Socially Responsible Entertaining—Dr. Scrooge Strikes Again

December 30, 2008

I am convinced that we essentially sabotage both our guests and ourselves when we offer only these high calorie and often totally unhealthy options time and time again.

By now, many of us have enjoyed a wonderful holiday season during the end of the year. I am no exception, having been blessed to be surrounded by family during the Christmas holiday, wonderful weather on our journey, and lots of laughs.

And yes, lots of food, which brings me back to my soapbox this week.

I have presented this idea of responsible entertaining to my family, some of whom looked confused, others indignant. Most shook their heads with a small smile on their faces and the thought on their faces, "there she goes with some crazy idea again."

But is it really that crazy? All I am asking is this: provide healthy options at your meals, for goodness sake. Why do our celebration tables need to be filled only with fatty, high calorie, and sweet foods? Why must celebration always equal “rich,” “sweet,” and “heavy?” This point was further driven home when I talked about this with my father during Christmas, and he followed up by saying, “But then you deprive all those without health problems if you don’t serve those things.” And I thought to myself, DEPRIVE??? We are not talking about nutrients for life here; we are talking sugar and fat, people! Yes, it requires a conscious decision to stop a habitual way of thinking, but truly ask yourself, why do we feel this is the only way to celebrate?

I am convinced that we essentially sabotage both our guests and ourselves when we offer only these high calorie and often totally unhealthy options time and time again. Besides what does it do to the waistline and cholesterol of the host/hostess, what does it do to our guests? Have you ever stopped to wonder how we effectively shaft our friends who have diabetes, high cholesterol, weight issues, and high blood pressure when we invite the to our tables? Let’s play out the scene, shall we:

Your best friend from work/church/the club/ the team walks in to celebrate (fill in your holiday) with you. You have slaved all day to lay out this amazing table covered in various carbohydrates and gravy, cake, sweets, something covered in butter, white rolls, casserole of your choice, etc. The table is lit up beautifully with candles. Drinks? Wine of course, but also sodas, juices, and egg nog. Your friend takes small amounts of each item and sits to eat. He/she completes the meal and you offer seconds. After some hesitation on his/her part, you insist, and worse, act playfully hurt that he/she “doesn’t like your food.” A sigh, then seconds pile onto the plate. Later dessert gets passed around: cakes, puddings, chocolates… get the picture?

You would, hopefully not pass a poisonous snake to your friend at the table. You would not pass a stick of dynamite. Why on earth are you passing, and insisting on, food that will not help in any way? This is what I call socially irresponsible entertaining.

Approximately 30% of our population has diabetes. Sizable populations also have high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, and all combinations of these. We are throwing each other under the bus when we fail to recognize that we ALL need healthy options for food choices. We need to re-train our thinking that only rich sweet foods are “celebration” foods. A bowl of strawberries with small amounts of light whipped cream should cause the same ooohs and ahhs as the double layered chocolate cake draped in icing.

I know I am asking a bit much. Retraining our minds after years of relishing these indulgences is difficult. As kids we know the sweets are the treat but the fruit is, well, fruit. But if not even for ourselves at least for our friends and family: provide some healthier options so they do not feel obligated to fall off the wagon every time the holidays come around. Give them some room to do the right thing and nourish their bodies without clogging arteries further. It will do us all some good to spread a responsibly beautiful table when we are fortunate enough to invite guests into our homes.

It’s a new year. Let’s celebrate responsibly with those we love. Happy New Year everyone!