Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feeding a Healthy Army: How To Cook Healthy For Large Groups

Feeding a large group of people can be hard work. I think this is why people tend to resort to the easy-to-cook foods that aren't so healthy. Casseroles with cheese and potatoes, boxed meals of processed foods, and mass quantities of carbohydrates (rolls, chips, sweets) tend to be the go to food options. I was in charge of food for our Lake Powell Trip and you better believe I was NOT going to let the processed food fairy blind my eyes because of the task at hand.

We had about 30 people go, and I wanted to do EVERYTHING I could to make the meals delicious and healthy. You see, I like food...and I know that there IS a way to eat healthy and have it taste great. Guess what? The food went over great! The menu went as follows...

Day #1
cold cereal (I bought a mix of healthy cereals and dessert cereals so everyone was happy)
low-fat pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Cold cut sandwiches/wraps
(I brought Whole Wheat Wraps Wheat Bread, and White Bread so everyone was pleased)
Lots of different veggies/cheese/and spread for variety
Veggies and hummus
Pita chips/regular chips

Individual Pita Pizza's
LOTS of different toppings (pesto, tomato sauce, canadian bacon, pepporoni, pineapple, olives, green peppers, red peppers, etc.)
A big ole' spinach salad for the side
cut up cantaloupe
Day #2
Breakfast: Baked French Toast
A huge fruit tray (watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, bananas, etc.)
fruit dip
orange juice and milk
Lunch: I wasn't in charge of this meal, but it was bbq pork sandwiches with fruit and veggies fresh from the garden!

Dinner: Chicken Chalupas in the crock pot (I'll have to post this recipe. So good.)
Black Bean Salsa
Whole wheat tortillas/flour tortillas
regular salsa & mango salsa
chopped lettuce
chopped tomatoes
Day #3
bacon (not my favorite, but a crowd pleaser)
fruit tray (same fruit as day #2's breakfast)
fruit dip

Leftover pizza's
cold cut sandwiches/wraps
veggie tray and hummus

White Bean Chicken Chili
corn bread (use a fat free mix here)
oven baked sweet potato fries
spinach salad with apples/craisins/feta/chopped nuts

Day #4
Cold cereal
Cinnamon Rolls

Leftover everything!

So...these are my tips for you when trying to feed a group in a healthy manner...
- Choose dishes that are not so cheese/cream/fat based, and that give your crowd options. For example...with the sandwiches/wraps, pizzas, and the chalupas I give people a "build your own" method to go by. This way if people HATE wheat bread you aren't forcing it on them. However, you would be surprised at how MOST people go for the healthy options.
- Always provide a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. They will get eaten. Bottom line. All the fruit was always gone. All the veggies got snagged as well.
- A huge, healthy, side salad is a great option to help those who want some good nutrients to get them in.
- Remember that food can make events fun, and you don't want to make those who you are feeding feel like they are at fat camp. I still bought some candy/chips/and treats for everyone to snack on. BUT I was sure to include a LOT of healthy snacks too...pita chips, almonds, trail mix, apples, bananas, dried fruit, pretzels, etc.
- Be sure that you have options. When you are feeding a large group the best way to be sure everyone gets fed is to make sure you have a bit of variety in your meals. I always try to have some sort of protein, a carbohydrate, and at least one fruit and vegetable. This way everyone can at least find something they like.

Do you have any healthy meals you like to prepare when you are cooking for a large group?


Rene said...

Lake Powell looks beautiful. You are awesome for taking on the food. So hard to please everyone in the group but it sound slike you did a great job. Looking forward to the recipes.

Courtney said...

i love that you call it dessert cereal. so fitting!

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