Finding healthy party food to please a crowd is hard! Not to worry! I have some easy ideas for healthy food for parties and potlucks.
Eating with others – the normal people – is always difficult when you’re committed to staying away from the “Standard American Diet” and consuming traditional foods. There’s often a lot of talk about what to allow your kids to eat, how to explain to people that you don’t each such and such, and how much one should compromise when they’re at a party or a friend’s house.
One of my strategies, when practical, is always to bring some real, healthy party food myself, or even host the party if I can.
The key to sharing real food with others who might not be used to eating the healthy stuff is to think about what’s not too far away from the “normal” American (or whatever country you’re in) diet. I wouldn’t recommend bringing water kefir and liver pate, or fermented kimchi and dense sourdough bread. No one but your family will eat it (unless that’s kind of your goal…).
Healthy Party Food Criteria for a Crowd
If you have the opportunity to bring a dish to pass or host the party, think of it as an opportunity to (a) make real food shine and look desirable and (b) give your family at least one healthy option on the buffet table. Consider dishes that fit the following requirements:
- not TOO time-consuming
- likeable (by normal people)
Those will make it easier for everyone.
Healthy Party Food Dishes
Think like this: “Normal people eat _______, so I could bring _______ and they might not even realize it’s the healthy version.”
Salads –> Homemade Dressings using extra virgin olive oil and other good stuff (this is often what I’ll offer to bring for a simple dinner at a family member’s house since I already have them made up and it means the whole family can eat any vegetables on hand without me wishing they weren’t ingesting soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup in the effort)
This dish requires guests to have a little more adventurous palates, but really, quinoa is pretty cool and stylish now, so you can probably get away with that one!
I wouldn’t make homemade soaked or sprouted pasta to share, personally, because it seems like too much work for folks who might not eat it anyway!
Tired of Unhealthy Choices at Every Social Gathering…
…and tired of watching your kids eat junk?
I’m happy to be able to offer you this free ebook with:
- 10 whole foods recipes that won’t break your budget
- Well-tested appetizers, salads, and desserts that every guest will recognize and enjoy
- Practical strategies for sharing healthy food with others
- And the valuable secret to getting kids to eat real food in the face of a rich buffet spread…
Vegetables and Dip –> Crudite Platter with homemade Garlic Dill Dip or Tangy Avocado Dip (organic veggies if you’re feeling generous)The avocado dip is found as part of a thank you video in the GNOWFGLINS eCourse, which you can purchase separately if you’d like.
Yogurt –> Make Homemade Yogurt, either already “seasoned” with 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla (compromise on the sweetener for your SAD guests) or served with raw honey (use the code Katie15 for 15% off at that site!) and frkitchenstewardship.com/monday-mission-homemade-yogurt-the-easy-wayesh fruit and/or homemade granola (soaked version found in Healthy Snacks to Go) – this has truly become my new stand-by for morning gatherings and brunches when everyone else in the world just brings quick bread and other sugary, grain-based options
Crackers and Dip –> I tend to bring a lot of dips for appetizers, like hummus, herbed farmer’s cheese, spicy cheesy chicken dip (coming in an eBook!), the amazing Mexi-appetizer dip and garlic sweet potato dip (pictured at top of post).
The Farmer’s Cheese is found as part of a thank you video in the GNOWFGLINS eCourse, which you can purchase separately.
The Everything Beans Book has twenty pages of beany information, including all you could possibly want to know about legume nutrition, how to cook dry beans, and lots of time-saving tips for managing this frugal source of protein and fiber more often in your kitchen.
It also offers 30 bean recipes, for the bean lovers of the world and the bean haters.
My addicting 7-layer Mexi dip is only found in The Everything Beans Book.
Cake –> Sourdough Chocolate Cake…this cake is absolutely amazing! I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it, for real.
All of those fit each requirement: they’re not too hard to make, are a close substitute for food people recognize, they’re easy to transport and serve, and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg to share.
Healthy Party Food Hosting Options
When you get to (have to?) host, you’re responsible for a lot more food. If you’re using an online menu planning service like Plan to Eat, you can utilize the more powerful features to make your party planning easy. I just discovered that PTE has a feature where you can multiply the servings on a recipe, and it will figure out how much you need to make and update your shopping list with the larger quantities. How cool is that?
We always have family over for kids’ birthday parties, and I hosted a Real Food Pampered Chef party one fall. You can browse that menu, which features a bit more “traditional” real food because I was trying to spotlight the foods and made an evening of introducing people to just a few new things.
It’s tempting to just order pizza for 15 people, and sometimes we do, but usually, I stick to the four criteria above, adding main dishes and deleting the “portable” part.
I often fall back on tacos, because they are totally recognizable and have the added bonus of being easy to make 100% in advance:
- grassfed beef (I use half beef and half lentils to save money as I describe in The Everything Beans Book)
- homemade taco seasoning
- homemade whole wheat tortillas (soaked)
- Mexican beans and rice
- homemade refried beans
Other good main dishes include:
- Homemade chili (Recipe available in The Everything Beans Book)
- Soups with bread
- Homemade sourdough pizza (you can’t tell it’s sourdough, so yummy)
- Hamburgers with healthy homemade buns and choices of summery sides from above
- anything tasty in a slow cooker or make-ahead casserole that can be hands-off while your guests are present – I highly recommend this sausage zucchini bake as a real crowd-pleaser. I’ve even taken it for pot lucks with rave reviews.
And don’t forget desserts!
My confession: when I’m cooking for others, I often go for white sugar and sometimes store eggs. I figure one healthy dish out of their whole unhealthy lives isn’t really going to help them out that much, and my foods with white sugar or CAFO meat/eggs are still usually way better than their next door neighbors on the buffet table. Don’t hate me for being cheap!
With a little brainstorming, I’m sure you can actually think of TONS of options that are inexpensive, fairly easy to make, and totally delicious for your guests or your hosts this summer.