Healthy Party Food for both Kids and Adults

I used to think that the term healthy party food was an oxymoron.
How can you use healthy and party in the same breath?
Haven’t we all had a party throw us off our healthy eating goals?
Or felt like a party-pooper for not partaking in all the rich, sugary, processed party food?
Well it doesn’t have to be like that anymore.

Healthy party food ideas and recipes

First of all, getting healthy (instead of just skinny) is getting more popular, as people are realising how much better life is when you have good health. So you are not the only party-goer who wants to eat real food. Secondly, now that we’ve ditched the low-fat diet myths and embraced Primal diets, we have much more delicious and filling choices for our party menus!

Here are some of our favourite party food ideas, most of which would best suit casual get-togethers and kids parties, but can also be fancied up for a stylish cocktail party or any occassion. Either way, these party dishes can all be made very inexpensively, so your party doesn’t break the bank.

When you are trying to think of what to make for a party, just think of Primal food basics: animal food and plant food. Animal food is red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, wild game. Plant food is vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

 

Meats, Chicken, Fish & Eggs

Let’s start with some delicious animal food party dishes that are so simple to make. A good quality wholesale butcher is your best bet for getting grass-fed/free-range meats at cheaper prices. Never buy caged eggs, and always look for wild caught fish, even if you use canned fish.

Mini sausages (chipolatas)
A party favourite with kids and grown-ups alike! Some toothpicks are all you really need to serve these with, but you could also easily do a homemade ketchup or chutney, or a good-quality mustard for dipping the sausages. If you want a more sophisticated presentation, try skewering the whole sausages lengthwise, or use lemongrass to skewer diagonal slices, as shown above.

Sausages on lemongrass skewers
Sausages on lemongrass skewers

Mini sausages with chutney, relish or salsa
Sausages with chutney or relish

Chicken wings or drumettes
Just as easy as sausages, and all you need are lots of napkins. These can be baked in a 350F oven in 20 minutes, or you can turn the temp down and cook long and slow for up to 1.5 hours to make nice and crispy. For flavour, google a baked chicken wing recipe, or try my favourite simple coating of sesame oil, olive oil, cider vinegar or rice vinegar, soy sauce, grated ginger, and an optional touch of honey. Mix it all in a bowl, then simply brush it onto your wings before baking.

Chicken wings or drumettes
Chicken wings and drumettes
photo: mykitchensnippets.com

Meatballs
These can be as simple or fancy as you wish, depending on what you mix the meat with before rolling into balls. For basic meatballs, all you need is ground meat, one egg, onion, herbs and spices. No need for breadcrumbs or fillers; the egg in your mixture works well at holding the small balls together. Most recipes call for browning the meatballs first, before finishing in the oven. But if you are short on time, you can do the whole thing in the oven: 375F for 20 minutes should do it.

Meatballs are great party food
Homemade meatballs

Fish cakes
A good quality canned red or pink salmon can be used as a shortcut to fresh fish. Most recipes call for forming the mixture into patties and pan-frying, but it’s even easier to just spoon the fish cake mixture into a greased mini-muffin tin and cook in the oven for about 25 min on 350F (180C). Instead of breadcrumbs as filler, here is a great fish cakes recipe using almond flour, and another one using coconut flour. You can vary the taste with different ingredients, such as garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass, fresh dill/parsely/cilantro, and ground spices.

Salmon fish cakes with coconut flour    Salmon Fish Cakes

  • 1 can salmon (8 oz)
  • 1 tbs. coconut flour
  • 1/2-1tbs lime or lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional:1 tbs. mustard

Egg Muffins
Beat 6 eggs in a bowl with choice of fillings: diced meat and/or veggie leftovers, herbs, raw cheese, seasoning. Bake in a buttered muffin tin for 20 minutes on 180C (350F). A mini-muffin tin is even better for party sized egg muffins and for little kids. Some favourite fillings include roasted pumpkin, bacon, leek, capsicum (bell pepper), sausage, and olives. Here are more ingredient ideas for egg muffins.

Deviled Eggs
This is an oldie but a goodie, and loved by kids and adults alike. It’s nothing more than hard boiled eggs with the yolks fancied up and restuffed into the egg. Google a recipe or just improvise. No need for mayo, but if you use it, best to make your own. Otherwise, mustard and seasonings work great, and you can dress the eggs up by topping with diced or slivered raw red capsicum (bell pepper), avocado and bacon, or just some fresh dill.

Deviled eggs with avocado and bacon
Deviled eggs with avocado and bacon

 

Fruit & Vegetables

Now for the plant foods. There are endless possibilities for enticing party presentations with all the colourful fruit and vegetables!

Fruit skewers and platters
These can be as simple or fancy as you wish. Simply peel, cut and skewer the fruits or arrange on a platter. If you’re feeling creative, make designs or do a colour scheme.

Fruit & veg Sesame Street party platters
Fruit & veg Sesame Street party platters

Raw veggie sticks and platters
The more types of veggies you use, the more colourful your platter. Try carrots, celery, cucumber and capsicum (bell pepper). You can also use purple or yellow carrots, various colours of capsicum, and jicama, if you can find them. Serve with homemade dips like babaganoush, hummus, beetroot hummus, (kids love the colour), guacamole, olive tapenade, or sweet potato and cashew dip. Google a dip recipe! For kids parties, you can arrange the fruit and veg into shapes on the platters, or do something like these clever Sesame Street faces.

‘Ants on a log’ is a very fun dish that especially appeals to children but can easily be fancied up for adults. For the log, celery is most popular, but carrots and banans sliced longways also work well. The traditional filling is nut butter, topped with raisins for the ‘ants’. If you don’t want to use nut butter, try hummus or another homemade dip, or tuna or chicken salad for a more filling dish. Variations on toppings (ants) include diced banana, strawberry, berries, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Tuna and cranberries ants on a log
Tuna and cranberries ants on a log

Grilled/marinated vegetables
Slice zucchini, capsicum (bell pepper), and eggplant, brush with olive oil and cook under a grill (broiler) or on the barbeque until soft. Add more flavour by adding crushed garlic, ginger and/or herbs to the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and lay colourfully on a platter. Asparagus, green beans, mushrooms and tomatoes also work well, and olives, pickles and dried tomatoes add a nice touch.

Grilled vegetable party platter
Grilled vegetables platter

Homemade popcorn
Put 1/4 cup certified organic popcorn kernels in a pot with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Cover and shake every couple minutes until popping starts, then turn heat down slightly and keep covered until popping starts. Pour over some melted butter, sprinkle on some sea salt and you have a healthy version of a very popular snack! You can also get creative with your toppings, like adding ground cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne to the sea salt and butter for a spicy popcorn.

Homemade popcorn
Homemade organic popcorn

Homemade sushi
Making your own sushi allows for great versatility. You can make them with cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, rice, quinoa, meats, chicken, fish – it’s up to you. Cut your sushi rolls into small slices and you have a filling and healthy finger food everyone will love. Here’s how to roll your own sushi plus lots of great ingredient ideas for all different types of parties.

 

Party Sweets & Cake

For desserts, think “better bad” choices. For example, your coconut macaroons will still have sugar in them, but by making them yourself, you can choose to use good quality sugars, such as real maple syrup, coconut sugar or rapadura. You may want to make a cream cheese frosting for your cupcakes, which is not a great choice because it’s pasteurised dairy. However, it’s a much better choice than commercial frostings loaded with fake ingredients, and it’s only a small amount that each person will have. These are both better bad choices.

Thanks to the current Paleo and Primal food revolution, there are hundreds of delicious better bad desserts on the internet. Elana’s Pantry is particularly popular for her gluten-free, grain-free, low-sugar and raw treats.

Cacao Balls
These delectable bite-sized treats can be made many different ways, depending on your tastes and dietary restrictions. Start with our recipe for raw cacao balls, then try different versions using dates, various nuts and seeds, and even liquor. If you don’t have raw cacao, use minimally processed cocoa. As an alternative, dried apricots and shredded coconut make delicious apricot balls.

Raw chocolate and coconut balls
Raw cacao balls rolled in crushed almonds

Morning Glory Muffins
Instead of cupcakes for Kaiya’s 3rd and 4th birthday party, we made morning glory muffins with yoghurt cheese and honey icing. Soooo yum!

Healthy cupcakes for kids birthday party
Morning Glory muffins with cream cheese frosting and homemade sprinkles

Makes 12
2 1/2 cups almond flour or almond meal
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups carrots, peeled and grated
1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
1/2 cup coconut or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a standard-sized muffin pan.
2. Combine almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add carrot, apple, coconut and raisins and combine well.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, honey, oil and vanilla extract together.
4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and mix very well. The batter will be very thick.
5. Spoon the batter out into muffin pan and place on upper or middle rack of your oven for 40-50 minutes.
6. When a toothpick inserted into the top of a muffin comes out clean, the muffins are done.
7. Cool muffins in the pan for 8-10 minutes and then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Recipe from: paleocomfortfoods.com

Cream Cheese Frosting – with no icing sugar! For about 12 cupcakes
1 cup softened cream cheese (or yoghurt cheese)
8 Tbsp softened butter
2-4 Tbsp Honey (depending on how sweet you like)
1 tsp. Vanilla
Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy (or just mix with a spoon!). Beat or mix in honey and vanilla.
Recipe from: helium.com

For kids parties, the best strategy is to keep things simple. A platter of watermelon slices, some popcorn and grapes are loved by all! The same can often be said for adults as far as simplicity is concerned. People love to go to a party and find recognizable and wholesome food. Don’t you agree?

 

Do you have a favourite healthy party food recipe?

From Costco to Whole Foods: Finding Healthy Food in America

From Costco to Walmart: Finding Healthy Food in America

Living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia, we are fortunate to have several farmer’s markets and organic food shops and butchers very close to our home. So when we are traveling, it is always a challenge and adventure to find good quality food in our new destinations. We especially love food treasure hunting when we visit the other land of plenty: America.

Cheap alcohol at Walmart checkout

Though we have lived in America and visited many times, we are always amazed with how much has changed in the food scene every time we visit. Our latest visit to Arizona, where we spent time with family, was no different. The demand for healthy food has continued to increase and suppliers are answering the demand with organic cafes, endless aisles of “healthy” packaged foods, and a continuing decrease in the price of organic whole foods (meats and veg). We found a huge variety of healthy food at reasonable prices, plenty of cheap and seductive junk food, and an increasing amount of fake food marketed as healthy.

Of course, the food in Arizona can not represent the whole diverse country of America. However, chain stores like Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers are in many of the states of America and therefore may provide a true peek into what’s on offer around the country at these types of places. We just want to share with you some weird and wonderful foods that we came across on our latest visit.

 

Fake food marketed as health food

Multigrain tortilla chips not much healthier
Heavily processed GMO corn, soy, vegetable oils, sugar and flours mean these chips are no healthier.
Primal Strips Meatless Vegan Jerky
Flavoured gluten (wheat protein) sold as vegan jerky. Yikes!
Quiznos roast beef and cheddar sandwich
The ingredient list reveals this to be much more (toxic) than just a sandwich.
Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai Snack Not Healthy
Hershey’s candy sold as a superfood. These were in all the supermarkets AND health food stores.

 

Golden Valley Natural Organic Beef Jerky
One of the best ingredient lists we found for beef jerky. This brand found at Natural Grocers health food chain.

Better Bad Choices

Organic free-trade dark chocolate, organic red wine, homemade baked goods, sweet potato chips and unrefined sugars are all examples of what we like to call “better bad” choices. Get the idea? We found lots of fun better bad goodies in America:

– Local organic beers and gluten free beers (made from Sorghum grain)

Beef jerky: in regular supermarket chains and mini-marts, it was difficult to find beef jerky without such toxic ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate, even on packages labeled organic or natural. However, there were some better options in health food markets, such as the one pictured to the right.

Snack bars: most of these “health bars” are made with highly processed ingredients are are void of nutrition and difficult to digest. The labeling can be deceiving, so always check the ingredient lists. This bar below has great intentions, but read the ingredients carefully and think about how much the foods would have to be processed to become powders.

Almond Butter Perfect Foods Bar
Definitely a Better Bad choice, as the ingredients are quite processed.
Found at Natural Grocers health food market, Prescott.

Bottled veggie juice and Yerba Mate Tea. It was great to see these juices with nothing in the ingredient lists but fruit and vegetables! However, plants are living things which quickly perish once cut and squeezed, so after sitting in a bottle for days, weeks and months, all that’s left is basically sugar water, not much in the way of nourishment. The best choice is freshly squeezed  juice, but these are definitely better bad, compared to most commercial juices. The tea is definitely a better bad drink, compared to a soft drink or the other teas that all had high fructose corn syrup!

Vital Veggies bottled vegetable juice
Nice try on a health drink, but veggies don’t live long enough. Found at Fresh ‘n’ Easy, which is really not so fresh.
Guayaki Yerba Mate Tea in a Can
It’s not fresh brewed tea, but for occasional convenience, this is a better bad choice found at many health food markets.

– Healthy chocolate: and it’s not dark! How nice to find a better bad WHITE chocolate bar. Raw with no dairy, too! Better better bad. 🙂 Found this one in New Frontiers Market in Prescott, Arizona.

Sacred Chocolate Bar White Chocolate with Lemon and Coconut

 

Fabulous Food Finds

These are the healthiest bars we found, and were very impressed at how raw they were! The seeds are sprouted traditionally, they are free of soy, and the foods are not heated to high temperatures, thus preserving the digestive enzymes and nutritional value of the food.

Go Raw Spirulina Bar

The same company, Go Rawalso makes these cookie snacks with the same quality ingredients and preparation. Both products were found in the awesome Natural Grocers in Prescott, which is a fast-growing health food store chain in America.

Go Raw Organic Cookies

Despite the war on raw milk in America, there is no shortage of raw cheese available to all. Yay!

Raw cheese aplenty in Arizona
Unpasteurised cow and goat cheese at New Frontiers Market, Prescott
Raw cheese from Trader Joes
Raw cheese combo from Trader Joes

Sprouted nuts! At home, we soak and dehydrate our nuts to neutralise the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that cause digestive problems and nutrient malabsorption. But to buy already soaked nuts in Sydney is very expensive. These were not only reasonably priced, but also mixed with real herbs and spices. Beautiful snack!

Gone Nuts Raw Sprouted Nuts
Sprouted nuts found at Natural Grocers health food market chain.

Organic cafes don’t stay in business very long in Sydney, but in Arizona, we found quite a few cafes and restaurants with organic produce, free range chicken, grass-fed meats, and healthy alternatives. This visit, we really enjoyed True Food in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Raven Cafe in Prescott, Arizona.

True Food Kids Menu
The healthiest kids menu we’ve seen.
From True Foods Kitchen!

Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s

My family had huge punnets of strawberries and cherry tomatoes waiting for us – certified organic AND cheap! Plus big bags of wild caught flash-frozen fish, which we ate for many quick healthy meals. Organic frozen berries, canned fish, coconut oil – it was all from Costco! Check out Live Simply’s article about all the real food she buys at Costco.

Whole Foods always has lots of organic and local food, grass-fed and wild meats, a scrumptious cafe, and even a self-serve organic/local draught beer counter. Trader Joe’s is most loved for it’s organic packaged foods, much of which has only real ingredients and provide healthy convenience. Of course, all these stores also sell some junk foods and processed junk disguised as health food. Never assume that just because it’s from Whole Foods, it must be healthy. Always read ingredients and make wise choices, regardless of where you shop. The great thing about shopping at these stores and other health food markets is that you have so many better options!

Costco Wholefoods Trader Joe's

 

What are some fabulous food finds you’ve encountered in your town or when traveling?

 

Eat Healthy by Ignoring Health Food Labels

Eat Healthy by Ignoring Health Food Labels

Walking down the aisle of the supermarket (yes, I go in occasionally for toilet paper and raw cheese), it’s easy to see why everyone is confused about what to eat. In every aisle, for almost every type of product, there are dozens of choices and each one claims to be healthier than the next. Hmmm, this one is low-fat and all-natural, but this one is sugar-free with added bran. Should I get the one with that’s fortified with vitamins or the one that’s low GI? So many marketing buzz words are plastered all over every package in the place, designed to make us feel good about whichever box we finally choose to put in our basket. At the health food store, the scene is much the same. The place is smaller, the choices aren’t as vast, but the buzz words still swarm. You can have the natural, organic, certified organic or biodynamic option. You can go gluten-free, high-protein, dairy-free, vegan or raw. You even have the luxury of your choice of superfoods! Da da da…superfood!

Fake food marketed with healthy sounding labels

In the end, you get home with boxes and bags of products. Not a lot of real, whole food, but a lot of cleverly-marketed products. You have an initial pride in knowing that you got the healthier option, that you’ve gone gluten-free or dairy-free. However, when you still feel hungry all the time, low on energy and frustrated that you can’t lose that extra body fat, you get confused.  You get on the internet to read more forums and health articles to see if you did make the right choice at the supermarket. Well if you’re reading this, you’ve finally found the article that will stop your confusion forever, because I’m going to give it to you straight and simple. Ignore the health fad labels and buy real whole animal and plant food.

There are No Labels on a Carrot

Although there is no label proclaiming its benefits, a carrot is dairy-free, gluten-free, low-sugar, all-natural, and full of vitamins (no fortifying needed). So is an apple, a chicken thigh, an eggplant, a steak, a tomato, an egg, a bunch of spinach. When you buy animal and plant food in its natural state, you don’t need a label. You can trust that nature put the right amount of everything in that food to nourish your body and make you feel great. You don’t have to stress about lean pork loin versus fatty pork belly or skinless chicken breast versus chicken leg. Nature will give you the right balance of protein and fat in a healthy animal, all you have to do is enjoy the variety of meats that are available to you. You don’t have to stress which fruits and vegetables are higher GI or starchier. Simply enjoy a variety of plant foods and listen to your body to see which ones make your body function best. That’s it. No packages with persuasive and confusing labels, just real food. The easiest way to satisfy your hunger, energy and nutritional needs, which will then discourage weight-gain and illness, is to eat unpackaged animals, vegetables and fruits.

Real Food doesn't need Slick Marketing Labels

I realise that there are some other real foods that you may want to eat and are still confused about. What about grains? What about dairy products? What about nuts, seeds and legumes? So let’s clear all that up right now too. Grains work for some bodies and not others. Grains should only be eaten in their whole, unprocessed state. Grains are also difficult for humans to digest if they are not soaked first. And gluten, a protein in certain grains, causes havoc in many people’s bodies. See why grains are complicated? Dairy can be a superfood, but only if it’s raw, unpasteurised, unhomogenised from healthy grass-fed animals. If you can find good dairy like that, by all means, eat it! Nuts, seeds and legumes are also foods that should be soaked before human consumption, and work better for some people’s bodies than others. If you really want to eat these foods, learn more and follow the rules.

What About Organic and Biodynamic?

And speaking of rules, what about those labels saying organic, certified organic, and biodynamic? The easiest way around any confusion is to buy your meat and veg from the farmers themselves at your local farmers market. Ask the farmers questions until you find animal foods from free-ranging, grass-fed only animals, and plant foods free from artificial fertilisers, chemical pesticides, herbicides and any topical waxes. These foods may not be certified or labelled organic, but you will know that they are. Otherwise, the word organic on a package does not mean much at all. A certified organic label, however, is only put on food packages that adhere to certain standards, so for those foods that always come in a package, such as oils, look for the certified organic label. Biodynamic is a type of organic farming, so can be a great choice, as long as the food itself is also a good choice. Don’t ever let the health industry buzz words be the only factor in your decision to buy food.

We’ve only become consumed with these buzz words in the last century. Our ancestors never felt overwhelmed with low-fat and gluten-free labels, as they simply ate the plant and animal foods that were available to them. Even vegetarianism was not a choice, but simply a matter of having less animal foods available. Today, we have more food available to us than we really need. We are filling ourselves to the brim with nutrient deficient, over-processed, “health-foods”, so there’s no room left for the real foods. Changing this is as simple as eating that carrot, apple, chicken thigh, eggplant, steak, tomato, egg, and bunch of spinach. No labels, no buzz words, no health fads.

COMMENT : Which health fad labels have you been sucked in by?