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Simple Swaps for Holiday Parties

By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Image of Holiday Green Beans
Good nutrition isn't all or nothing – especially during the busy, festive holiday feasting season. Rather than trying to follow a complicated plan to the letter - and giving up when you "blow it" by sampling one too many holiday cookies - make a smart series of small choices. Opt for healthier foods each time, and you'll make steady progress toward your goals, regardless of the season.

Try these simple swaps to make easy, healthy food choices for holiday parties:
  • Swap famished for full. Eat a healthy snack before you head to the event to avoid gorging on the goodies. For staying power, snack on both carbs and protein - the combination helps slow the release of blood sugar to maintain steady energy and lengthens the sensation of satiety (a feeling of fullness).
  • Swap food gifts for flowers. If you bring food as a hostess gift, it will likely be shared immediately with partygoers, so don't sabotage yourself by bringing extra temptation in the form of a present. In addition to flowers, calorie-free gift options include gift soap sets, cute cocktail napkins, and wine charms.
  • Swap chips for veggies. Go ahead and try the dips on the buffet table, but only with raw vegetables. If you're making the dip, serve it not only with sliced celery and carrots, but slivers of jicama root or small bites of broccoli; bake your own chips from tortillas and pitas.
  • Swap sides for soup. Broth-based soups are not only flavorful, filling and comforting on cold nights - they're also potentially packed with nutrients, making them a healthy addition to the dinner party menu or potluck buffet. Soup is easy to make beforehand and reheat at party time - lightening your workload.
  • Swap seconds for a conversation. Instead of heading to the buffet table for a second plateful of goodies, sip a glass of water while introducing yourself to a guest you've never met. The water will help you feel full, and the pause between platefuls will give your body a chance to register whether you really have room for another slice of pie.
  • Swap guilt for fresh air. When you mark a party on the calendar, schedule exercise at the same time. A long walk or extended gym workout the day before and after the event will help balance out the extra calories - and by making time to exercise rather than wasting time fretting over what you ate, you'll reduce holiday stress and get an added energy boost.
If you’re dining at home, you can always be sure there will be plenty of healthy choices. But if you’re going elsewhere, be sure to bring a healthy dish so you’ll know there’s at least one option you can enjoy guilt-free.

This is one of my favorite holiday recipes because it’s festive, delicious, and easy to make ahead of time.

Holiday Green Beans
Yield: 8 servings


1½ pounds (24 ounces) Green Beans, trimmed, cut in 2 to 3 inch pieces, blanched*
1 tablespoon Grapeseed or Olive Oil
1 cup Onion (red, yellow or white), chopped
4 slices Turkey Bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
2 roasted Yellow or Red Bell Peppers, peeled, seeded and cut in matchsticks
¼ cup Melissa’s Pesto


Heat oil in large nonstick sauté pan. Add onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened and just beginning to brown. Add bacon and cook one minute longer. Add beans and bell pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until beans are tender but still bright green. Spoon the pesto over the beans and toss evenly to distribute. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Analysis for one serving:

Calories 100
Calories from Fat 50
Total Fat 6g
Sat Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 85mg
Total Carbohydrate 10g
Fiber 3g
Sugar 5g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A 15%
Vitamin C 70%
Calcium 6%
Iron 6%

Happy holidays!
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