As we quickly approach the holiday season, it seems that the urge to entertain becomes progressively stronger. Personally, I love to entertain and I take a lot of pleasure and pride in the effort that I put in to make an event enjoyable. I love creating an experience: setting an ambiance, putting a music playlist together and decorating when appropriate. When it comes to food, I tend to overestimate the hunger level of my guests. I get this excessive food preparation quality from my mom, who loves to entertain as much as I do, if not more.
When I was younger, I didn’t pay much attention to the health factor of what I served. I believed that parties were a time when people should indulge…eating and drinking ’til their hearts’ content. This belief, however, has changed over time. Most people who know me well, know that I eat healthy. And in all honesty, I feel like it would be a bit hypocritical to serve a lot of junk or fattening foods at my parties, when I don’t subscribe to eating them myself.
Healthy foods don’t have to be boring or taste bad. Further, serving them doesn’t mean limiting yourself to tofu and string beans, it just means applying some basic standards to what you serve. Here are a few of my healthy cocktail party guidelines:
Make your own Dips: For the most part, I try to avoid packaged dips. If there is a dip or sauce to be made, I try to make them myself. A couple of my favorites include: Black Bean Salsa, Guacamole and Olive Tapenade. Most dips, if store bought, have a lot of extra preservatives, oils, sugars and yes, HFCS up the wazoo to help lengthen shelf life and enhance flavor. If you make a dip yourself, it will be fresh. Further, you will know what goes into the recipe and you can choose lower fat ingredients (such as low-fat sour cream) for even healthier dishes.
Keep it Balanced: It is pretty easy to fall into the ol’ chip and dip routine, making the party a carbohydrate fest. Instead, try to have a good mix of food groups and macro-nutrients (carbs, protein and fat) so that people can snack in a balanced way. Good protein sources for finger foods include: chicken satay skewers, turkey balls (lower in fat than meat balls), hummus, cured meat and cheese. Although the cured meat and cheese can be high in fat, they tend to satiate people more quickly than foods that may not have as much fat.
Organics: Depending on how large the party is, spending extra on foods that are organic helps to ensure you are serving higher quality foods to your guests.
Veggies: I can not emphasize enough, the power of crudités (raw veggie platter). Raw vegetables are easy to snack on, can be used with most dips (hummus, vegetable dip and even salsa) and provide your guests with LOTS of nutrients and fiber. Granted, you can make lots of other vegetable type appetizers as well, but raw vegetables require very little work to serve.
Minimize the Common Chip: Instead of resorting to traditional fatty potato and tortilla chips, look for healthier options, such as Stacy’s Pita Chips or whole grain crackers.
Forget Frozen: Try to avoid pre-prepared foods in the frozen section of the grocery store (Mini quiches, pigs in a blanket, chicken fingers, spinach wheels, etc.). These, like the dips mentioned above, are full of extra fat and calories, not to mention the added preservatives, etc. Although it takes extra work to make foods from scratch, you will most likely serve a much healthier dish if you make some of these standards yourself.
These are just a couple of ideas, but there are probably loads more. When you entertain, do you try to serve healthier food? What guidelines do you use?