Summer is officially in full swing, which can only mean one thing: party time is also in session!
These bright, sunny days go hand-in-hand with backyard BBQs, luxuriant picnics in the park, and birthday parties galore. And of course, no party would be complete without a good spread of delicious and nutritious foods! Read on for tips and ideas on how to tweak your party and picnic staples to make them healthier so you can throw guilt-free celebrations all summer long.
- Healthy charcuterie boards
Is there anything that says “cute picnic” quite like a charcuterie board? We don’t think so!
An assortment of sweet, salty, and savory finger foods is a sure way to get the party going – and the best news is that they’re extremely customizable, so you can make a tailored board that perfectly adheres to whatever your health goals are.
Some ideas for a healthier charcuterie board:
- To limit the sodium, nitrates, and other preservatives that are commonly found in the meats and cheeses on your board, look for options that are nitrate-free, low-sodium, and/or naturally cured instead.
- Load up on the plants! Add a ton of fruits, veggies, and dried fruit to act as the star of your board and to balance out the fattier meats and cheeses. For spreads, you can look for locally-made jams with seasonal produce – or better yet, make your own preserves so you have total control of the sugar and other ingredients that go into each bite.
- Ditch the heavier dairy spreads like cheese dips and ranch, and instead opt for healthier dips like hummus, mustard, salsa, and guacamole.
- For the crunchy element on your board, stick with unsalted nuts and seeds, which are filled with vitamins, minerals, and plenty of heart-healthy fats. If you’re craving a little more flavor, make your own low-salt seasoning with your favorite herbs and spices.
- Stick with whole-grain crackers and bread slices for an extra-nutritious pairing for your spreads.
- Tweak your starters and appetizers
Pasta and potato salads are staples for any get-together out in the sun, but they can be pretty heavy depending on your favorite recipe. Make them lighter by cutting out the mayo and opting for vinaigrette-based dressings instead. After that, it’s not about cutting everything else in the recipe out, but instead adding a ton of delicious and nutritious stuff back in! Fill your salads with a huge variety of veggies of every kind. Hint: aim for every color of the rainbow so that you can maximize the different plant-based phytonutrients available in each bite.
As for your appetizer spread, try using alternative ingredients to lighten the load on some of your favorite crowd-pleasing favorites:
- Replace your cream cheese with Greek yogurt, hummus, or avocados
- Swap bacon with tempeh, turkey, or mushrooms
- Make a healthier ranch dressing with Greek yogurt and spices
- Blend up your own healthier salsa with fewer preservatives and added ingredients
- Air-fry some sweet potatoes, zucchini, and other starchy vegetables for homemade “chips”
- Healthier mains
Hot dogs and burgers are probably the first things you think of when you think of cookouts, but all that red meat, preservatives, and other potentially-questionable ingredients may give you pause. Some healthier alternatives to throw on the grill that won’t weigh you down quite as hard include:
- Chicken sausages
- Turkey patties
- Black bean burgers
- Portobello mushrooms
And no matter what type of burger or sausage you choose to serve up, make sure there are plenty of veggies on hand to add tons of vitamins and minerals to every serving! The standards include tomatoes, red onions, and lettuce, though you can also make your burgers a little more gourmet with other additions like caramelized onions, mushrooms, grilled peppers, and/or spicy guacamole for an extra kick.
- Fun fruit salads
When your guests start craving something sweet, there’s no better way to satisfy that craving than with a bowl of fresh fruit!
Change up your standard fruit salad by making your own and including a ton of fresh fruit that you might not find in your standard grocery store fruit salad pack. For example:
- Create a tropical fruit salad that feels like it’s straight from the islands with fresh mango, starfruit, kiwis, bananas, and shredded coconut. Then add a delicious and refreshing dressing (coconut milk, fresh lime juice, and honey all make great starting points).
- For a more complex and nuanced flavor palette, throw together some blood oranges, pomegranates, walnuts, grapefruit, and avocados.
Alternatively, you can also make crowd-pleasing fruit kabobs that are suitable for guests of all ages! Just chop heartier fruits like pineapples, watermelons, and cantaloupe into large pieces, skewer them in alternating patterns, and serve them with the yogurt of your choice for dipping. You can even throw them onto the grill to get those sugars nice and caramelized for even more BBQ deliciousness.
- More nutritious cocktails
It’s not a summer party without fun, refreshing cocktails! Ditch the pre-made mixes, which tend to be overloaded with sugars, and stick with your own homemade blends instead. Luckily, this is super easy: all you’ll need to start is some frozen fruit.
- Frozen Watermelon Daiquiris: Blend up some frozen watermelon, rum, and lime juice and serve immediately
- White Strawberry Lemon Sangria: Put a twist on your standard sangria by using white wine, strawberries, and lemons for a light, sweet, and refreshing spritzer
- Frozen Pineapple Mai Tai: Add more sweet and bright pineapple flavors to your mai tai by blending up frozen pineapple with your rum, grenadine, and curacao.
- Or, you can keep it really simple: Blend up a bag of frozen fruit and mix it with your favorite alcohol!
And for the crowd who doesn’t drink, you can whip up some light, delicious, and refreshing “mocktails” like:
- Cucumber Lime Mocktails using fresh cucumbers, lime juice, and mint
- Strawberry Mocktail Mules with fresh strawberry puree and ginger beer
- Virgin Pina Coladas blended with frozen pineapples, coconut milk, and pineapple juice
Summertime is the perfect time to kick back, relax, and enjoy time with the ones you love most – but that doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice your health goals in the process. Tweaking your party menu with these simple tricks will help you keep you satisfied and nourished after each party, so you can keep the celebrations going the whole season.