Happy Hour, and all the accompanying small bites, are a great way to encourage friends to gather together during the holidays, or anytime. But many people are watching their alcohol intake, or abstaining altogether and trying to eat a healthy diet. Charcuterie boards are often loaded with cheeses, cured meats, nuts, and sweets, and now we have to contend with the butter board trend which may look appetizing, but can be high in saturated fat and calories. With that in mind, there are many great alternatives that are beautiful, healthy and delicious.
Instead of butter, try using a healthy spread like hummus, guacamole or babaganoush (eggplant) which are a perfect pairing for fresh cucumber, red pepper, carrots and whole wheat pita chips. Whipped ricotta or feta cheese is also a healthy alternative that is a good source of protein and calcium which lends itself to vegetable, pickle, dates or nut pairings. Some nut butters can be healthy as well in limited portions, but hosts should ask guests about any nut allergies before spreading it around. Almond butter goes well with apple slices, dark chocolate, banana and whole-grain cinnamon raisin toast.
According to a recent blog post by McMaster’s Optimal Aging Portal, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified alcohol as a carcinogen. Alcohol is known to increase the risk of liver, esophageal, breast and colorectal cancers. A review of 57 studies found that people who regularly drank 50 grams or more of alcohol a day were one and a half times more likely to get colorectal cancer than people who didn’t drink or were occasional drinkers.
If you do choose to drink, it is recommended that women stick to no more than one drink per day and men to no more than two. Both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. One unit is equal to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol which is the average amount of alcohol an adult can process in an hour. The National Health Services also advises spreading drinking over 3 or more days, and trying to have several drink-free days each week.
Although we may be accustomed to celebrating with rich foods and alcoholic drinks, there are many healthy alternatives that can still make the holiday season feel special. With just a few ingredients like reduced sugar cranberry juice, freshly squeezed lime juice, orange juice and a dash of sparkling water, you can mix up a mocktail that will please everyone on your guest list.