A Guilt-Free Summer Party in 5 Steps

Host a fun yet healthy party with these top tips

 Group of men and women talking at an outdoor party

Summer’s on, and it’s the perfect time to host a gathering. Throw a delicious yet healthy party by following these simple steps. Need ideas for budget-friendly appetizers, drinks, main dishes, and desserts? You’ll find them here, too.

1. Eat a snack before the party
“Don’t go to a party hungry” is a rule for all parties, even if you’re the host. Have a healthy snack before guests arrive to keep your blood sugar steady and avoid overeating during the party. Sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and other vegetables are great options.

2. Keep appetizers light
This course is meant to hold over guests, not fill them up from the start.

Fruit, nut, and cheese platter: Cut cheese into small blocks, or serve goat cheese unsliced. Pair with whole grain or flax crackers, grapes, and nuts of your choice.

Crostini: Cut and toast slices of whole grain bread, then add flavorful toppings. For sweet crostini, add part-skim ricotta, honey, chopped pistachios, and fresh figs. For savory crostini, try low-fat herb cream cheese, Spanish olives, and thin cuts of smoked ham.

3. Make refreshing, low-calorie drinks
Keep in mind that alcoholic drinks contain calories, too. For reference, 12 ounces of beer is about 150 calories, 5 ounces of wine is about 120 calories, and 1 ounce of liquor is about 60 calories. Luckily, it’s easy to make tasty, alcohol-free beverages.

Mint watermelon juice: Cut a seedless watermelon into chunks, and divide into two batches. Blend each batch with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup mint.

Sparkling fruit punch: Mix 4 cups orange juice, 4 cups cranberry juice, 8 cups seltzer, 2 cups sliced oranges and peaches, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Cucumber white tea: Fill a large pitcher with water. Add 5 white tea bags and a handful of cucumber slices. Let sit in the sun 3 to 6 hours. Sweeten with honey to taste.

4. Build main dishes with lean meats and fresh vegetables
Choose 95% lean beef for burgers and 95% lean chicken for sandwiches. Serving hot dogs or brats? Look for low-salt, low-fat options. Get creative with plant-based main dishes, too. Make a pot of vegetarian chili, or top grilled tofu with BBQ sauce.

Hearty salad: Lettuce isn’t the only way to make a salad. Sturdy veggies, such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, jicama, and tomatoes, also make good bases. Top veggies with light dressing. Add dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or herbs.

Grilled pizza: Use frozen whole wheat pizza dough and veggie toppings of your choice for a guilt-free pie. Try bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, or kale.

Marinated veggies: Swap chips for a flavorful, wholesome side. Toss bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions in balsamic vinaigrette. Grill on foil until lightly charred, or roast in the oven.

5. End with fruit-based sweets and healthier treats
Fruits make naturally delicious desserts. For lighter baked goods, try smart baking swaps to cut calories and add nutrients.

Honey bananas: Cut 4 bananas diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Heat a saucepan on medium heat, and add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup water, and bananas. Flip bananas after 2 minutes, and cook until browned.

Better-for-you brownies: Puree no-salt-added black beans, and use them for half the flour in your favorite brownie recipe. You can also use applesauce for half the butter or oil.