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News Releases Archive (Prior to 2011)

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: Host healthful holiday gatherings (for 12/4/11)

November 22, 2011

We’re entertaining quite a bit over the holidays. We’ve been trying to eat more healthfully, and so have a lot of our friends and family. Any ideas to help us encourage healthy eating at parties, without being a complete wet blanket?

You don’t have to throw the cheese ball under the bus in order to help you and your guests have a healthier holiday season. Here are the top tips we’ve seen -- many from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Diabetes Association, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • Serve the healthy stuff first. As guests arrive, encourage them to enjoy some fruit and vegetables. By filling up on nutrition powerhouses, they’ll be less tempted when the higher-calorie, higher-sugar, higher-fat dishes are served.
  • Make a nutrient-dense veggie dip, such as one with great northern beans blended with water until smooth, low- or nonfat plain yogurt, and plenty of herbs for flavor.
  • Dress up the fruits and vegetables that you serve: Serve fruit kabobs with pineapple, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, melon and bananas. Make cucumber boats by cutting them lengthwise, scooping out the seeds, and filling the hollow with hummus; tomato bruschetta; or a mixture of low-fat cream cheese, low-fat mayonnaise, feta cheese, and herbs and spices such as garlic, dill, pepper and cayenne. Making healthy foods something special will encourage more of your guests to fill up on them.
  • Serve plenty of calorie-free beverages -- and again, make them special if you can. Besides diet soft drinks, have pitchers of ice water or iced tea available with sliced lemons floating on top.
  •  When you place higher-calorie foods on the buffet, make smaller plates available. Guests can always make return trips, but they will be less likely to over-indulge than if they use larger plates.
  • Encourage guests to shift attention away from the food and onto each other by organizing games and other activities.
  • If you’re serving dinner, follow the same guidelines: Serve the healthier, lower-calorie foods first, and again make them special. Add some dried cranberries and fresh blueberries to the salad, and serve with a low-calorie raspberry dressing. Roast or steam vegetables with herbs and spices. For higher-calorie items, make it easy for guests to take sensible portions -- when possible, put 3- to 4-ounce portions of meat, poultry or fish on the serving platter, and for dishes such as lasagna, pre-cut into smaller portion sizes. 

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Julie Kennel, nutrition program manager for Ohio State University Extension and director of the Dietetic Internship Program in the Department of Human Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

Martha Filipic
Julie Kennel