“The thoughtful host has guests who glow with a healthy sense of satisfaction, not from being stuffed,” says chef Rozanne Gold, author of several cookbooks, including Entertaining 1-2-3 and Cooking 1-2-3.
 
“Holiday” and “healthful” can go hand in hand, she maintains, if you plan around excellent ingredients, bold textures, bright colors and big flavors.
 
“Festive holiday side dishes, soups and salads are all more interesting with whole grains, such as long grain and wild rice,” she says. “Wild rice is a whole-grain hero. It’s packed with nutrients, full of flavor and easy to make.”
 
Here are some of Gold’s top tips for successful holiday entertaining: 

  • Simplicity makes food shine. Let the flavors of the best ingredients star.
  • Update traditional sides with flavors and textures (peanuts, dried cranberries or wild rice, for example).
  • Create an instant organic holiday dessert buffet by asking guests to bring a dessert to share. Let everyone choose a leftover dessert to take home.
  • Go festive with your good silverware, fine china, oversized wine goblets and best linens.
  • Surprise with a three-ingredient centerpiece: a platter of tangerines, with strings of cranberries and lemon leaves; a pyramid of apples and pears, with evergreen sprig garnish; or a bowl of pine cones, halved pomegranates and bits of holly.
  • Create your color theme with napkins, and print the menu for each guest on color-coordinated stationery.

Editor’s Note: The folks at Uncle Ben’s are offering a free Family Holiday Entertaining Guide. Click here to download the PDF file. For every downloaded copy, the company will donate $1 to Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), a great organization that provides access to food for hungry Americans. Recipes include Long Grain & Wild Rice Cranberry Stuffing; Long Grain & Wild Rice, Lentil and Pomegranate Pilaf; and Long Grain & Wild Rice Sun-Dried Tomato Florentine Peppers.