How can I make my holiday entertaining a little healthier for my guests, as well as myself?
In the past, offering rich foods to guests in lavish abundance and coaxing people to stuff themselves has been a hallmark of hospitality. To eat more, in turn, was an expression of appreciation and affection.
However, in our overfed society, these traditions no longer serve us well. Many of us need to begin establishing new holiday traditions to help those we love celebrate in more slender, healthier ways.
This holiday season, think "slender," not "stuffed."
Here are ideas for planning your holiday events:
Focus your parties on people not food. De-emphasize the importance of eating. This is a time for friends, for socializing and enjoying the pleasure of being together.
To detour guests from hovering over the food table, consider including activities at the party a song fest, caroling, games, card playing, contests, trimming the tree.
Offer low-calorie, low-fat foods fruit and vegetable plates, low-fat dips, fruit cups. Skip the salami, liverwurst and similar cold cuts for this year's party platters. Instead, stock up on sliced meats like roast beef, roast turkey breast and lean ham. Crunchy snacks like pretzels and flatbreads are good low-fat choices. Choose oven-baked instead of fried crackers. Avoid cheese-flavored and butter-flavored crackers they are usually higher in fat. Choose gum drops as a fat-free alternative to chocolate kisses.
Limit food choices. The bountiful (groaning) buffet table, so popular today, is a hazard to the overeater. Offering your guests a choice of nine appetizers and three desserts encourages them to take one of each.
Studies show we eat more when we have a wider selection.
Offer smaller portions by cutting bars, cake, pie and other foods into smaller pieces. Offer moderate servings and don't urge "seconds." Avoid passing serving platters laden with food repeatedly around the dinner table. This encourages people to eat more, just because it's there, or because others urge them to do it. No one should feel pressured to eat more, to please others, or to show their appreciation.
Avoid having food such as candy or nuts constantly at hand. Our appetites are stimulated by the sight of food so delay the serving of appetizers or other refreshments. Set food away after a meal.
If you serve alcoholic beverages, have low-calorie, nonalcoholic drinks (tomato juice, club soda, mineral water or even ice water with a twist of lemon or lime) and coffee available, as well. Help your guests maintain moderation. Besides the many other problems it can cause, alcohol is high in calories.
Be cautious of cleaning up after hosting a party. Avoid eating that first "harmless" cracker or canape that can lead so easily to an after-party binge. Ways to avoid this are: Ask someone else to put the food away while you straighten the living room; chew gum during cleanup; pour salt over unsalvageable food that may still be tempting you; or spread leftovers quickly on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer in the morning, scoop them into freezer storage bags and store in freezer.