10 Healthy Holiday Party Tips

From the WebMD Archives

Throwing a fabulous holiday party? If you want people to have a good time, but you also want to keep things on the healthier side, you can still win over your guests. Cement your status as a legendary host or hostess with these 10 surefire tips.

1. Offer a signature guilt-free drink. Make a cocktail with a small amount of alcohol.Not only is alcohol packed with empty calories, it can also lower your guests’ control, increasing the chances they’ll overdo it at the buffet table.

You don't have to go with grog or nog -- a low-calorie wine spritzer can work just as well, says Bethany Thayer, director of the Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Detroit.

Mix up some wine with club soda or diet citrus soda, add a splash of low-cal juice (think cranberry), and a pretty piece of fruit, like a raspberry. Give it a catchy name, and you’ll have a festive drink that won’t derail anyone’s diet.

2. Use only teeny-tiny plates. Your guests can’t load up with piles of food if it’s not physically possible, says dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic, president of Nutrition Today with Amy J.

Giving a dinner party? Set out 8-inch plates. “The holidays are a great time to use that vintage china, since plates used to be much smaller!” Jamieson-Petonic says.

3. Skip the chips, scale back the dips. Make vegetables the star of your tablescape by cutting them into fun shapes or offering them on skewers. “Not only will the water content of the veggies start to make guests feel full -- all that chewing will slow them down,” Thayer says. Just don't add high-fat, high-calorie dips.

4. Create a food-free zone. Serve food in one room only, leaving the rest of your home free for socializing.

If guests take a plate and relocate to another area, they’re apt to get chatty and forget about refilling their plate.

5. Serving protein? Go lean. Consider fish or turkey for your main dish. If you opt for turkey, be sure to avoid skin. And choose a low-fat cooking method. Roast it on a rack, Thayer says, and the majority of the fat just drips away.

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6. Bring on the beans. Beans are chock-full of fiber and plant protein. Instead of cooking them with meat, which ups the fat content and drives away vegetarians, Thayer suggests using liquid smoke, which you can find in the grocery store near the barbecue sauce.

7. Deconstruct that casserole. “Casseroles are the very definition of comfort, but they’re often loaded with sodium, heavy cream, butter, and cheese,” Jamieson-Petonic says.

Instead, let the main ingredient go solo. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, sweet peppers, butternut or acorn squash, and Brussels sprouts are just as delicious when baked or steamed. Flavor them with lemon juice, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or spices like curry or ginger.

8. Go green. Toss a gorgeous salad with spinach -- which is rich in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, iron, and calcium -- rather than plain ol’ lettuce, Jamieson-Petonic says.

Make your own simple, low-calorie dressing from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice; then add toasted pecans, lighter cheeses (like feta), tangerine slices, apples, pears, and dried fruit.

9. Shrink the desserts. A holiday party just isn’t right without tempting sweets. So don’t skip them, Thayer says. Just offer very small portions. That way, your guests can taste a little bit of everything.

Consider making many treats fruit-based. “Don’t underestimate fruit’s place at the dessert table,” she says. “Dishes like an apple baked with lots of cinnamon can look great and taste amazing.”

10. Keep ’em movin’. Give your guests something to do, Thayer says. It’s better for circulation, digestion, and calorie-burning than standing or sitting around. Start a game of charades or a scavenger hunt. Clear an area for dancing, or dust off that foosball or pool table. If it's warm outside, offer bocce ball or horseshoes. Organize guests into teams and stage a competition -- anything to keep people off the sofa.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on December 09, 2013

Sources

SOURCES:

Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman; director, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, MEd; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman; president, Nutrition Today with Amy J.

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