Going to parties? Eating at restaurants? Family feasts to attend (and/or host)? Candy turning up from Santa? Too busy to exercise, too stressed to sleep enough? The list of challenges to our health during the holidays is very long indeed. What's a healthy foodie to do?
Let's start with the parties. If it's potluck (or even if it's not and you know the hosts well enough to bring a dish to add), my strategy is to bring something that is going to improve the health profile of the buffet table. Truth be told, I almost always bring a veggie dish because so many parties would have nothing vegetable if it weren't for my contribution. The idea here is not to forego all holiday treats -- there'll be plenty of that -- but to make sure you can balance some of the high-calorie goodies with more nutritious dishes.
My veggie dishes are always appreciated and get eaten as fast as anything else on the table. I'm not saying bring cut up celery and carrots (not that there's anything wrong with that), but instead, use your imagination with winter veggies such as Brussels sprouts, acorn or butternut squash, or year-round favorites like broccoli or green beans. Just don't add cream of mushroom soup or other fat-laden ingredients.
While you're attending the family gatherings or parties with friends, here's a list of appetizers that are the ones to go for -- and a few to avoid.
The good ones:
1. Crudites--Yes, the cut-up raw veggies, but without unhealthy dips. Hummus and yogurt based concoctions are good-for-you dips for veggies.
2. Mixed nuts -- Nuts are filling and very tasty; be careful not to go overboard though, since they are full of calories. Go for unsalted nuts if at all possible. You won't get as thirsty for more caloric beverages (why do you think bars put out bowls of salty snacks but to make you drink more?), and too much salt is not beneficial to your health.
3. Smoked salmon -- because of its high Omega-3 fatty acid content. It's tasty too, but of course also expensive. You won't be tempted to overeat this because there's probably not going to be a whole lot of it!
4. Grilled figs and blue cheese -- kind of an odd choice (who has access to fresh figs this deep into cold weather?), but Andrew Weil recommends figs for their vitamins and fiber along with "a little bit" of the cheese for calcium and protein. Sounds good to me!
Those to avoid? Dips, cocktail franks and mini-meatballs, anything fried, and foie gras or other liver-based pates and dips.