by Novella Lui, RD
Whether you host a party or a casual get-together, the hero of the gathering is food. Food brings people together and allows people to connect and spend quality time with each other. Instead of feeling and getting overwhelmed with the food planning for your next gathering, impress your guests with my top ten tips for healthier entertaining without sacrificing the fun.
1. Offer a diverse menu
When planning your menu, consider including a variety of nutrient-dense options, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats. Offering multiple food options doesn’t need to be overwhelming; you can prepare some food ahead of time—find out how these ten hacks can help you save time in the kitchen.
2. Offer plain, veggie-, and fruit-infused water
A menu isn’t complete without beverages. Aside from serving alcohol, cocktails, juice, and pop, help your guests stay hydrated with plain, veggie-, and fruit-infused water. Veggie and fruit-infused water, such as cucumber and mint, and three berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), is eye-catching, refreshing, and offers a host of nutritional benefits. Check out these combinations of veggie and fruit-infused water for inspiration.
3. Offer nutritious appetizers and hors d’oeuvres
If your guests arrive early and the meal isn’t ready, offer bite-sized, delicious and nutritious finger foods to graze—stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, and artichoke dips, to name a few. These raw pizza kabobs, grilled eggplant canapés, and guacamole with whole grain chips are some of my favourites.
4. Make a colourful charcuterie board
The charcuterie board is easy to prep (no cooking required) and makes a stunning centrepiece for a party appetizer. In addition to offering cheese, cured meats, patés, and crackers, fill your board with finger foods, like colourful vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, hummus, yogurt dip, and whole grain crackers.
5. Serve fruits and vegetables first
Planning to set up a buffet line? Place cooked veggies, salad greens, and fruits at the first station to encourage guests to go for the nutritious options before moving on to other dishes. Create an appealing, colourful display with seasonal produce for optimal flavour. This produce pairing guide can show you ways to combine different veggies and fruits with an array of whole foods, herbs, condiments, and more.
6. Set up interactive food stations
Running out of time to make a big meal for your guests? Take some pressure off yourself by letting your guests make their own meal to fit their food preferences. Set up stations and offer a variety of ingredients where your guests can make nutritious choices and build their own salads or bowls, such as our watermelon poke bowl, to encourage creativity and customization.
7. Opt for healthier cooking methods
Consider choosing party recipes that use cooking methods like grilling, roasting, steaming, sautéing, and stir-frying. Experiment with your dishes with herbs and spices to add flavour without relying on excessive salt, sugar, and fats. Learn how to cook veggies and fruits on the grill and in other ways with our tips. For more ideas, browse through our 15 Must-try international-inspired recipes.
8. Style your food
People experience food first through their eyes before the taste. Style your food beautifully to catch your guests’ eye and draw them in. Arrange vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious items with colourful garnishes and decorations to make them stand out. For example, add a mini fork or toothpick to caprese salad bites, and place your fruit salad in a cored pineapple or watermelon.
9. Offer a variety of dessert options
A well-rounded meal ends with desserts to balance and complement the flavours of the savoury dishes. Offer a selection of desserts to let your guests have the option of having a bit of everything. Nutritious options such as yogurt parfaits, fresh sorbet, fruit salads and skewers with dip, grilled pineapple, granola-baked apples, and stuffed dates with peanut butter and chocolate are some great options.
10. Keep your party going with active entertainment
Chit-chatting around the dining table or in the living room is great for socializing with your guests. Elevate your gathering with activities that involve movement, such as interactive games, scavenger hunts, a dance floor or a post-meal stroll to stay active and engaged with your guests.
About the Author
Novella Lui is a registered dietitian who is passionate about supporting people in building healthy relationships with food by sharing simple and practical tips. As a food, nutrition and health writer, she combines her interest in evidence-based nutrition and health education through content creation. Find out more about her work on www.novellard.com.