Dear Coach Gila,
My husband and kids always want Shabbos guests, and while I do want to entertain I really don’t feel comfortable serving unhealthy foods week after week. I work hard preparing nutritious food for my family Sunday through Friday, and then on Shabbos it’s all about tons of challah and yummy dips, deli roll, kugels, packaged chicken nuggets—because that’s what their kids will eat—and sugar-laden salad dressings (I won’t use artificial sweeteners because of the associated health risks). Socially, I don’t feel comfortable serving “healthy fare” because I don’t want people thinking I’m the community health nut. Additionally, I feel like I’m sending mixed messages to my children. If certain types of food are unhealthy during the week, why is it okay to serve them to company on Shabbos. When my family is alone for Shabbos we have tasty, Shabbosdik healthy food that everyone enjoys. It just became easier to be home alone for Shabbos meals! I’d love your thoughts and advice.
-Struggling to Entertain
Dear Struggling to Entertain,
Thank you for your timely question, as it is truly a topic that comes regularly in my health coaching practice. One of the challenges that my clients raise time and again involves being invited out for Shabbos meals. It is actually the reverse of your dilemma!
My clients spend time all week planning their meals, shopping, prepping and cooking only to feel concern after receiving a Shabbos meal invitation. Do they tell their host that they prefer to eat clean, real unprocessed foods? That they prefer chicken baked and not fried? That they now get headaches from the Splenda in the salad dressings after eliminating it from their diets? Do they bring their own food? Do they just show up with a smile on their face and make healthier choices from the selections? What if there literally are no healthy choices? It happens.
Do not fear being labeled the “community health nut.” I believe that your guests will appreciate the healthy fare. It is possible to prepare show-stopping yet healthy Shabbos dishes.
Using all the colors of the rainbow will create a visual extravaganza. When I craft my Shabbos menu, I always plan using the rainbow. For example: red tomato salad, roasted orange butternut squash on a platter with yellow acorn squash, green lettuce or kale salad, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, purple cabbage salad or roasted purple cabbage steaks. The options are truly endless and always tasty.
You can wow your company with fish, chicken and meat dishes prepared using ingredients that you are comfortable with. I find that a simple grilled chicken is always elevated when served on a platter with steamed or roasted broccoli.
Dessert can be fun and healthy as well. I serve cookies, muffins or cake made with clean ingredients, and chocolate mousse made with coconut milk. Fruit can take on a new meaning with a little creativity; there is fresh fruit, compote, grilled pineapple with coconut whip, baked apples with raisins and walnuts and even healthy fruit cobblers served in individual stemmed glassware.
I am so impressed with your desire to send your children a consistent message and I agree with your message. I believe that you can confidently entertain your guests while adhering to the health goals you have set for your family. Best of luck to you and I look forward to a lunch invitation!
Gila C. Guzman JD, CINHC, helps busy families reach their health goals by providing realistic guidance and practical tools. Gila practices a whole-food approach and is sought out by those who want to learn to feed themselves and their families healthy food, lose weight without dieting, overcome emotional eating, manage autoimmune disease and diabetes through diet, and to meet other health-related goals. She can be reached through her website www.mainassethealth.com or at 917-647-1788.
By Gila C. Guzman