Interview: Healthy Party Food and Drink Options with Nutrition Expert and Orlando Magic’s Team Dietitian Tara Gidus

With the Super Bowl next Sunday, Valentine’s Day just a few weeks away and award shows like the Oscars (on February 24th) right around the corner, many of us will be spending time with friends and family eating decadent foods and delicious snacks at festive parties. If you’re afraid of falling off the diet or fitness wagon, but don’t want to miss out on celebrating with loved ones, you’re in luck! Nationally recognized nutrition expert and the Orlando Magic’s team dietitian, Tara Gidus joined me to dish on simple ways we can enjoy ourselves at parties with healthy substitutions and easy cooking techniques!



Nationally renowned nutrition expert and Orlando Magic Dietitian Tara Gidus shares healthy party food and drink options

Nationally renowned nutrition expert and Orlando Magic Dietitian Tara Gidus shares healthy party food and drink options!







Candace Rose: “With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away and award show season upon us, many of us will be attending parties. How can we avoid overdoing it on snacks and food?

Tara Gidus: Well, we are right into the new year, and now we’ve got all these parties coming up so it’s really tough for everybody. So one of the best things that you can do is substitute. It drives my friends and family crazy because I never make a recipe exactly as it says it’s directed because I’m always looking for ways to kind of substitute and make it a little bit healthier.

So for example, I might make a chili or some nachos with some really lean ground turkey or some veggie crumbles instead of some of the more greasy ground beef. I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love dessert, and so the cookies and brownies and especially some red velvet cupcakes for Valentine’s Day- really good. So one of my favorite things to do is instead of using butter in some of those baked goods, I’ll use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or Country Crock (these spreads are made by Unilever). What happens is when you substitute the butter, you’re reducing your recipe by 70% saturated fat and it has zero grams trans fat per serving. So it’s really a better for you option than butter and they really do taste delicious. You can use them in all kinds of recipes, not just in the baking recipes.”

Delicious party desserts!

Delicious party desserts!


Candace Rose: And besides ingredient substitutions, what are some healthy cooking techniques we can all use?

Tara Gidus: “Well, one of my favorite things to do is bake or broil or grill because broiling or grilling, especially the fat is going to drip off so you’re not left with a greasy frying pan there so it’s really just dripping off. You can make kabobs; we’ve got some grilled chicken sliders here on a whole grain bun (please see video above) so not only are you getting the whole grains in there, but you’ve got a lean meat. You can get creative with some toppings, whatever it is that you like for that grilled chicken.

Things like chicken wings that you might have attempted to order out that are going to be fried or even potato skins- you can actually bake those in the oven, and that’s going to be a really good option. I also love to do kabobs where you get the veggies in there, and you can either broil those or grill those. That’s a great way to get lean meat and veggies in there too.”


Grilled chicken sliders!

Grilled chicken sliders!


Candace Rose: Do you have any suggestions if you’re not the one throwing the get together since it’s not up to you to choose the menu?

Tara Gidus: “You can of course bring a dish with you if you want. One of my favorite things to do that’s super simple is just some veggies and hummus- everybody loves it, and you can just bring that with you. You can also bake some tortilla chips and put a little chili on there and spice them up.


Take hummus and veggies to your next party!

Take hummus and veggies to your next party!


The other thing is making sure that you’re eating something before you go, because if you’re starving- if you’re anything like me when I’m starving, get out of the way, I’m just going to eat everything in sight- you can have a handful of nuts or have an apple and peanut butter before you go just to ridge you a little bit before you get to the party.


nuts, apple and peanut butter

Nuts, apple and peanut butter


And then my other favorite thing is when you’re at the party, instead of eating from that big old dinner plate, look for the appetizer plate or the dessert plate because the smaller plates give you less food. Research shows that people who eat from bigger plates tend to eat more. And then what happens is we take that plate, we fill it up, we sit on the couch watching the game or the award show and we’re not even conscious of what’s going into our mouth. So try to eat…and then go to the couch so you can really focus on the commercials if that’s what you’re looking for or the game or whatever it is that you’re looking for so you can really focus on what’s going on, and also pay attention to your friends and family that you’re hanging out with too, and not just making food the big focus of the day.”


Eat off of an appetizer plate when snacking at your next party!

Eat off of an appetizer plate when snacking at your next party!


Candace Rose: Do you have any advice on healthy drink options?

Tara Gidus: “Yeah, alcohol can really get you especially when we’re talking about these games or award shows that are going on for three or four hours. So I like to use diet lower calorie mixers with the alcohol and just kind of cutting back on the alcohol in general which you can do with a wine spritzer- just mixing some of that seltzer water with wine so you’re getting less wine, fewer calories and fewer alcohol. And of course the more alcohol you drink, the lower your willpower and then you tend to eat more, and of course it’s not safe to drive home if you’ve drank too much alcohol as well. So you want to be careful, really count how many drinks that you’re having and be very smart with the alcohol that you’re doing.


Registered dietitian Tara Gidus talks drink options for your next party!

Registered dietitian Tara Gidus talks drink options for your next party!


And then the last thing is really balancing what you’re eating with how much you’re moving. So that doesn’t mean you have to be on the treadmill while you’re watching the award show at your friend’s house, but make sure that you don’t skip on your yoga class that day. Maybe do take a break from the show or during halftime of the game, walk around a little bit outside or something just to get a little bit of movement and make sure that you don’t skip your workout that day, so you can balance because you know you’re going to eat a little bit more at these parties. So balance that out with a little bit more exercise.”

Candace Rose: Well, thanks for the great tips Tara; where can we go for more information?

Tara Gidus: “We’ve got a lot of excellent tips and awesome recipes at”




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