

Remember to focus on the real reason you’re at the party in the first place. Unless it”s a Top Chef event (and then, girl, that better be your cheat day), it most likely isn’t because of the food. Is it to network? To celebrate a birthday or an accomplishment? To raise money for a great charity? Tempura-battered shrimp and canapés are fun, but remember, they’re just the icing on the cake of your big and fabulous life. Enjoy!