You’re Invited…

The Summer Party

Outdoor BBQ season is coming.  The first of the long weekends is here and those of us who enjoy entertaining can’t wait to host the first event of the season.  Good food, good wine, and good company are a great combination!

Growing up, there was always a good reason for a gathering with family and friends.  The summer months were filled with Sunday picnics at Ontario’s provincial parks or a relative’s backyard.  Like in all Italian gatherings, the food was hearty and plenty with lasagna, breaded BBQ’d steaks, Sicilian sausages, Calabrese bread, desserts, chips, peanuts, dry roasted almonds, and maybe a few veggies.  IMG_2624In contrast to the food, physical activities were kept to a minimum and interspersed between food breaks.  Soccer and bocci ball were among the favorite games at these gatherings.  For the most part, though, the event was centered on the food.  At the end of the day, everyone went home feeling absolutely stuffed!

Fast forward to today.  Fancy evites are used rather than phoning to extend invitations.  We head off to Costco for our favorite appetizers and packaged meals, salads, and desserts and voila!  A party is born!  Buying prepared foods for a party is great if we make the right choices.  However, how many of us are guilty of buying the high fat dips, high sodium precooked ribs, potato salads laden with mayonnaise and other tasty sugary treats thinking that it’s only one night of indulgence.  One item on one night is indulging.  Seven indulgent dishes in one night can be your worst nightmare!  When you are used to eating healthfully, one night of overindulging can be painful for your tummy.

If you want to eat nutritiously and drink sensibly while enjoying the company of friends and family, then it’s time to re-think the P-A-R-T-Y.

Turn Your Party Upside Down: Think Activity First

IMG_2627Rather than inviting friends and family to a party, invite them to play.  Arrange a volleyball or baseball game; go for a hike; play horseshoes or laser tag and then invite people back to your place for a few after-game snacks or BBQ.  You could also reserve a spot at a local park and pack a healthy picnic.  Plan the picnic with friends by putting together a list of healthy foods to bring along.  Everyone can contribute to more healthier eating.  Veggies and dip, cut up fruit, boiled eggs, salads with roasted chicken, goat cheese, roasted almonds are some options.  For smaller gatherings, you could also create bento boxes with individually portioned meals.  Everyone in your family could have their favorites!

IMG_1012If your backyard is large enough, then you can set up a series of activity areas, some for the kids and others for the adults.  We invested in an inflatable soccer field when the kids were younger and they still love to use it at our outdoor parties.  When you make the event an activity, there is less emphasis on food and drink and more chance to burn off what we consume.

Lighten up Food and Drinks

IMG_2622Yes, convenience is important so buying foods to help in your preparation is okay!  When buying foods, think pre-cut veggies, raw unsalted nuts, lettuce-based salads rather than the high fat packaged foods.  With a little planning, you can make many of the appetizers, main dishes and sides from scratch with fresh ingredients and more nutrition.  Here are some ideas for making your next get together a leaner and healthier fare:

For Appetizers:

  • Make your own dips – see our Lemony Hummus and our feature recipe of the week, Black Bean Dip.
  • IMG_2631You can also dilute store bought veggie dips with plain yogurts.
  • Roast a whole chicken ahead of time and then cut into pieces and skewer with cherry tomatoes or other veggies.
  • Serve veggies with dips or Mary’s Gone Crackers brand healthy crackers.
  • Make your own tortilla chips using Sprouted Grain Tortillas and baking them in the oven. (Find these in most large grocery stores in the freezer section)
  • Season cooked garbanzo beans with chili powder, a little sea salt, and other spices and then roast in the oven until crunchy.
  • Dry roast unsalted almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds and serve.  You can also make your own nut and fruit mix by adding dried fruit like unsweetened cranberries, apricots or figs.
  • Limit the amount of junk food munchies.
  • Pop your own kernel popcorn in a heavy sauce pan.

For Main Dishes:

  • Cut up chicken breasts into bite size pieces and marinade with almond butter, Bragg Liquid Amino All Purpose Seasoning (or sodium reduced soy sauce), honey, lemon juice, ginger, and garlic.  Skewer or serve as bite-sized pieces after grilling or baking.IMG_2608
  • Make your own burgers with a mixture of extra lean beef and ground turkey or black beans, oatmeal, oat bran, eggs, grated zucchini or mushrooms, salt and pepper.
  • Make salmon burgers using the Salmon Cakes recipe we provided two weeks ago.

For Side Dishes:

  • Serve salads with vinaigrette dressings rather than mayo based ones.  Make lettuce-based salads, veggie quinoa salads, green beans, roasted/boiled potatoes salad.
  • Roast vegetables or potatoes on the BBQ or broil in the oven.
  • Make your own salad dressings using olive oil, dry mustard, cider vinegar, spices, and honey.  Several sites provide healthier versions of salad dressings.  Search for these on,

For Desserts:

  • Serve fruit with dark chocolate dipping sauce.
  • Try the Date Nut Balls recipe we shared with you in our first post.
  • Make your own strawberry-pineapple popsicles using real fruit and freeze (see for recipes.
  • Cut bananas into 2 or 3 pieces, place short skewers in center; freeze banana pieces; dip frozen pieces into melted dark chocolate and roll in chopped roasted almonds; place in freezer again until ready to serve; let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

For Drinks:

  • Make homemade drinks with 100% cranberry juice, ice tea from herbal fruity teas, lemonade all sweetened with stevia.
  • Limit alcohol drinks.

Ask for Healthier Contributions

Friends and family like to contribute when invited to gatherings.  Don’t be shy about asking for healthy versions of foods.  Consider asking for cut up veggies, fresh fruit, lettuce-based salads (tell them you have dressings), or raw almonds and cashews.  Alternatively, you can ask them to bring one beverage item that goes into a drink mix; for example, carbonated spring water, lemons, 100% cranberry juice, fresh brewed fruit teas, and so on.

If Aunt Sally insists on bringing her famous potato salad laden with mayonnaise then say thank you and be sure to taste it.  A little indulgence with an otherwise healthy menu will be fine!

Recipe of the Week:  Black Bean Dip

About aspireperspirenourish

We are sisters who share a passion for healthy living! Each of us brings different knowledge and skills to this project, some similar experiences and a whole lot of shared passion for mindful, fit and nutritious living. This blog is our way of spreading our knowledge and passion about motivation, fitness and nutrition for everyday living. It is also our forum for finding like-minded people from whom we can learn. To learn more about us, please see our "About" page.
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3 Responses to You’re Invited…

  1. Claire Kroshus says:

    Great ideas!


  2. Diane McMahon says:

    I keep clicking on the black bean dip link and the date nut balls keep popping up!?? Is a hone else having this problem? Hmmmmmmm? 🙂


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