If you love your church as much as I love mine, you love to spend time there. Between my husband singing and playing on the worship team, my kids' evening activities, and my own Bible studies and women's events, the time we spend in fellowship and with our church family is often and a huge part of our lives.
Along with that fellowship time usually comes eating, and sometimes the choices are... let's just say... not the very best when it comes to our health.
I don't think anyone is trying to derail your or my healthy goals on purpose. I just think many churches have become used to whatever the "typical" meal is in that particular location.
For example, I live in South Carolina, where the fried food is frequent and the desserts are abundant (hahaha). But I know that's not necessarily just isolated to the southeast. You'd be hard pressed to go to any fun church event without some cookies, brownies, or other sugary dessert being served.
Since I would never want you to miss a wonderful church event just because of the food, I want to share some helpful strategies with you that I've used to keep my family healthy while also having a great time in fellowship with our church friends.
#1 - Volunteer
When it comes to church gatherings, many events are dependent on a wonderful group of volunteers. I like to volunteer to bring a dish or a meal whenever possible. I will usually sign up to bring dessert and I'll make Gluten-Free Banana Muffins and Fruit Kabobs (recipes below). Both have been a huge hit at every event I've taken them to. I even remember when we had baptisms at the lake one summer... the only dessert that was completely gone were my fruit kabobs!
#2 - Salads can be exciting
A few months ago, a few women and I organized a "Salad Supper" at our church. Everyone who came brought a different type of salad, and the variety was incredible! We all proved that salad has come a long way since the days of iceberg lettuce and tomato slices. My absolute favorites are Summer Time Salad, Cauliflower "Potato" Salad, and Strawberry Mint Salad (recipes below). All these salads can be made for a large group, and you can add protein like chicken or salmon to make it a full meal.
#3 - Strength in numbers
There is a fantastic trend going on in my church right now... so many of us are doing our best to exercise and eat healthy. Because there are several of us who want better choices, we all do our best to encourage each other along the way and bring healthier options to church events. Even at the youth events, there is always a salad and some other healthy options for the adults who are attending (not that our youth shouldn't be eating healthy too!). There really is "strength in numbers" and the more friends you can recruit to jump on the health train with you, the more encouragement and support you'll have at social events.
Here are some of the delicious recipes I've tested and found to be real crowd-pleasers:
Gluten-Free Banana Muffins
3 ripe bananas
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp raw honey
¼ cup coconut oil
2 cups almond flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 16 cups of a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Place bananas, eggs, vanilla, honey, and coconut oil in a food processor. Pulse ingredients together. Pulse in almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda.
Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Fruit, cut into chunks
Thread chunks of fruit on to wooden skewers. Use your favorite fruit or whatever's in season!
Summer Time Salad
1 cup cooked quinoa
8 asparagus spears, steamed and chopped
2 cups sliced zucchini
8 strawberries, sliced
2 radishes, sliced
4 oz cannellini beans
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp fresh dill
Sea salt, to taste
Toss together cooked quinoa, asparagus, zucchini, strawberries, radishes, and cannellini beans. Add olive oil, fresh dill, and sea salt; toss to evenly coat.
Cauliflower "Potato" Salad
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup avocado mayonnaise
2 Tbsp mustard
½ cup minced dill pickles
½ cup diced white onion
¼ cup diced celery
3 hard-boiled eggs, cubed
½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread cauliflower pieces on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Cut cooled and peeled hard-boiled eggs into cubes and combine with remaining ingredients.
Strawberry Mint Salad
2 cups diced strawberries
2 cups diced cucumber
½ cup minced fresh mint
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt, to taste
Combine strawberries, cucumber, and mint in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, season with sea salt, and toss to combine.
All the recipes above are great for church events, parties, or even a delicious meal or dessert for your family at home.
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