Hosting healthy spreads for spring socials

By Jenni Wolf

It’s May and we are finally hitting our stride with springtime! For many of us that brings more socializing, hosting others at our homes and more gatherings like Mother’s Day brunches, graduation parties and wedding showers.

Wondering what to serve? Consider these tips for putting together a tasty and balanced spread at your next celebration that everyone can enjoy:

Consider your guest list. Eating styles are diverse and can look different for everyone.

A good first step is to assess your guest list and identify if any dietary restrictions need to be considered. If so, adjust your menu to include a wider variety that all can enjoy — or ask your guests to share one of their favorite dishes.

I also like to use parties as a way to try some new recipes. I am not vegetarian. But I might take a hosting opportunity to prepare a new vegetarian dish as it will serve my vegetarian guests and give all of us carnivores a low-risk opportunity to branch out!

Think about the food groups. Nothing new here, and if you’ve read my column before, you know I like to keep it simple. Grains. Protein. Fat. Produce. Take a look at your menu and make sure you can identify each of these somewhere on it.

You don’t have to put a boring veggie tray on the table, but maybe you make a veggie-filled quiche or set out veggie toppings for walking tacos! Having the whole gang present helps to ensure a satisfying meal so you don’t keep grazing on the chips and dip.

Pick a theme. It can feel overwhelming to decide what to include on the menu. Selecting a theme helps to automatically narrow down your choices.

Brunch is common for Mother’s Day, try a taco bar for a graduation party or host a charcuterie-filled (meats, sausages and related foods) bridal shower. Put out a variety of dishware. Have some small plates, large plates, bowls, etc. Offering different sizes of dishware encourages guests to use what might best match their hunger level and lets them know they can go back for more and that everyone doesn’t have to eat the same amount.

Be realistic about quantities. Remember food is a fun part of celebrating and gathering, but it is not the only part. It can be easy to “over-do” the food and end up with more than you need.

While leftovers are welcomed, having an excess of food can promote overeating. Loop back to your guest list, consider if your gathering happens over a regular mealtime or is more of a snack situation and then estimate how much food you will need to allow everyone to try everything.

Chances are everyone won’t, leaving room for guests to have seconds of what they might really enjoy.

And if the food runs out, well there is more time to focus on connection and being together. It is also much easier to clean up when there are fewer leftovers!

Hosts eat first! The hardest tip to put into practice, in my opinion. As a host it can be easy to be in tune to everyone else’s needs, making it hard to recognize and honor your own.

Make sure you grab a plate along with everyone else so you don’t wind up hungry and prone to overeating when everyone goes home. 

Spring charcuterie party board: A themed-snack board is an easy and fun way to include a balance of food groups, with something everyone will enjoy. Photo by Jenni Wolf.

Jenni Wolf, a registered dietitian, writes about food and nutrition for the Bugle.

Leave a Reply