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Healthy Holiday Parties

Have a pumpkin carving party!
Have a pumpkin carving party!

Do you remember what parties were like when you were a kid? When I was eight I went to one that had a scavenger hunt. We were assigned teammates and had to search the neighborhood for things like a pinecone, a round rock larger than a marble and a leaf from an oak tree.

That party happened nearly three decades ago but I still remember it. The reason it stands out is because it was a party where we did something. The focus wasn't on candy and cake, but interacting with friends while exploring new things and the world around us.

As we grew up, it was almost like we decided it was no longer cool to do silly fun things. Parties tend to follow a pattern. Show up, grab a drink, grab some food and make small talk... then repeat. It's nice catching up with friends, but during the holiday season, a lot of parties like that can lead to some serious pounds around your middle.

When there's no alternative but food and drink, people will oblige by eating and drinking.

The next time you invite people for a party, quit acting so grown up. Shift the focus to something fun. For example, before Halloween invite friends over to carve pumpkins. Download patterns from the internet, provide a few bowls for the guts and let your friend's creative sideshow. Cut up some apples and drizzle them with sugar-free caramel for a snack, then bake the pumpkin seeds people scoop out. You'll keep people engaged and avoid offering piles of cookies and cake.

Plan parties around seasonal activities. If you're near a beach try building a sandcastle. Bring along a few toy buckets and some trowels or tools to carve details. With a large group, you can divide them up into teams. Have everybody compete to see who can make theirs the highest, add the most towers or construct the longest arches. Bring along a bag of accessories for when it's done like small flags, cannons or other toys. Then get creative taking pictures from strange vantage points and extreme close-ups.

In northern climates build and decorate snowpeople, go ice skating or plan a sledding party. Sliding down a hill on an inner tube, saucer or toboggan is a thrill, and you get some good exercise walking back up to do it again. Have races, set up a slalom for people to steer around or see how many people can link up and go down the hill together.

What you'll find is that not only are people having more fun, they tend to open up more and you get to know each other better. When was the last time you got excited about making small talk over finger food? Now think about your conversations with friends when you explore new places or try new things.

It doesn't have to be costly or elaborate. A photo scavenger hunt takes nothing more than a creative list and the smartphone many people already own.

You can make a difference in your community by having your friends help with a local charity. Call an organization you want to support and ask if they could use a few volunteers for their next event. Then ask your friends if they'd be willing to join you.

A lot of companies have racing events and they need people to run smoothly. Your friends can help with setup, safety or registration. If everyone is feeling particularly ambitious, have them all join together in a 5K or fun run. Choose a group costume. You get a great experience and the charity raises a bunch of money.

A few additional ideas you can try include walking in a local parade, hosting a pool party, hanging decorations for a special person, arranging a group tour through a local museum or meeting late at night to watch a meteor shower.

Quit making food the focus of your parties and have more fun.

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