I don’t know about all of you, but the holiday season left me feeling full, fat and sluggish. After all the cookies, cakes, pies, wine, chips and dip, cheese, meat, hot chocolate, whipped cream and more, I am ready for some clean eating! While I’m not a huge fan of making resolutions at the start of the New Year (mostly because they go unfulfilled after about a month), this year I decided that I would make simple changes in my eating habits. This is easier said than done when you still have the desire to entertain. Throwing a healthy post-holiday party is the perfect solution!
Clean eating is based on a diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lean protein, and void of processed foods. Clean foods are the essence of simplicity. They naturally possess gorgeous flavor, beautiful colors and versatile preparation options. Worried about seeming a little nerdy? Kind of like the dentist in the neighborhood who hands out toothbrushes instead of Snickers for Halloween? Fear not! Chances are you’re not the only person trying to reverse the damage done over the past few weeks. Here are five tips for throwing a classy and fun clean-eating party of your own.
Since water is essential to keeping our bodies running on all cylinders, this is a must! Use glass pitchers or clear plastic pitchers to serve flavored waters. The pitchers will look beautiful and fresh garnished with slices of lemon and cucumber, raspberries and mint leaves, lime and basil, or any combination of flavor-enhancing fruits and herbs you’d like to try. You could also serve sparkling water for a fancier twist.
Guess what? Dips don’t have to be chock-full of mayonnaise or cheese to be creamy and delicious! For your clean party, assemble lavish platters of vegetables like carrots, radishes, blanched asparagus, sliced cucumbers, red and orange peppers, and endive and radicchio leaves. Serve dips alongside the veggies that are substantial in flavor but light in calories.
How to Do It: Cannellini beans make a beautiful dip with the addition of olive oil, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. If you really want to amp it up, sprinkle some red pepper flakes into the mix for some heat. Simply combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. You can also use store-bought hummus or babaganoush, or mix plain yogurt with some fresh dill, salt, pepper and lemon juice. One of my standby vegetable dips is olive oil with salt and pepper—simple, easy and light.
In moderation, red wine is a relatively healthy choice if you must serve alcohol. Another light choice would be gin and tonics made with diet tonic water and a slice of lime. Of course, it is best to stay away from sugar-laden cocktails in favor of non-alcoholic drinks or homemade, antioxidant-rich fruit smoothies.
How to Do It: An easy recipe that can be thrown together in a pinch is a blueberry-pomegranate smoothie. Combine 2 cups frozen blueberries (or fresh) with 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice and 1 cup of water in a blender. Blend until smooth. You could also add a bit of plain yogurt, but omit about ½ cup of the water. With a little mint sprig on top, this is a great way to serve something pretty but healthy.
Since many of us are still dealing with chilly temperatures and therefore craving comforting, warming foods, focus on healthy soups, stews or chilis that use clean ingredients. A simple chili full of veggies, ground chicken or turkey, and some black beans can warm your guests from the inside out without making them expand in all directions.
Look for soup recipes that don’t use cream or cheese as thickeners and stay away from super-starchy veggies like potatoes in favor of squash or sweet potatoes. Small changes like these go a long way!
Who says you have to sit still and eat at every party you throw? If you have some interactive games, like Twister or Wii sports, break them out for your guests. Alternatively, if you have a nice outdoor space or access to a skating rink or cross-country ski path nearby, take advantage! Get outside with your guests for a while before welcoming everyone inside for warm tea and a spread of healthy food. I guarantee your guests’ spirits will be lifted and you just might motivate them to change their eating habits in 2011!
Rachael White is the author of the blogs Set the Table and Tokyo Terrace. After four years of living, eating, and entertaining in Tokyo, Japan, she and her family have relocated to Denver, Colorado. Rachael is constantly searching for new ways to make entertaining easier and more interesting for guests in a variety of environments and situations. In addition to food blogging, her recipes have been published in cookbooks including Foodista Best of Food Blogs and Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan and in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper. Originally from Minnesota, Rachael strives to recreate recipes and settings that reflect Midwestern comfort with a modern twist.