Holiday Food Makeover: Healthy (And Tasty) Finger Food Alternatives

What is it that makes holiday parties and finger foods the perfect match? For starters, finger foods have a reputation for being easy to make and are a no fuss alternative to serving a sit-down meal. The best part about finger foods at the holidays is the casual and social atmosphere they encourage, which is really what holiday gatherings are all about.

So why do holiday foods need a healthy makeover? We are familiar with the tried and true stars of a holiday gathering: the pinwheels, sliders, chips and dip, sauced up meatballs, pigs in a blanket and bite sized baked goods or desserts. The problem with these staples is that they are typically full of highly processed carbohydrates, damaged fat, and added sugars. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s just one day – where is the harm?” The fact is, it is not just one day. Many of us attend several parties, sometimes on a weekly basis, throughout the holiday season.

The high amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugar in these foods send our blood glucose and insulin response on a wild roller coaster, which leads to the storage of excess energy. Combine this with the damaged fats found in these foods and you are left with a recipe for promoting inflammation, a key driver of chronic disease and weight gain. Additionally, the unhealthy traditional holiday finger foods are lacking in the nutrients we need to maintain optimal nutrition, such as balanced macronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Most of your guests have their own health goals they are trying to keep within reach during the holiday season. You will be crowned the “hostess with the mostest” if you can serve great tasting food that helps them achieve their goals.

Yikes! This sounds a bit overwhelming, but don’t throw in the kitchen towel yet. It is possible to offer nutritious options and continue the no fuss tradition of finger foods. The best way to accomplish this is to utilize whole food ingredients in your finger food dishes. Whole food, by definition, is a food substance that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances. The easiest way to identify a whole food is if you can identify it and know what is in it simply by looking at the food. For example, you can look at an avocado and know that it is an avocado.

It is simple to create a balance with a variety of appetizers. Start with a source of quality protein, such as a shrimp cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce (it is easier than you think), or the egg in a healthy deviled egg recipe. For healthy fats, look for recipes with nuts or avocado in them. This could even be as simple as offering a holiday nut mixture with seasonal fruit, like cranberries and dark chocolate. To fill the carbohydrate category focus on vegetables and fruit. Sweet potatoes, zucchini and eggplant all make a great base for finger foods and can be topped with other mixtures of whole foods.

Here are some easy whole food swaps you can make to traditional holiday finger foods:

Here is a tasty, yet healthy, recipe your family and friends are sure to love:

As an integrative and functional nutritionist of Mosaic Life Care Journey’s Healthy Living Clinic, Abby Stanley practices a team approach to health care that works to identify and treat the root cause of illness. Her focus is on a whole foods diet along with targeted nutrient supplementation based on individual biochemical make up that can assist clients in healing naturally and achieving optimal health. Her nutrition plans address the mind, body and spirit of the individual to assist the client in living a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Although lifestyle changes can be difficult, Abby provides tailored support to each client helping him/her find a personalized plan that works. She specializes in working with individuals affected by chronic disease, autoimmune conditions and food sensitivities.