Why do we cringe when we see “healthy” and “holiday” in the same sentence? A clue may be that the holidays are a celebration of traditions, religious faith, family, needed time off from work and a real escape from “the musts” in life. I’d like to see us break from this idea that you cannot find holiday cheer unless you escape by overindulging and stressing yourself out. I’m here to tell you that you can celebrate the holiday season without carrying extra work, pounds and guilt.

When I was asked what it could be like to host a healthy holiday party, my mind went to careful planning, tips for an easy menu and focusing on gratitude.

Planning

For starters, you don’t need to create everything that you will be serving. Buy some of your appetizers, like almonds or spicy nuts, fruit and cheese, to pass as guests arrive.

Rather than a full sit-down party, embrace small bites or finger food. People want to chat, snack and mingle. Here is a sample menu: bite-size chicken meatballs (see recipe that follows); vegetable crudités; shrimp cocktail; mini crab cakes; smoked salmon and cream cheese cucumber bites; tomato soup shots; and a sushi platter.

Providing a variety allows guests to choose based on their personal tastes, but won’t overwhelm you with creating 15 options when seven or eight good ones will do.

Helpful Tips

If you’re trying a new recipe that you’re excited about serving, test it ahead of time, especially if it’s a healthy option that has ingredient substitutions.

If you’re hosting a potluck, make sure you have one or two healthy, but filling, options for yourself and others who may be trying to watch calorie intake. Serve on small plates. It encourages portions control.

Make cute little place cards with cues for gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free and mix those in with cards that say “celebrate” and “yum.”

If you want to ensure that there is no waste and you’re not stuck with more food than you can possible eat, consider to-go Chinese containers. Place these somewhere handy. At the end of the evening, people can take home the leftovers.

Gratitude

We forget that positive feelings are the product of positive thinking and good choices. It has been scientifically proven that a sense of contentment and belonging affects the body in positive ways. Make gratitude an element of your holiday celebrations.

Ask your guests to take a minute to focus on their favorite holiday memory or a member of their family and write down on a card that memory or what they’re grateful for. Some hosts tie these cards to a special tree at the party so that others can read. Others ask guests to share them aloud if inclined, or you can provide an envelope so that they can send their special memory to that person or share thoughts at another holiday gathering.

By Audrey Zona

Audrey Zona is an integrative health and wellness coach and the founder of Zo Healthy, www.livezohealthy.com. She is a mother, wife and personal coach who loves seeing her clients break old diet patterns and enjoy more satisfying, healthier lives. Follow Audrew on Instagram (@zo_healthy) for recipes, tips and tricks for leading a healthy lifestyle.


Gluten-Free Chicken Meatballs
Recipe is compliments of Chef Craig Chomsky of CK Kitchen, located in Waldwick.

Ingredients:

• 1 pound 99% lean organic ground chicken

• 1 egg

• ½ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs

• 2 Tbsp diced fresh basil

• 2 Tbsp ketchup

• 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

• ¼ cup sweet onions, diced

• 1 Tbsp garlic, diced

• 1 ½  tsp kosher salt

• ½ tsp. black pepper

Directions:

  1. Dice and sauté the garlic and onion, then cool off.
  2. Next, in a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and onion mix. Mix with your hands and make it completely mixed together.
  3. Get a large sheet tray and put parchment paper down.
  4. Evenly portion the meatballs and space them so they can cook evenly.
  5. Turn the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit convection and bake for 15-18 minutes. The internal temperature must be 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be finished cooking completely.

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