Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Nutritious, delicious party foods

We all enjoy a nice party.  And, if you are throwing one, you know food becomes one of the main attractions.  And, since it is very possible and affordable to offer tasty and nutritious food selections at parties, why not go for it?  Rather than traditional offerings like meatballs, cheese balls and chicken nuggets, challenge yourself to find healthier crowd pleasers that leave your guests feeling satisfied, and promote wellness, too.

The key to purchasing large volumes of nutritious foods for parties is to know where to shop.  Learn which of your local stores sell which foods for the best prices.  Also, consider where produce and other fresh foods appear to be the freshest.  For instance, we all know it is hard to beat a farmers market for local produce.  However, we know there is a limited selection of offerings of local foods, compared to what you may have on your menu and what your budget is.

Listed below are examples of crowd pleasing options that focus on achieving a balanced diet from a variety of healthful foods.  Remember, no matter what you eat, portion control is always important.  Never too much and never too little…Always just right.

  • A raw veggie platter with hummus (rather than Ranch!)  Break out of the mold of the usual carrots and celery by offering other tasty veggies like bell peppers, asparagus spears, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, baby corn and zucchini strips.
  • A fruit tray with yogurt dip (rather than the high sugar, low nutrient fruit dip that often comes on pre-bought trays).  Simply purchase lowfat flavored yogurt such as vanilla, strawberry or honey Greek and pour into a decorative bowl.  Fruits offered should be a rainbow of colors.  Melon cubes, berries, apple slices and pineapple cubes always go over well.
  • Guacamole with whole grain chips is great.  Make sure the guac is all natural.  Consider making your own my mashing avocados with diced tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt.  Consider adding jalapenos for heat – and a rich source of antioxidants!
  • Smoked salmon with quartered whole grain mini bagels or crackers (such as lavash, rice crackers or Kashi crackers).  Serve with diced red onion, capers and lowfat whipped cream cheese.
  • Bowls of raw nuts, optionally mixed with pretzels and/or dried fruit.  A little goes a long way, so offer these options in small bowls to prevent big handfuls.
  • A whole grain pasta bar with selections such as grilled vegetables (the more veggies the better!), shrimp/chicken and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Alternatively, bake a homemade casserole with similar ingredients.  This can quite easily be done ahead.  Things like spinach & mushroom lasagna would freeze well, too.
  • Grilled chicken skewers with Asian dipping sauce is a healthier alternative to chicken wings or nuggets.  Either warm up pre-cooked chicken strips or skewer marinated chicken tenderloins and grill.  Keep warm in the oven or over a Sterno flame in a buffet tray.
  • A large spinach salad with feta, dried cranberries (or fresh strawberries), almonds and pour-your-own balsamic vinaigrette seems to please even some of the pickiest eaters.  Alternatively, offer a Caesar salad with whole grain croutons and lowfat Caesar dressing.

Remember, the more you set out, the more guests will eat.  Have backups prepared in the fridge or pantry to allow refills if needed.  Otherwise, offer trays appropriate to the number of guests and appetizer or dinner plates sized to promote proper portion control.  This way, guests can enjoy the food more mindfully and also enjoy the rest of the party!

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