Thereâ€™s always a great reason to be in the company of friends, but summer is the go-to season for healthful, colorful, and delicious fruits and vegetables, so why not plan a party to celebrate both?
Creating a menu doesnâ€™t have to be stressful or sinful when you dish out whole, fresh ingredientsâ€”served buffet-styleâ€”with homemade dressings and dips on the side. Not only will your plates be visually appealing and packed with high-quality nutrients, but you wonâ€™t even have to break a sweat putting everything together.
Much like designing any healthful meal, the same rules apply here. Be sure your party menu includes a good mix of proteins (skinless chicken breast, tenderloin, lentils, black beans, and tofu are great options), carbohydrates (brown rice, corn, and quinoa are versatile grains; Swiss chard, beet greens, and eggplant are nutrient-rich vegetables), and healthy fats (think walnuts, ground flaxseed, and olive oil). More colors mean more vitamins and nutrients.
To start, make a marinade or rub for your protein dishes from a complementary blend of dried and fresh herbs and spices like cumin-chili-cilantro or dill-mustard-yogurt. NoÂ heavy sauces here. Next, toss up a simple salad of different colored veggies like thinly sliced summer squash and heirloom tomato over leafy greens. Whisk together a light dressing of freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. For dessert, consider macerated fruit like peaches and blueberries drizzled with honey and white balsamic vinegar. This entire combination of foods alone offers a beneficial dose of so many vitamins and mineralsâ€”like manganese, vitamins C, K, and A, dietary fiber, iron, and antioxidantsâ€”to support manyÂ of your body systems. (Check out Foodily for some other great recipe ideas.)
Consider the following:
- Plan and prepare accordingly by asking your guests or estimating of the number of vegetarians and non-vegetarians attending your party.
- Serve ingredients separately to accommodate those whoÂ may have special diet requirements so theyÂ can build their own meals. Label each dish so guests donâ€™t have to guess or ask, â€œWhatâ€™s in this?â€
- Provide take-home items. Leftover containers will encourage your guests to continue eating healthfully after theyâ€™ve left your party. Stack printouts of your recipes on the buffet tableÂ so they can try their hands at creating their own versions at home or include recipe links in aÂ thank-you e-mail a few days after the event.
When the partyâ€™s over, revel in the fact that, quite possibly for the first time for many of your guests, nothing was off-limits. Not only will you have enjoyed great company, but you will have served healthful fare to your grateful guests who mayÂ want to know when they can come back for more!
[A version of this article was written for, and first appeared in,Â YoffieLife.comÂ on September 1, 2014.]