Banish Christmas entertaining stress with HFG dietitian Karissa Woolfe’s sure-fire shortcuts — from menu to clean up!
We all know entertaining can be stressful. In fact, a recent survey found more than half of Australians say throwing a dinner party is more stressful than going to work, with catering for special dietary requirements the number one stress factor in deciding what to cook for a large crowd.
There has to be an easier way — and there is! If you follow these shortcuts and lighten your load, you can start to celebrate and feel great this Christmas.
Planning the menu
Catering for a large group can prove a handful, especially when you have to factor in special diets.
Here are three easy ways everyone can eat well this holiday season:
1. Encourage BYO
Ask your guests to bring a plate to share, but keep food safety in mind when they ask what to bring. If they’re travelling more than an hour, suggest food that doesn’t require any heating or refrigerating. This guarantees everyone will have something that’s safe to eat.
2. Chill out
A no-cook menu saves time and means less fuss in the kitchen on a hot summer day. The choices are usually healthier, and you don’t even have to open the oven!
Try these no-fuss ideas:
Nibbles: Unsalted raw nuts, homemade hoummos and crudités
Desserts: Fresh cherries, individual frozen treats, ice cream in a cone
3. BBQ to the rescue
Meat and vegie skewers make it easy to serve healthy portions alongside salads that are also light in kilojoules and high in fibre. You can even do the bulk of your food prep ahead of time, which frees you up to socialise.
Here are three ways to get in more veg:
Grilled corn: Season with cracked black pepper and a squeeze of lime
Vegie burgers: Swap meat patties for grilled Portobello mushrooms
Salads: A garden salad is simple to toss together at the last minute
In the kitchen
Time in the kitchen steals you away from enjoying festivities with your guests — who, after all, came to see you, not just to eat. Plus, cooking for a crowd can increase stress levels.
Here are four things to do beforehand so that everything goes well on the day:
For dips: Make your own dips, and buy pre-cut celery, baby cucumbers and carrots to save time on slicing.
For mains: Marinade meat, thread kebabs, make fish parcels, and roast and carve poultry. Headstarts help!
For salads: Cook grains or pasta the day before, buy colourful bagged salads, and make dressings in a jar.
For sweets: In the lead-up to the day, make Christmas cake, pudding, healthy slices and fruit balls, or buy fresh fruit and individual frozen treats.
When guests arrive
In the hot weather, remember to keep your eye on how long food is left out at room temperature. This will stop your guests receiving the Christmas gift they really don’t want (food poisoning).
Follow these tips to keep food safe:
Stock up on dishwashing detergent and soap to ensure clean hands and utensils. Paper plates can be handy.
Label it: Write your guests’ names on disposable cups to avoid drink mix-ups.
Divide or perish: Don’t leave dips and cheeses out too long, and bring out fresh batches instead of top-ups.
Gauge it: A full fridge has to work harder to keep food chilled. Remember to adjust the controls or use ice.
Take care with leftovers: The rule is four hours out, throw it out. You can refrigerate hot food once the steam goes, and eat it within two days.
The party’s over
After a big day, it’s tempting to hit the couch and delay the clean-up. But many hands make light work.
Here are five ways to actually enjoy your clean-up:
Pull the last Christmas crackers: Laughter lowers stress hormone levels. So giggle (or groan) over those corny cracker jokes — and recharge!
Chew mint gum: This will set in train a calming response — and stop you from picking at leftovers you really don’t need to eat while you clean up.
Turn up the music: It’ll help you wash up with enthusiasm. Knowing you’re burning off those extra kilojoules from lunch should give you a further boost.
Go plastic: Disposable table cloths, plates and cutlery save time and energy when cleaning up.
Foil temptation: Provide packs for guests to take leftovers home. Your guests will love you for it — and there’s less temptation for you to overeat.
Eat, drink and be merry!
Don’t let weight gain be a worry this Christmas.
Fuel right: Begin your day with a relaxing, nourishing smoothie for breakfast. Create an energising combo of yoghurt, fruit and oats — plus it’s full of fibre to help you avoid overeating.
Drink wise: Skip sugary drinks. Sip water to stay hydrated, and if you drink alcohol, set a healthy limit to avoid excess kilojoules.
Keep your hands full: It’s harder to nibble on high-fat snacks such as chips with your hands full! Grab a platter and mingle with guests, or hold on to your glass and napkin.
Scan the offerings: Before you dig in, tune in. Select foods that appeal to your senses. Plate up a portion to match your appetite.
Savour the flavour: Chew food slowly. You’ll notice when you’re filling up, so you can pause before you get that ‘stuffed’ feeling.
Make the most of summer: Enjoy the balmy nights by heading outside for a walk or game of cricket with the family!