We all know the feeling: you are leaving the office 30 minutes later than planned, will have to meet your man at the Christmas party instead of going home and driving together, and need to swing by the store for the appetizer you promised to bring. My philosophy on situations like these is that they are NOT the time to all of a sudden decide to be dietarily strict, but rather they are a time for picking the best option and rolling with it. There are many great reasons for choosing to strictly avoid foods - gut healing, addressing an auto-immune condition, leading up to an important race or event, to name a few - but if you are not in the middle of a strict diet plan, this potentially higher stress evening is a time to pick the best option you can find, relax about any not-so-ideal ingredients, and enjoy the party. Stressing about the food will disrupt your digestion much more than junky oils, sugar, or artificial flavors... but that's another story.
So getting down to it: here are 3 ideas that won't break the bank AND are not gut bombs :)
Pecans and dried pineapple
This is a fun and festive option - especially if you have a cute little serving dish you can put it in. Pecans are a good source of healthy fats and magnesium, which will be a nice balance to the other appetizers which will likely be very carb heavy. Just buy some raw pecans and your favorite dried fruit, and mix them together in the bowl. I like pineapple, but you could use mango, cranberries, or any other fruit you prefer.
Watch out for: Added sugar to the dried fruit, which can especially be a problem with cranberries.
Brand suggestion: Steve's Paleogoods carries dried cranberries that are sweetened only with apple juice. I haven't seen them at any local grocery stores, but Amazon carries them. Other than that, pick the dried fruit option with the LEAST added sugar. Any raw pecans would be great, preferably organic.
Quite possibly the simplest option, very few people dislike popcorn and many associate it with the holidays. It's also very trendy to serve popcorn as an appetizer - Linger is a fantastic tapas-style restaurant in Denver that serves popcorn with different seasonings daily instead of bread or chips and salsa.
Watch out for: Junky oils or anything other than popcorn, salt, and oil on the ingredients list. Olive oil would be the best option if it's available, I would also go for expeller-pressed sunflower oil. Since neither of these oils holds up well at high temps this is not an ideal option but an OK compromise when you're in a pinch.
Brand suggestion: Pipcorn - I love the Sea Salt flavor. It's literally just popcorn, olive oil, and sea salt. I actually snuck this into a movie theater last week... I would have gladly supported their business and paid for expensive popcorn, but this theater used hydrogenated soybean oil :(
Meat, cheese, and olive platter
Putting together a platter would be only slightly more involved but is still a good quick option that will likely earn you some fancy points at the party. Go to the cured meat section and pick out some prosciutto, salami, or whatever else suits your fancy, a block of white cheddar cheese, and a can of olives. When you get there, drain the olives and set them in a bowl on a platter with the meat arranged around it and the cheese block on the side.
Make the best choice:
- Watch out for too many ingredients in the meat. It will likely list dextrose (sugar) and some form of nitrite, nitrate, or celery juice powder in it, but it should still have 0 grams of sugar and it shouldn't have powdered nonfat milk or any extras. I like Applegate Farms which is fairly widely available.
- Choose a white cheddar cheese that doesn't contain anatto (an artificial color that turns it orange), and pick the option that is the least pasteurized or homogenized.
- Watch out for junky oils in the olives. Lindsay Naturals has a variety of options and contains only olives, salt, and water.
I hope you have a stress-free holiday season and that these tips come in handy for you to enjoy the festivities. Do you have any other ideas for grab-and-go appetizers? Let me know in the comments section below!