Dinner parties are a great way to gather your loved ones together to relax and reconnect in the comfort of your own home. But if the closest you’ve ever gotten to scheduling dinner parties is inviting friends over for takeout and a movie, you might be unsure of where to start when it comes to planning a menu and creating an inviting atmosphere for your guests.
One of the best ways to make sure all your dinner party guests feel included and comfortable is to go for a healthy dinner party menu. More and more people embrace healthier lifestyle choices these days, so offering nutritious options will allow everyone to relax and enjoy an entertaining evening without the worry of having to choose between sacrificing their goals and offending the host.
But what kind of food should you serve? And will guests expect appetizers as well as dinner and dessert? Please keep reading to find out our top tips for hosting a healthy dinner party.
1. Ask About Dietary Restrictions in Advance
It’s all very well and good to plan out healthy dinner recipes as a way to offer your guests options that are both delicious and nutritious. But you might have to rethink your whole menu if you find out that any of your dinner party guests have dietary restrictions, certain food aversions, or allergies.
By asking your guests beforehand if there is anything they don’t eat, you also pressure them to make the request themselves. And since the main goal of a dinner party is hospitality and inclusion, this gesture goes a long way to making people feel comfortable. It also avoids any nasty surprises like serving up crab linguine to someone with a shellfish allergy!
2. Expand Your Appetizer Options
Start as you mean to go on with a selection of healthy appetizers to offer your guests on arrival instead of the usual cheese and crackers. Expand your options to include olives, vegetable crudités, grapes, and apple slices. Lightly salted edamame is also a fun and easy-to-prepare appetizer that will keep your guests entertained while they wait for the main event.
3. Offer Healthy Beverages Too
By all means, fill your refrigerator with enough bottles of wine to ensure there’s plenty for everyone should they choose to indulge. But you should also make sure to offer healthier and lower-calorie options like alcohol-free beer and flavored sparkling water, fruit juices, slimline tonic, and club soda. Not only will these make perfect mixers and cocktail ingredients, but they’ll also help guests who are avoiding alcohol feel more included and less of an afterthought.
4. Downsize Your Plates
Bigger plates mean bigger portions, which is a serious no-no for your guests trying to watch what they eat. What’s more, scheduling dinner parties often means planning out several courses. By giving guests smaller plates for their appetizers, you avoid filling up on finger food before they’ve even had a chance to sample the main event.
5. Have a Practice Run
The conflicting timetables and different personal demands of your dinner party guests may make scheduling dinner parties with them more difficult than you might have imagined. Although, arranging a dinner party a few weeks in advance is no bad thing if you’re new to the game. For a start, it gives you plenty of time to plan the menu, stock up on supplies, and choose the perfect dinner party outfit.
And, even though it might sound a little extreme, we’d also advise that you use this time to have a practice run at cooking the dishes you plan on serving. If you’ve never cooked for a big group, this test run will help you adjust the ingredients and cooking times as needed. You’ll also get a feel for how much prep you can do in advance and what finishing touches you’ll have to leave until the last minute. With this in mind, it’s worth investing in a grease splatter guard to ensure you don’t get oil all over your party clothes.
6. Cook Smart
Remember, since this is your first foray into the world of dinner party hosting, there’s definitely no need to make life difficult for yourself by planning out a complicated menu. This means rejecting anything that needs constant stirring or checking and any unpredictable dishes or full of obscure ingredients.
Instead, either go for a one-pot meal such as a casserole or chili or a casual off-the-stove buffet with tacos or burritos. As well as being simple to prepare ahead of time, these kinds of options are easy to make healthier by including more veggies and less or no meat. Plus, offering various healthy toppings, side salads, and other accompaniments alongside them allows your guests to add more nutrient-dense foods to their plates.
7. Keep Dessert Simple
Most guests will expect dinner and dessert, but that doesn’t mean you have to whip up anything super fancy. What’s more, many simple and easy-to-prepare desserts are also nutritious and popular with most people. Great options include a colorful fruit salad made with a selection of in-season fruits, lemon sorbet, or Greek yogurt and berry parfait.
8. Play Soft, Slow-Tempo Music
You might not have given much thought to your dinner party playlist, but music can greatly impact both appetite and eating speed.
Since you want your dinner party guests to come to the table with a healthy appetite, savor the food you’ve prepared, and feel satisfied, avoid playing music with a fast tempo. Slower, more mindful eating is a healthy practice that can make eating more satisfying and enjoyable while also decreasing calorie intake. To encourage this – as well as plenty of great conversation – make sure you play slow-tempo music at a low enough volume to add ambiance without becoming overbearing.
Our Top Tips for Throwing a Healthy Dinner Party
Throwing a healthy dinner party doesn’t have to mean serving up dull, flavorless food. But nor does it have to mean spending hours slaving over a hot stove while you perfect complicated low-calorie dishes you’ve never made before.
As these tips show, there are plenty of ways to provide nutritious choices for your guests that are also easy to make and fun to enjoy in good company.
For more food news and culinary inspiration, be sure to check out our other blog posts.