How To Host a Dinner Party When All Your Friends are on a Diet

By Carolyn Stine January 28, 2019 

A top nutritionist shares her tips for staying health-conscious while entertaining this year.

Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Whole30. Paleo. Dry January. Welcome to the long list of cleanses and detoxes that our friends are participating in to kick off the new year. The trouble is, we were planning an epic beginning of 2019 dinner party, and now we don’t know what to make. Besides water and air, what can we serve that will be fun to make, exciting to eat, enjoyable for all… but won’t force our friends to deviate from their health goals? We hate to say it, but we were as stumped as you probably are.

Well, our cry of help that was sent out into the universe has been answered. Meet Mitra Shirmohammadi, also known as The Nutriholist. Not only is she a nutritionist, but she’s a foodie at heart who create recipes and menus that are both delicious and nourishing, all while being health-conscious and incredibly nutritious. She loves entertaining as much as we do, so we sat down with Mitra to discuss how we can host the 2019 dinner party of our dreams without forcing our friends to compromise on their health and wellness goals for the year ahead.

Q

Let’s take a step back - what defines healthy eating for you? How should we be thinking about healthy eating in relation to entertaining in 2019?

A

To me, healthy eating means focusing on quality and consuming whole foods in their most natural state as much as possible, while reducing the intake of processed foods. That means including lots of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, humanely-raised animal protein, and fermented foods both in our everyday diets, and when we entertain.

I should also mention that a healthy eating routine should allow room for the occasional indulgence. The key is to consume nourishing foods on a regular basis and make this a part of your lifestyle. A super strict dieting mindset can do much more harm than a piece of lava cake can!

Q

One of our new year’s resolutions for 2019 was to host more dinner parties, but all of our friends are on the new year’s diet bandwagon. How can we start to rethink our upcoming dinner party with healthy eating in mind?

A

I don’t think it’s any more challenging to host a “healthy” dinner party than it is to host a “not-so-healthy” dinner party! It’s all about planning ahead to find healthy and delicious meal options.

Thanks to the internet and social media, we can easily find healthier alternatives to all of the classics these days. With just a quick Google search, or a browse through Instagram or Pinterest, you can find ways to make your favorite dishes lighter and more nutritious so that you can please all of your guests. I recommend looking for recipes that are dairy-free and gluten-free, since milk, cream, cheese, wheat, and other gluten grains have inflammatory properties and are some of the first things that people cut out in the new year.

I think it’s always a good idea to ask your guests about their dietary restrictions ahead of time, so you can plan your menu accordingly. If there’s even one person who is vegan for example, I suggest including at least one vegan dish to show them you care.

Q

Traditionally, when you have a dinner party there’s cocktail hour (read: booze and cheese board), a rich entree, and dessert. How can we healthy-ify each course?

A

Cocktail Hour

For cocktail hour, I like to serve low-sugar cocktails using vodka or gin with sparkling water or kombucha, and I add lemon, lime, and fresh herbs like mint or rosemary for a pop of flavor. For friends who aren’t drinking, they can always use these mixers and garnishes as a mocktail, and hold the booze. For wines, I prefer organic or biodynamic varieties that are low in sugar such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Malbec, or Pinot Noir.  

Appetizers

For the cheese board, I like to serve less cheese and more of the healthier items that we normally serve alongside the cheese. Think of how beautiful it will look to include various nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts, pecans, and almonds), dried fruits (such as figs and apricots), fresh fruits (such as grapes and berries), and olives. I always have a supply of gluten-free crackers on hand, and nothing beats fresh sourdough bread crostini. You can also add a dairy-free cheese option if you know that there will be vegans in your crowd.

Entrees

For entrees and desserts, I tend to hold off on the gluten and dairy, and instead focus on delicious proteins and veggies. Some of my favorite dishes to make are a roasted turkey or chicken, shaved brussels sprouts salad, maple sweet potatoes, and a vegan green bean casserole. I tend to always include a vegan option for those with dietary restrictions, and there are plenty of delicious options out there that other guests won’t even realize are vegan!

You can also add various salads to your dinner table using a mix of raw and roasted vegetables to keep things interesting. To make a healthy and refreshing dressing, you can use extra-virgin olive oil, citrus juice or apple cider vinegar as a base and spice it up with garlic or ginger.

Dessert

Don’t feel like you need to sacrifice the sweet ending to your meal just because your ingredient list is more limited. Try whipping up my healthy pecan pie, or gingerbread coffee cake. Both are no-bake (read: easy for you), vegan, and gluten-free so your guests can feel like they’re indulging without deviating from their diets.  

Q

Can you share your tips for how to grocery shop in the healthiest way for our dinner party?

A

The best way to grocery shop is to go into the store with a plan. First, finalize your menu. Next, make a list of all the ingredients and amounts that you need to make everything - from appetizers, to mains, drinks, and desserts. I usually shop at multiple places to get the best deals. Some items you can buy in bulk, others from small ethnic grocery stores, and the rest at health food stores or even online.

Q

What if we’re on the flipside and are attending a dinner party, but don’t want to deviate from our health goals for 2019?

A

This is completely doable! I suggest checking in with the host or hostess ahead of time, inquiring about the menu, and asking if you could contribute. You can prepare a healthy side or dessert to take with you to the party that will help you stay on track. Plus, you’ll get bonus points from the host or hostess for helping them out with the meal!

Do you have a favorite healthy-ish dish you like to make when your friends come over for dinner?

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Carolyn Stine

A party without cake is just a meeting.

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