Food doesn’t have to fancy to be good for you. You don’t have to add chia seeds to everything. You don’t have to use hard-to-find ingredients. You don’t have to have fancy “nut butters” on hand, if all you have on the shelf is peanut butter – it’s okay.

And, you don’t have to tell your guests that your party spread is “healthy for them”! Here are my tried and true tips to healthy eating, and a good life:

  • Think green! Sometimes the side dishes all end up starchy and white. If you are serving a rich lasagna or a beef roast, along with a rich potato dish, keep the vegetable simple. There’s no need for extra sauce or cream – just simply roast or steam a fresh veggie. Plan a spinach salad, fresh green beans, or a simple side of roasted broccoli – Trim two large heads of broccoli (or more – one large head of broccoli can serve 2-3 people) – cut the stem, and break into florets. Put the florets onto a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil blend and a pinch of salt and pepper (or your favorite garlic herb blend). Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl.

    I combined broccoli with cauliflower florets and chopped red pepper and sliced yellow squash. It’s all delicious roasted!

  • Find more ways to use vegetables. It’s really simple to amp up the taste and nutrition of a recipe or dish with a little bit of tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, and zucchini. Cut the zucchini in half longways, then slice (or quarter and slice). Drizzle some olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add zucchini and cook for 5 minutes (don’t overcook it!), then add fresh sliced grape tomatoes, and sliced onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Top pasta or baked fish with this, or use as a side dish. 
  • Put some healthy appetizers out before dinner. Include raw vegetables, olives, fruit, nuts. If you are cutting down on carbs, use thin cucumber slices as an alternative to crackers for spreads, and try pear or apple slices to pair with cheese. You can still put out a bowl of crackers, but the veggies and fruit will give your guests options.
  • Get over the avocado. Some folks go a little overboard with those 250 calorie avocados. Subbing butter with avocado isn’t going to help your overall dietary patterns all on its own.
  • There is a “high fat low carb” trend happening, but for most people, fat is going to add a lot of extra calories to your diet. Unless it’s a baked good, most recipes that call for a whole stick of butter can get by with half. This adds up. Since a holiday meal may have rack up 1500 calories, it does help if each side dish has 75 less calories.
  • Enjoy fruit for dessert. Hey, I love a good homemade cookie, but instead of finishing every holiday meal with cake or cookies, try poaching a pear, or just serving some fresh sliced fruit with a good sharp cheese at the end of a meal. Try my colleague Ellie Krieger’s easy red wine poached pears recipe. 

It’s totally okay to splurge on special treats over the holidays, but you also want to keep your diet and lifestyle as balanced as possible – which means curbing the sugar sometimes, drinking alcohol in moderation, and keeping your exercise routine on point.

Happy holidays to you and yours. Enjoy a balanced life!