Thanksgiving generally starts the annual round of holiday entertaining that can wind up blowing your budget and your waistline. But Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers six tips for a healthy holiday celebration that enables you and your guests to enjoy the gathering without increasing “waste and waist” and negatively impacting the environment. Try adopting a health theme for this holiday, showing that healthy holiday entertaining doesn’t have to be tasteless or Spartan.
It does, however, require a shift from the “more is more” holiday entertaining mentality where you strive to impress your guests with expensive, often extra rich and fattening food choices. It needs be reframed into one that values everyone’s long-term health, gives the host or hostess time to actually enjoy the company without anyone being filled with guilt while at the same time reducing the environmental impact. It also eliminates the extra days or weeks in preparation and cleanup. And if you’re a busy person (and who isn’t these days), saving extra time and effort is a good reason all by itself.
1. START WITH A SALAD
Begin your meal with a simple salad. It ups your veggie intake for the day and will help you and your guests not to overeat. By filling up on nutritious foods first, there’s less temptation to overeat later on. When you can eat fewer calories and reduce food waste, you’re creating a win-win not only for your health and your guests’ health, you’re also helping the environment.
2. STEP IT UP
Squeeze in extra steps by parking further away from the stores you frequent and get rid of the anxiety and aggravation over competition for the closest parking spots. And if you can walk to the store rather than drive, you’re not only increasing your daily count of steps and saving on gas you’re also reducing your carbon footprint.
3. WOW WITH WATER
If you normally buy sugary beverages in plastic bottles or cans for a get-together, try serving infused water with your meal, instead. Experiment – try adding an orange, cucumber or mint to produce an unexpected and refreshing flavor burst.
4. BEWARE THE BUFFET
Buffets can be an enticing invitation to overeat, even when you’re not really hungry. And if you possess the willpower to stop eating, then you wind up throwing the food away. The best approach is to start with small portions and don’t feel you need to try everything on the buffet. If you’re still hungry after finishing your plate, go back for more of your favorites. But pause beforehand, giving your body time to digest a bit.
5. SHOWCASE SIMPLICITY
Rather than spend your efforts impressing guests with a multitude of fancy dishes, focus on cooking fewer dishes filled with nutritious ingredients. Then, rather than wind up feeling overstuffed, you and your guests will be left feeling nourished and satisfied. Fewer dishes also reduce the amount of energy spent cooking as well as saving time, effort and water when doing the dishes.
6. REDEFINE DESSERT
For most of us, dessert has come to mean cakes, cookies, pies and other specialty baked goods, especially during the holidays. But skip baked goods this year. Instead, come up with foods that are better for you and require less energy to prepare. For example, a simple spread of fruit that’s nicely arranged in a holiday bowl or platter. You can also include nuts and dark chocolate, and for a special add-on, a small glass of liquor.
If you’re also exchanging gifts with your guests, consider giving a healthy gift. It can be something like a bottle of high-quality olive oil or vinegar, some of which are coming in new, exciting flavors. Or make a healthy homemade snack, like roasted chick peas in a glass jar with a handmade tag. Or you might consider an herb seed kit or a gift of nuts that offer protein and healthy fats. And what about a gift of some special dark chocolate? Who doesn’t love chocolate!
But it doesn’t need to be about food. Try something like a pedometer, a water bottle or even a sleep mask for help getting a deeper, more restful night’s sleep. You can also give a board game that keeps multiple people involved in playing and being social instead of just eating.
Wishing you and yours very happy, healthy holiday celebrations this year.
By Miriam Latto