A dietitian’s tips for holiday entertaining

submitted by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD,

With the holidays on the horizon, you might be wondering how to keep things delicious, nutritious, and easy – all while spending quality time with loved ones.

Read on to discover tips for entertaining this season that will make the holiday season a win for everyone.

Plan your menu ahead of time – We all know how stressful it is to make last-minute plans, especially when it comes to food. Outline your menu beforehand to allow ample time for creativity and preparation. This can be as simple as making a handwritten list, bookmarking recipes online, or downloading a menu planning app. However you organize, efforts up front will be a huge time and sanity saver.

Get back to basics – Hosting holiday events doesn’t mean that you have to make complicated meals. Basic recipes using good ingredients can be just as impressive as they are tasty. For instance, try maple sweet potatoes, cinnamon-roasted butternut squash, or steamed green beans with almonds. These types of recipes have far fewer ingredients than a layered casserole dish (and are usually healthier, too).

Make it about the sides – Many people look forward to a variety of side dishes more than the main course at holiday gatherings. Side dishes can offer a filling and nutritious buffet by themselves, using grains and breads, raw or roasted vegetables, baked fruits or fruit salad, protein-rich finger foods, dips and sauces, and easy snack items. Pair a spread of sides with a fun beverage and people won’t even realize if the entree is missing.

Make healthier versions of classic favorites – Healthful eating doesn’t have to mean bland meals. There are plenty of ways to make traditional holiday recipes healthier with simple tweaks. For instance, substitute natural sweeteners for refined sugar, use broth or water in place of oil when sautéing, replace shortening with a plant-based spread, and bake or roast instead of frying. Experiment with different seasonings to make dishes even more flavorful in other ways.

Divide and conquer – We can all agree that potlucks never go out of style. Save yourself the stress by having guests bring something to share. This can be especially helpful if you’re looking to provide dishes that meet the different dietary needs of your friends and family.