Healthy Entertaining: Feed Your Guests A Heart-Smart, Gourmet Meal

Monday, October 23, 2006 - 2:06pm

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

Guests are coming to dinner. Maybe they’re your in-laws or perhaps it’s a group of friends. But what if one of your guests is following a heart-healthy diet? You want everyone to enjoy themselves without having to serve two different dinners. It’s even more complicated if you hate to cook or you just don’t have the time. What to do? You could hire a caterer, but it would be pricey. Or you could buy some gourmet take-out from a restaurant or specialty grocer. If neither of those options work for you, here are a few solutions.

Heart-healthy meal basics

For heart-healthy dining high fat is out, but good fats like olive oil are in. This means cheesy foods like Mexican cuisine, lasagna or baked brie are out, but olive oil in salad dressing or a marinade is fine. Include lots of high fiber vegetables and fruits, and avoid butter or margarine. If you serve bread, put out olive oil for dipping instead of butter or margarine.

An easy and elegant pasta dinner

In a dinner emergency, serve pasta. To make this simple meal more impressive, fancy it up by using unusually shaped pasta. Once it’s cooked, stir in some extra virgin olive oil to keep it from sticking together. If you use a bottled sauce, chose one that’s meatless and make it more appealing by throwing in sautéed fresh vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms or peppers. Another option is to just add some chopped roasted red peppers (available in jars) and some black olives. Grate some fresh parmesan and serve it on the side. For a side dish, serve a salad of mixed greens tossed with an olive oil-based vinaigrette. Put out some artisan bread like non-fat ciabatta, and you’re done.

Fish is always a favorite

Salmon is almost a cliché when it comes to heart healthy dining. But people seem to love it anyway. Salmon, or any other large fish steak or fillet, is easy to grill or broil when it’s brushed with some olive oil. Serve it with sliced lemon wedges. For a side dish, grilled new potatoes brushed with olive oil go really well with salmon. All the menu needs is some green vegetables; a salad or a variety of steamed veggies like fresh green beans, broccoli are good choices. Remember to avoid cheese sauce.

Fruit and chocolate make great desserts

Heart healthy doesn’t mean no dessert. There are lots of options. Fruit is always a great choice. A fresh fruit salad or a simple fruit plate with pears, apples and grapes will do. Angel food cake is nonfat and can be dressed up with sliced fruit or thawed frozen strawberries. Whole fruit sorbet is available in most grocery stores, and is a great alternative to ice cream. Even chocolate isn’t off limits. Chocolate is known to have antioxidants, so find some high quality chocolate and serve it in small chunks to avoid tempting guests who might overindulge.

Conclusion: healthy and convenient

Remember, unless you’re entertaining Martha Stewart few people will care whether the dinner you serve is homemade or catered. However, people increasingly do care whether it’s healthy. Make good use of prepared foods, as there are plenty of convenient heart healthy options. The purpose of a dinner party is to enjoy the time spent with your guests. Heart healthy dinners can be enjoyable for everyone, even the host.