Thanksgiving Edition: How to Throw a Healthy Dinner Party and Simple Tips to Reduce Holiday Bloat
HOW TO THROW A HEALTHY DINNER PARTY
Since hosting is one of my absolute favourite things in life, I thought i would dedicate a blog post to it, with a nutritional spin - of course. When I host dinner parties, I always make sure my guests are tickling their tastebuds with wholesome dishes made with real ingredients. My goal is that they walk away from the table satisfied, pleased and not uncomfortable/bloated. A common misconception is that a healthy dinner party can be drab and unexciting but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Once you start getting creative with veggies, you’ll discover endless exciting ways to prepare and enjoy them. Even the cynical of the bunch will be pleasantly surprised. Luckily these days people are becoming more and more aware of food quality and becoming more drawn to wholesome food versus packaged fast food. I’ve noticed lately that when I send out the invite, people are actually excited to try new, healthy dishes.
So what is the secret to hosting a healthy dinner w/ satisfied guests and equally as satisifed (and more relaxed) host?
Keep it simple, fresh and colorful- the closer the foods are to their natural state when you serve them, the healthier they are. Always start with wholesome, fresh ingredients and try to avoid dousing them in packaged dressings and sauces. Instead, use extra-virgin olive oil, tamari sauce, balsamic viniagrette, lemon juice, coconut cream and mustard (DIY dressings are a sinch— a good basic dressing that is my go-to: lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, tamari and dijon mustard).
Be smart with appetizers- I always think the appetizer course (yes I consider it a course) is your time to shine. Apps are the easiest to healthify. All it takes are some great nuts and seeds, unprocessed deli meats, organic or raw cheeses, fruits and whole grain baguettes and you’ve got yourself a delicious charcuterie for everyone to enjoy. Remember it’s all about making smarter, healthier choices- if you have the option to purchase organic crackers vs. conventional, do that. Veggies and hummus, cucumber slices w/ dollops of tuna salad are also a favorite go-to.
Make larger dishes in advance- There’s nothing worse than slaving over the kitchen as your guests are enjoying your dinner without you. To help ease stress levels on both guest and host (I always feel obligated to help the host if I see them struggling) prepare the more complicated dishes in advance like roasted vegetables, mashes, soups and desserts.
Watch portions- I once hosted a 5 course meal and the portions so large that most people couldn’t get through the second course. An appetizer, soup or salad, main course with a vegetable, brown rice, or whole grain pasta, and dessert is more than enough. Speaking of portion sizes, sinful fare doesn’t have to be off the menu as long as it’s in moderation. Even that rich chocolate cake for dessert won’t ruin anyone’s healthy diet if the portions are small.
Don’t push alcohol and have non-alcoholic bevvies ready- red wine is a dinner party staple but there are individuals who just don’t do alcohol. For them to not feel excluded, have a mocktail on the menu and offer a variety of sugar-free mixers like real cranberry juice, cherry juice, orange juice and perrier. As a bevvie sweetener, offer stevia or a hint of honey.
SIMPLE TIPS TO REDUCE HOLIDAY BLOAT
Holidays like Thanksgiving are a wonderful time to get together with family and friends and to break from the daily grind. We all can use more rest! From a Nutritionists perspective though, the holidays give me a bit of anxiety particularly because people consider them a “green light” to feast without limit. It doesn’t quite work that way! You still need to be paying attention & be mindful of what you’re eating. All the hard work that you’ve put in towards living a clean life can go down the drain with one glutinous meal. Ever feel hungover days later after eating too much of the wrong foods? That’s because your liver and gut are working in overdrive trying to digest and detoxify leaving other important jobs “unattended” like making you feel happy, energized and alert. I highly encourage you to be mindful when preparing your holiday meals and keep some basic “clean eating” rules intact. I share some deliciously clean sides, desserts and mains on the blog that would impressive any guests taste buds! If you’re faced with a holiday spread that’s not your own, keep the following tips in mind to reduce holiday bloat/indigestion.
Say a prayer/give thanks – prayer before a meal or giving thanks is a good time to take deep breaths and center yourself before eating. Not only will your stress levels go down – which is essential for proper digestion – but you’ll also have a chance to examine the dishes in front of you and thus make healthier decisions instead of just digging in right away.
Eat a raw salad before the main meal – eating a raw salad before a protein-rich meal sets up the groundwork for good digestion in your gut. Raw vegetables are rich in living enzymes which help break down food. This way you don’t have to rely on your pancreas to do all the work! If you have the option of bitter greens like arugula, opt for those as bitter greens stimulate the release of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and bile in the small intestine – both are essential for efficient breakdown and assimilation of food, particularly protein and fat.
Opt for lean protein with vegetables – the best possible food combination to ensure a flat belly post-meal! Combing lean proteins like chicken or turkey breast with vegetables, either raw, steamed or cooked (with a little good fat like coconut oil, olive oil or organic butter) will prevent fermentation and putrefaction in the small intestine and will promote faster gastric emptying hence reducing risk of dinner table toots!
Let them eat cake!...At least 15 minutes after main meal – If you’re opting for dessert (it’s the holidays, a treat or two is totally OK – of course, the cleaner the better ;)), be sure you wait at least 15 minutes after your main meal. This applies to drinking alcohol, too. Eating dessert right after the main course or drinking wine throughout and right after sets the stage for fermentation in the gut and blocks appetite controlling hormones like leptin. I advise avoiding any liquids during the meal, only before and/or after as liquids dilute the digestive juices necessary for proper breakdown of food.
Drink a digestive tea post-meal – Drinking an herbal tea after a big meal can be beneficial and soothing for the digestive tract and helps reduce bloating and gas thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. Herbal teas I recommend: ginger, fennel, dandelion, chamomile and peppermint.
Practice basic rules of digestion –Though it may seem tempting to eat a dozen platefuls of food, be mindful of your portions and eat until you’re about 80% full. Put your fork down between bites and chew, chew, chew to make sure you’re coating the food with as many enzymes as possible (saliva is packed with them!) and breaking down the food into the smallest bits possible before entering the stomach. If you have food leftover on your plate, wrap it up and take it to go! Trust me, your gut will thank you afterwards.
BONUS: "POTATO" SALAD RECIPE
You can have your potato salad and eat it too! This mock potato salad tastes so much like the original version that you won’t even notice the difference.
Rutabaga is an underrated root vegetable. It belongs to the cabbage family hence like all crucifers, is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer compounds. Think beta-carotene and vitamin C! Compared to potatoes, rutabaga is low glycemic which means rutabaga won’t spike blood sugar levels like potatoes will and rutabaga contains half the carbohydrates and is less starchy than potatoes. What does this all equate to? You feeling less bloated post meal, more energized and equally satisfied.
Give rutabaga a go and try the recipe!
4 cups rutabaga, cut into cubes
2 eggs, hard-boiled
3/4 cup peas and carrots, I used an organic can of peas and carrots
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup organic mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp pink salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup chives, chopped (optional)
Place rutabaga in a pot filled with water and bring to a bail. Adjust the heat and continue to boil until rutabaga is cooked but still remains firm and not mushy. Drain and set aside to cool (I highly recommend chilling the rutabaga before assembling the salad).
Assemble the salad: mash the hard boiled eggs with a fork in a bowl. Add the rutabaga followed by mayo and dijon and mix with a wooden spoon.
Fold in the peas and carrots and mix gently until all is well combined.
Add salt and pepper to taste followed by fresh dill.
Serve on a platter or in a bowl garnished with extra dill and sprinkle of paprika.