For many of us the holiday season is marked by sharing great food with friends and families. It’s a challenge not to overindulge at this time of year. Yet, it’s not healthy to feel deprived due to avoiding food at social gatherings while trying to stick to a diet. Part of having a healthy relationship with food is being able to enjoy all foods in moderation. However, having healthy options available allows us to eat more nutritious foods along with the inevitable goodies.
Big things come in small packages and when it comes to calories, appetizers can be huge. Despite their small size many appetizers are made with rich ingredients that are loaded with extra calories. Why not contribute something a little lighter to the appetizer scene? To up the nutritional value without overdoing the calories incorporate vegetables, whole grains, plain yogurt or bean dip, into appetizers. Aim for 50 per cent of the offerings to include some fruit and/or vegetables. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes: Slice cherry tomatoes in half and scoop out the pulp. Stuff with a small crumble of goat cheese and top with a little pesto or stuff with a small cube of feta and a thin slice of kalamata olive.
Fruit Skewers: Put a new spin on the classic fruit platter. Cut assorted fruit into chunks and thread onto small barbeque skewers or toothpicks. Serve with flavoured low fat Greek yogurt for a dip that contains a good source of protein and is easy on the calories.
Assorted Cracker Toppers: Choose your favourite whole grain cracker and top with things such as low fat cream cheese and jalapeño jelly, low fat cream cheese and smoked salmon, or cucumber and hummus.
Tortilla Pinwheels: Cover the surface of a 10-inch whole grain tortilla with low fat spreadable cream cheese, add some lettuce and fill with any of the following combinations: thinly sliced cucumber, red pepper, green onion, and salsa; smoked salmon, capers and red onion; or feta, dried cranberries and green onions. You can also fill with hummus and veggies or use salad sandwich ingredients such as egg, salmon or tuna. Roll the tortilla tightly (imagine rolling sushi) and cut into one or two inch pieces.
You can also help encourage healthier holiday nibbling by using smaller plates and putting healthier choices at the start of the appetizer table. Placing healthy choices up front encourages guests to fill their plates with the healthy options.
Remember, there is much more to the holiday season than food. Enjoy time with friends and family by taking a walk together after eating. Consider planning gatherings around activities like ice skating, tobogganing or skiing to help encourage activities that are both healthy and fun during holiday celebrations.
Authors: Simone Jennings, Laura Kalina and Rose Soneff are community nutritionists with Interior Health.