Healthy Eating

How to Get People to Bring Healthy Party Food

It won’t be easy, but we’re going to have to redefine the American notion of “comfort foods.”

It’s engrained in our society that we should always come bearing treats. From birthdays to bereavement, we strive to show up—and outdo all the other guests—with the most sugary, salty, or otherwise rich and fattening foods we can find.

It’s how we make the most of a celebratory occasion. It’s how we comfort others in times of need.

But when you think about it, is unhealthy food really a gift? Do people need more sugar highs? More stomach aches? More guilt-inducing indulgences that take them further away from their health goals?

Especially at a time when they’re THREE TIMES more likely to gorge?

Hey, no one wants to be the house that gives out raisins on Halloween, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. And of course, a nourishing meal isn’t unkind. More than we realize, people would *rejoice* at being given a healthy snack or hearty meal instead of another plate of cookies.

I realized this over the last few weeks when my grandmother became ill and our family gathered at her house. Day after day, neighbors and friends brought piles of sweets. We were touched by the thought—and DESPERATE for a salad. We didn’t know how to make the treat flood stop.

Yes, sugary and salty foods can trigger good feelings in the moment. But mostly I think we’ve been brainwashed: our notion of treats is a marketing-created concept. We’re told that’s what people want for a mood-boost, and we go along with it.

Well… we should stop going along with it. If we’re ever going to whip our diets into shape, it’s clear that we need to take control over how we—and our loved ones—define treats.

As the holiday approaches, it’s going to be especially important to have our game plan together. Maybe it starts with preparing a list of healthy party food ideas that you can bring to get togethers or give to neighbors. Or maybe it’s being ready with ways to tell others that you’d like healthy food instead of junk. Here are a few thoughts for starters.

Highly Giftable Healthy Foods

There are lots of dishes you can bring to a party and still be the “fun one.” Like curried butternut squash soup or grilled eggplant topped with fresh tomatoes. In a pinch, something as simple as a festive veggie tray, quinoa salad, or fruit and Greek yogurt will beat a box of donuts every time.

If someone asks what they can bring to your party, be prepared to suggest a few nutritious ideas (perhaps the ones above). Or steer them in the right direction by saying something like, “We’ve got dessert taken care of, so how about a healthy side dish?”

Keep Your Cravings in Check

If people do bring unhealthy treats, be prepared to handle sabotage smoothly without offending them.

And if those mountains of goodies are looking mighty tempting, drawing on the 4 D’s (divert, distract, display and delay), can help you stay in control of what you want to eat.

What’s your holiday eating game plan? What would you add to this list?


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Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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