I’ve always loved entertaining in my home. The opportunity to have friends, family and food all coming together on a Saturday evening excites me. In the past, when I invited new people to my home for dinner, I typically got the following reaction: “Sounds like fun, but is all the food going to be healthy?” Lately, however, I’ve noticed that people appear to be more concerned about their health and what foods they choose to put into their mouth – so much so that people are actually intrigued to find out what healthy foods I will serve. This has become so prevalent that I’ve printed recipes ahead of time. If your goal is to provide healthy food at your next dinner party and still have your guests come back, consider these tips.
Downsize your plates
Typical dinner parties involve several courses and these courses usually appear on various sized plates. The bigger the plate, the bigger the portion. I serve appetizers on very small plates and main dishes on larger salad plates. It’s not about policing how much food your guests take, it’s more about increasing awareness of portion sizes.
Expand appetizer options
Instead of serving cheese with crackers as an appetizer (tasty, but high in saturated fat and calories and low in fiber), try healthy bean- or non-fat yogurt dips served with vegetables, roasted nuts and grapes or apple slices. Hummus is another great choice and usually a crowd-pleaser at my house.
Nix the buffet
While buffets make life easier, they essentially allow all the food to be eaten at once. Instead, pace the courses like they do in a restaurant. Don’t serve them in quick succession. Instead, allow adequate time for your guests to enjoy all the food offerings.
Start with appetizers and wine for at least one hour. Once your guests are seated, serve subsequent courses allowing at least 25 minutes between courses. Taking the approach to stagger food will give you time to breathe as the host/hostess, and it also will give you time to digest, so you know when you are full, not stuffed.
Keep salads healthy
Don’t ruin your salad with pre-made bottled dressings that can be loaded with sugar and sodium. Instead, make your own with fresh ingredients. Another approach is to serve soup instead of salad. According to a recent study, soup makes you feel fuller faster so you won’t have the need to stuff yourself for the rest of the meal. Soups are also an easy way to pack extra veggies into your meal. I always notice that people are very impressed with a soup alternative since it isn’t something you typically see at a dinner party.
Don’t forget seasoning
Just because it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean it can’t taste good. Citrus zest, toasted spices, garlic and onions can give you a major flavor punch.
Don’t be afraid of color
The more colorful food items you serve, the more flavor you’ll pack into each bite and – as an added bonus – the more nutrition you’ll provide to your guests. This goes for roasted or browned vegetables too. Don’t be afraid of golden brown. It’s much more flavorful than a limp spear of steamed asparagus.
Know your recipes
Test out your recipes first. If you obtain them online, read the comments. You’ll find out how bland or flavorful it is, whether it takes longer or shorter to prepare than indicated, or whether it is what you were hoping it would be.
Don’t make protein the focus
Protein (especially from higher fat animal sources) should never be the star of your dinner party. Focus instead on grains and veggies. If you know how to prepare it, fish can be wonderful. Also, think outside the box by serving dishes with seitan and tempeh. You can substitute them in most chicken dishes, or you could go completely vegetarian and not even try to mimic chicken.
Yes, you can have dessert
Giving a healthy dinner party doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert. Dessert can taste great and be healthy at the same time. Fresh or roasted fruit is a great option.
Finally, have fun!
I’ve put recipes and full nutritional information under every guest’s plate at dinner parties printed on beautiful stationary and people loved it. At the end of the day, it’s all about spending time together with friends and family and appreciating that healthy food can taste pretty darn good!
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. Besides working with individual patients, she supports projects of community- and workplace wellness. For more information, please visit the Cleveland Clinic Lifestyle 180 program.
This article has been reposted with permission by the Huffington Post
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