It’s the holiday season and if you’re worried about weight gain during this time of year, you don’t have to; I have prepared a Holiday Food Guide that everyone can follow!
It’s easy to understand, with choices that are healthy and delicious. Whether you’re hosting or an invited guest, learn to choose THIS vs. THAT for every course of the meal!
A 4-course meal includes an “amuse-bouche”, appetizers, a main course, and dessert. Let’s begin:
1. “Amuse-bouche” translated from French means “amuse the mouth”. This course usually consists of finger foods that are small yet flavorful to stimulate the palate and to welcome guests as they arrive. Look for or serve the healthier options as you begin.
First tip: start with water as your first drink. Choose THIS: vegetable sticks with olive tapenade, baked zucchini gluten-free fritters, caprese-bites with basil and balsamic vinaigrette, cucumber discs topped with hummus. Avoid THAT: Store-packaged chips & dip, store-packaged Chex Mix, deep-fried skewers, breadsticks, pigs in a blanket.
2. Appetizers are next once everyone has arrived. It is the first course seated and served on small plates, which usually features small cuts of meat, seasonal vegetables, starches, and sauces. Choose THIS: stuffed mushrooms with garlic, tomatoes and parmesan, marinated vegetables such as artichokes, olives, roasted red peppers and eggplant. Avoid THAT: don’t fill up on pizza or bread, it will make you feel full very quickly and likely ruin your appetite for the main course.
3. The main course should be 1 full plate with proper portions, and this is the proper time to bring out the wine, with the meal. The portions should go as follows:
½ plate = salad and/or vegetables.
¼ plate = lean protein, such as fish, chicken, roast beef, or turkey.
¼ plate = 1 complex carbohydrate, which should be gluten-free, such as rice, quinoa, baked potato wedges or beans.
Should you serve or get served pasta (I know this is a common dish, especially coming from an Italian family) … simply stick to the same portion of carbs listed above, only ¼ of your plate. *See photo*
4. Finally, dessert, the sweet and decadent course. Many people think of dessert as a piece of cake with coffee or tea and that’s it. However, once again coming from an Italian family, dessert usually means three other courses shoved into the one dessert category. The reality is, if you’re serving a palate-cleanser like a sorbet, then some fruit, then a nut & cheese platter, plus a cocktail and THEN the actual dessert, this just made it a 7-course meal and pushed the calories over the top, which is likely to lead to weight gain in one sitting.
I say choose THIS: if you really want to be strict, eat only fruit for dessert as this is the most natural form of sugar. If you had a sorbet or nuts with cheese, stop there then opt for a coffee or tea or cocktail. If you want that piece of cake or if you want to try grandma’s homemade cookies, then hold out for it, as this is where you’ll find most of the refined white sugar.
Avoid THAT: don’t have the sorbet or fruit or cocktails before an actual dessert, avoid desserts like the “oreo/cookie dough/s’mores/brownie” all in one (c’mon we all know that’s way too heavy), and also avoid store-bought cinnamon rolls or donuts.
Choose THIS: For actual dessert items, opt for a flourless cake (if there is one), amaretti cookies which consist of mainly almonds, strawberry shortcake which is light and fluffy, or same for a dark chocolate mousse cup. Finally, opt for tea as your last drink which will begin to calm the stomach and signals the brain that it’s time to stop eating.
Let’s recap: If we were to make a menu based on the wholesome foods suggested above, it would go as follows:
1. "Amuse-bouche": water provided, vegetable sticks with olive tapenade, baked zucchini gluten-free fritters, caprese-bites with basil and balsamic vinaigrette, cucumber discs topped with hummus.
2. Appetizers: stuffed mushrooms with garlic, tomatoes and parmesan, marinated vegetables such as artichokes, olives, roasted red peppers and eggplant.
3. Main course: bring out the wine and serve 1 full plate of:
½ plate = salad.
¼ plate = lean protein, such as fish or turkey.
¼ plate = complex carbohydrate, such as rice or baked potato wedges.
4. Dessert: I would serve a fruit/nut/dark chocolate board, with coffee or tea. For those who want to indulge, stick to amaretti cookies, strawberry shortcake, OR a dark chocolate mousse cup.
As we can see, there are many options that are healthy yet indulgent! You don’t have to get out the stretchy pants or break the scale just because it’s the holidays. If the whole family is on board, it also makes it easier. Have an open discussion with family & friends about the menu and your desire for healthy options. Choosing wisely now will also make those resolutions a lot easier come the New Year.
Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!