5 Tips to Feed Your Holiday Houseguests Without the Anxiety

The Holiday Houseguests Are Coming: Nourish the Body and Soul

Hosting guests around the holidays can be jolly fun, yet quite overwhelming. Feeding your guests 3 meals a day in addition to hosting your big event can quickly begin to feel like a burden, especially if your personal food and healthy living choices are different. Mental anxiety mounting, many individuals just ‘throw in the towel,’ promising to get back to their healthy lifestyle after the holidays.

But is that what you really want to do? Or, do you want to find simple strategies that help you steward your body, even during the holiday season?

There is certainly no guilt in peppering in some treats, but by definition, a treat isn’t a treat if we consume it daily.

As tempting as it might be to grab your local take-out menu or pick up your phone for pizza delivery, that is not your only option when feeding a crowd. Selecting recipes that are nourishing and well-liked by all is no easy feat, but it’s possible when you know this one trick…

Build-your-own Meals

holiday weight gainCreating a ‘build-your-own bar’ allows each person to create a customized meal that fits their dietary preferences. A win-win for all!

This strategy works for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You simply lay out all the components and your guests create their own meal. As a host, it’s important to be mindful of your guests’ food preferences, allergies or intolerances, but sometimes in doing so, we forego our own preferences as well. It doesn’t have to be this way. The way you and your family choose to eat matters.

These ideas are so easy to put together and require little to no cooking. And, many of the components can be cooked or prepped in advance. It is also likely that grabbing these ingredients at the grocery store will be a whole lot less than your take-out receipt!

A few tips when creating your own build-your-own bar:

  • Be mindful of food allergies and preferences
  • Provide a vegetarian option, especially if you know this may be preferred by some guests
  • If guests are hesitant at first, you can demo how to put together a meal to inspire their creativity and help them feel comfortable with the process

Taco Bar

tacosWho doesn’t love tacos? They are quite versatile and can fit practically any food allergy or dietary preference. People can make a ‘taco salad’ to get more veggies on their plate and simply crumble a few chips on top. Or some may opt to skip the chips and shell altogether. You can provide corn or cassava tortillas or tortilla chips for those who may have a gluten allergy or intolerance. Place each ingredient in a bowl and allow each person to serve himself. For a few extra dollars, most of these ingredients can be purchased already sliced and prepped so that you have very little to do before serving. This simple taco bar will be a winner among your guests and everyone will declare that it was such a clever idea.

Protein Options (choose 2)
Pulled Chicken (we love this Mexican Chicken & Black Beans that cooks in the slow cooker)
Seasoned Taco Meat
Beans- Black or Pinto

Toppings & Ingredients (choose any or all!)
Black olives
Shredded cheese
Diced avocado or guacamole
Sour cream or plain yogurt
Sliced or diced bell peppers
Chopped cilantro
Tortilla chips
Tortillas (whole wheat, traditional, corn or cassava flour)*

A note about tortillas: Many are highly processed and have a lengthy ingredient list which may include hydrogenated oils (ie. trans fats). Check out the ingredient list first before tossing them into your cart to ensure the ones you choose fit your personal health values.

Yogurt Bar

yogurtYogurt might feel a little boring until you create a parfait layering colorful toppings for a customized flavor party in your mouth. Young and old will enjoy creating their own culinary masterpiece. Score extra bonus points on presentation if you put out some clear sundae dishes or wine glasses.

There are so many different topping ideas that you could serve this every morning that your guests are with you and no one would ever get bored. Make sure to include a dairy-free (plant-based) yogurt like almond milk or coconut milk yogurt for those who might not tolerate dairy. Offering plain yogurt minimizes added sugar and allows everyone to flavor as they wish. But you can also offer a vanilla version for those who may prefer this flavor. Get creative with toppings like crumbled muffins which can be made in advance OR cinnamon spiced almonds for the perfect spiced crunch!

Yogurt (greek or traditional)- plain and/or vanilla
Almond or coconut milk yogurt

Topping Ideas (choose any or all)
Fresh or frozen berries- easy and require little prep
Bananas- sliced
Chopped or slivered nuts- any type
Chia seeds
Flax seeds, ground
Nut butter- almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower- warm slightly in microwave to easily drizzle
Raisins and dried fruit- choose fruit without added sugars when possible
Freeze dried fruit- a fun crunch
Coconut flakes
Crumbled muffins- Pumpkin Spice, Blueberry, Banana Nut or any flavor you love
Honey or maple syrup or stevia- for anyone needing a little extra sweetness

Pasta Bar

Few will decline a warm bowl of pasta, but why head out to your local Italian restaurant when you can create your own pasta bar with quality ingredients? It is helpful to know about any allergies or intolerances in advance to help guide your choices when selecting pasta. This guide can help you choose the nourishing one that fits you and your guests. One option to consider is bean or lentil pasta, which is naturally gluten-free and high in protein and fiber.

Simply prepare all of your ingredients in advance and then boil your pasta a few minutes before serving to keep it warm. Don’t forget to include 1 or 2 vegetable options like steamed broccoli or roasted vegetables so that guests can add lots of veggies to their bowl. If you know there is a vegetarian dining with you, this Lentil Marinara Sauce is simple to make and perfect for plant-based and meat eaters.

Pasta- whole grain, black bean, lentil, quinoa, etc.
Marinara sauce
Ground beef or chicken
Pesto- a different option for those not fond of marinara
Steamed or roasted broccoli
Roasted bell peppers- red, orange and yellow are the sweetest
Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Oatmeal Bar

oatmealOatmeal is not only nutritious but hearty, satisfying and budget-friendly. To make this breakfast a cinch, simply fill your slow cooker the night before and cook steel cut oats overnight. In the morning stir in a bit of milk or water and they are ready to serve with your favorite toppings.

Of course, old-fashioned oats don’t take long to cook and can be made in about 10 minutes on the stovetop. Oatmeal is naturally gluten-free and making them with plant-based milk or water can keep them dairy free if anyone has an allergy or intolerance. Add a bowl of hard-cooked eggs on your serving table for a little extra protein and staying power so your family is satisfied all morning long.

Cooked oatmeal- try this Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal

Toppings (choose at least 3-4)
Fresh or frozen blueberries or strawberries
Bananas- sliced
Slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, chopped peanuts
Chia seeds
Flax seeds, ground
Nut butter- almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower- warm slightly in microwave to easily drizzle
Raisins and dried fruit- choose fruit without added sugars when possible
Freeze dried fruit- a fun crunch
Coconut flakes
Honey or maple syrup or stevia- for anyone needing a little extra sweetness

Salad Bar

saladAn epic salad is just waiting to be created by you and your guests- no boring dinner salads allowed! The perfect salad has a good variety of flavors, colors, and textures. A satisfying salad also needs to include carbohydrates like veggies, beans, or fruit, protein like chicken, edamame, or chickpeas and fats like avocado, quality salad dressing, nuts, and seeds. Even kids can build their own salad or provide plates so that they can eat a ‘deconstructed’ salad if they don’t like everything mixed together.

Save yourself a whole lot of time by buying pre-chopped lettuce and veggies- simply put them in bowls with serving utensils. Edamame (soybeans) boil up in 5 minutes flat; add a hit of kosher salt and they are ready to serve. Chicken breasts or thighs can be seasoned and added to your slow cooker with a splash of broth to cook all day- then slice up and serve. Offer several salad dressing options (at least 2) so that everyone can finish off their creation with a flavor bomb that combines everything together. This Sweet & Tangy Balsamic Vinaigrette OR Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing are easy to shake up and can be made several days in advance.

Greens- any lettuce or greens you prefer
Veggies- cucumber, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots (chopped or shredded)
Beans or edamame- perfect for plant-based eaters
Olives- greek, green, or black
Seeds- sunflower or pumpkin
Cheese- feta, goat cheese, cheddar or anything preferred
Avocado- sliced or diced
Chicken or other protein option
Salad dressing- quality bottled options and/or homemade

Healthy isn’t a title you pick up when it’s convenient or your week is going according to plan- it’s a way of living, even during the holidays. But when you make intentional food and nutritional choices and you are expecting guests, it can feel confusing and stressful. These build-your-own meal bars are a fun and creative way to offer customizable meals that fit a variety of eating patterns and preferences.

So, what’s the play call?

In the days of the early church, the people would worship together in the temple and then go to each others’ homes to share a meal and celebrate the goodness of God. The holidays are an opportune time to gather, connect, share stories, and nourish our body and soul.

Enjoy baking cookies with the kids. Look forward to eating that ‘dish that you only eat once a year.’ But don’t believe the lie that you need to give up your personal eating preferences because it is the ‘holidays’. Celebrate. Nourish. Break bread. Simplify. Don’t allow food to become a source of angst, but instead, an invitation to connect.

Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility. They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:46-47 (TPT)

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