The holiday season can be stressful. And if you’re hosting a holiday party, on top of the typical stress, you may be feeling the pressure of cooking and preparing, as well as the impact of extra calories and waste.
But you can enjoy a more relaxed and sustainable season. Try these healthy, eco-friendly party ideas–straight from culinary experts, including a vegan visionary, a raw food enthusiast, and a seasoned chef and restaurant owner.
5 Tips for hosting a healthy, eco-friendly, stress-free holiday party
1. Opt for sustainable, healthier foods
Throwing a fantastic holiday bash is all about celebration, and Art Eggertsen, the vegan chef known for ProBar, snack bars, totally gets that. He’s a big believer in diving into the party spread, but with a plan: fill up on healthier options, and you won’t feel the urge to go overboard on less healthy foods.
“Party meals are going to be there, and we need to participate,” he says. “But if we are well-fed, well nourished, and we’ve flooded our body with nutrition, we’re less likely to indulge.”
Keep a stash of fruits and veggies handy, and consider enjoying some fresh juices and nuts. These fiber-rich foods will help keep your blood sugar balanced so you’re less likely to be eyeballing the cookie tray all night. As an added bonus, eating “lower on the food chain” is one of the healthiest and most eco-friendly things we can do, according to a number of studies.
Raw food author, Ani Phyo, also recommends sneaking raw, nutrient-rich foods into the party menu. Who doesn’t love a good guacamole or a zesty salsa? “All raw food is a composed salad, combined in a different way,” she says.
Raw foods aren’t just eco-friendly; they’re also highly nutritious and keep you full longer. So, when you’re at the buffet, load up on the veggie-rich dishes. They’re better for you, better for the planet, and leave you feeling good.
You can still enjoy heavier dishes like meat and casseroles, of course. Just think of them as more of a garnish.
2. Plan (and cook) ahead
For a stress-free holiday party, Ivy Manning, versatile cook and author of Farm to Table Cookbook, recommends prepping as much as you can before the big day.
A helpful way to do this is cooking dishes like casseroles in the days before your party and keeping them in the freezer. Not only does this cut down on the eleventh-hour rush, but it also keeps you from buying less-than-healthy convenience foods.
“I try not to buy boxed stuff or prepared items because that’s where you find sodium and trans-fats,” Manning says. “I like to make my own crackers and dips.”
Chef Jeff Osaka, owner of Osaka Ramen in Denver, Colorado, echoes the sentiment of planning ahead. He recommends doing things like prepping meats or simmering soups well in advance for a more relaxed cooking experience–plus, you’ll get a deeper flavor.
Osaka also recommends asking for help when you need it. “A lot of people think they can do everything themselves,” he says. “But most people don’t mind helping out.” This tip that can turn mundane kitchen prep into something of a pre-party itself, too.
3. Opt for higher quality foods
Manning and Osaka both practice simplicity in their kitchens–even if it means spending a bit more.
“Buy the better brie and put it out with nice veggies. Put out a nice bowl of olives instead of the usual grocery store brand,” Manning says. If you start with foods that are simple yet high-quality, you don’t have to do much additional work to create a delicious spread.
4. Utilize leftovers
Sharing and packing up leftovers for your guests is a thoughtful gesture that cuts down on waste while keeping the holiday spirit alive. Plus, you’re giving your guests some extra enjoyment the following day.
Phyo recommends reusable glass jars and containers to pack up food for your guests. If you have some extra time and want to add a personal touch, decorate those jars with customized holiday stickers.
5. Think green party supplies
Each year, the average American uses the equivalent of seven trees through paper and other, similar products. Worldwide, we sacrifice a whopping 15 billion trees to make these goods. So go paperless, if possible.
Opting for cloth napkins over paper ones at your dinner party isn’t just classy–it’s eco-conscious. Plus, instead of hauling a pile of trash bags outside after the festivities end, you can simply add those napkins to a load of laundry.
You can also go paperless with invitations. Try sending digital ones through websites like Evite, Paperless Post, or Greenvelope. And for your physical Christmas cards, pick postcards that don’t need envelopes.
By implementing these health-conscious, eco-friendly ideas for your holiday party, you can take pride in making a positive impact on the environment and the lives of yourself and your loved ones. Here’s to celebrating responsibly, supporting your well-being, and honoring our planet.