Spending time with friends and family over a potluck is a great way to celebrate summer. When everyone brings their own dish and shares a special recipe, a part of their culture, or their creative inspiration, a potluck meal becomes an opportunity for great conversations and connections. However, if you’re one of the millions of Americans trying to stick to a diet or simply eat healthier, that summer potluck could be a source of stress.
Whether you’re looking for a summer potluck salad that’s sure to be a hit, a healthy potluck dessert recipe, or just want to bring the dish everyone can’t stop talking about, here are some easy potluck recipes from summer to help him. .
What to bring to a potluck
Choose your dish in advance.
Once you’re invited to a summer potluck, it’s time to decide what to bring. When it comes to potlucks, “planning ahead is the key to success,” says Lisa Jones, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian.
Make something you know you can eat.
Especially if you’re someone with dietary restrictions or allergies, Jones recommends bringing something you know you can eat. That way, if you get there and aren’t sure what’s on other plates, you can be sure yours will be safe.
Set a realistic timeline.
Additionally, Jones says to “be realistic about the amount of time you can put in. A lot of times people commit to these dishes and then realize they don’t have time to prepare them because they didn’t realize how much time it took.”
When you do your grocery shopping, gather all the ingredients you’ll need for your dish and leave plenty of time to prepare it before the potluck. Fortunately, these casual summer meal ideas are easy, delicious, and adaptable to many different diets and food restrictions.
Summer Potluck Guide
Read our expert guide to ensure the tastiest and healthiest summer casual dining.
Create a watermelon bowl.
Cesar Sauza, a registered dietitian at AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, recommends a fruit-centric summer potluck plate. A fun way to enhance a classic fruit salad is to create a watermelon bowl. He cuts the watermelon in half crosswise, scoops out the fruit, and uses the rind as a bowl. He mixes some grapes, strawberries, pineapple or even cucumber cubes with watermelon cubes to create a well-presented centerpiece. If the watermelon doesn’t rest evenly on the table, Sauza says he should cut off the rind that touches the table slightly to create a flatter bottom.
Turn fruit skewers into a kid-friendly activity.
Another fun way to bring fruit to a potluck, Sauza says, is by creating fruit skewers. Pick out some fruits at the grocery store that aren’t quite ripe, so they’ll still stick on a skewer. Grapes, strawberries, pineapple, and cantaloupe are some options that don’t go down easily. Dice them and pierce them with a wooden skewer for an easy, no-fuss fruit option.
Prepare a fun activity for the children by washing and cutting the fruits beforehand, but keeping them in separate containers. Then “let the kids put it together on their own,” says Sauza. “Each of their kebabs looks a little bit different, and you can see their personality come out a little bit. The only thing we make sure to do is have different colors (of fruit).”
What about the sugar in fruits?
Watermelon sometimes gets a bad rap because some people worry that it has too much sugar. But Sauza says the sugar content in watermelon is “really very minimal because it’s mostly water.”
When it comes to choosing fruits for your salad, Sauza recommends buying the cheapest fruits at the supermarket, as long as they look fresh, too. The cheapest fruits do not necessarily mean that they are bad, they are simply the ones that are in season.
Fruits are a great healthy food for summer potlucks for a few different reasons, says Sauza. They are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, and watermelon in particular is “very rich in vitamin A.”
In general, he says the main health benefits of all fruits are that they are high in fiber and provide the hydration and electrolytes needed for a hot summer day.
For a heartier option, and one that can be easily adapted to a variety of different diets and restrictions, Jones recommends a Mediterranean Lentil Salad as her go-to easy salad. An added bonus: Skipping the classic salad greens means you don’t even have to worry about this salad wilting in the summer sun.
Mediterranean lentil salad
To make this salad, start by cooking lentils as a base. Next, add chopped or diced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese. To take a Mediterranean lentil salad to the next level, add a variety of different colored tomatoes. Says Jones, “I think it makes the color pop, and then I don’t just want to eat it, I want to photograph it too!”
She says that the lentil seeds “are good for fiber and protein, and the salad is gluten-free and vegetarian. It really is a great option for people with different dietary restrictions.”
The fiber in lentils helps you feel fuller, so eating a serving of this Mediterranean food recipe will make you less inclined to grab an after-dinner cupcake.
Kate Patton, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition, offers another variation on lentil salad. She suggests adding even more beans to make a hearty dish packed with plant protein. Although she doesn’t generally recommend canned foods, canned beans are a great way to get cheap protein and nutrients into your diet.
To make this type of bean and lentil salad even more filling, Patton recommends “taking chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, and Great Northern beans, draining them, and tossing them with extra virgin olive oil, some sort of vinegar, onion, garlic.” . and any vegetables you have. For a Mexican-inspired twist to the bean salad, he “starts with black beans and bell peppers, and adds cilantro and quinoa.”
While many people are used to eating beans hot, he says they’re tasty at any temperature and “very versatile.”
Patton also says that “most Americans don’t get enough plant-based protein,” but this is an easy summer salad that can help you increase your plant-based protein intake.
Another tasty classic potluck recipe option is a pasta salad. Patton suggests skipping the cheese and “instead adding a protein like chickpeas if he wants to make it a complete, well-rounded meal. You get some carbs from your pasta and protein from your beans.”
You can even add bell peppers, she says, or any other seasonal veggies for an even healthier and more colorful pasta salad.
Another great reason to choose a pasta salad is that it’s easy to swap ingredients for people with different dietary restrictions. To make a gluten-free version, you can buy pasta made from cornmeal or rice flour. Or for an easy keto meal idea, substitute spaghetti squash for the pasta and stick with the bell peppers, but leave out the chickpeas.
Adopt healthier brownie substitutions.
Dessert tables can be one of the most delicious parts of a summer potluck. For an easy dessert recipe to share, Jones suggests what she calls “healthy brownies.” All that is needed is to substitute the applesauce for the butter or oil that the boxed mix calls for.
If you’re really ambitious and plan ahead, you can even make healthy brownies from scratch. But Jones says that “it’s easier to get a box prescription and just substitute it. It’s not a secret recipe or anything,” but it’s definitely a great way to enjoy a brownie at a casual summer potluck.
Some summer potlucks may sound tempting right now, but they won’t make your body feel good and healthy.
Avoid sugary drinks.
Sauza says the number one thing to avoid at a casual summer meal is sugary drinks. He says they are “the number one leading cause of obesity in children.”
While the sugar in fruits is absorbed through the stomach and isn’t that hard on the body, “when you drink sugar, it will immediately go into your bloodstream. So it will cause immediate spikes in blood sugar, which largely causes your body to overproduce insulin, which could lead to things like weight gain, for example.”
Stay away from processed foods.
In general, Sauza also recommends that people avoid “added sugars and really stick to more whole foods.” Some common summer foods like ketchup, barbecue sauce, and processed bread have surprising amounts of added sugars. He says to stick to fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein “because it’s not really about processed meats like hot dogs.” In fact, some of the whole grain proteins like chicken, fish, or beef are “some of the healthiest things you’ll find at a potluck because they’re less processed than some of the other foods.”
Social and Health Support
Spending time with family and friends or meeting new people can also be great for your social health. One of the best parts of any potluck, whether it’s a Thanksgiving potluck, a Sunday brunch potluck, or a classic Fourth of July poolside potluck, Jones says, is connecting with people. people and talk to them about the food they brought. Jones loves how “people’s faces light up when they talk about how they contributed and how they prepared the food.”
She encourages people to ask others about the origin of their recipes. “Maybe they talk about Aunt Susie’s recipe that was passed down from generation to generation and they’re still making it. And then they learn about each other’s families and where they’re from. Then you remember three years later when you see that person again, about Aunt Susie.”