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Recipe for a Healthier Potluck

I will never forget the first potluck I went to at my church several years ago. There was fried chicken, biscuits and potato dishes as far as the eye can see and not a green vegetable in sight, or any other color vegetable for that matter. Of course, being the dietitian in the church, I felt compelled to introduce some variety to this scene of chicken boxes and biscuits. I decided to bring a healthy vegetable every time I attended one of these events and oddly enough, the vegetables are a big hit.

Here are some suggestions for healthy items for your picnic or potluck. A good place to start is to bring a fresh fruit tray or fruit salad. This is always a healthy option and most people really enjoy having some fresh fruit to complement their meal. During this season of the year, many fresh fruits are available making it an easy option as well. Choose various colors and provide a light vanilla or plain yogurt dip.

Vegetables are a great healthy choices and there are so many options to choose from. A raw veggie tray with different colors and textures is always a hit. Hummus or a light dressing makes a great dip. A garden salad with mixed greens, various vegetables with a handful of nuts and berries makes a colorful tasty display.

Try to stay away from the starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes as the main focus in your dish as they are higher in calories. Sauteed vegetables, grilled vegetables and roasted vegetables make a great dish. There are so many vegetables that are great prepared this way including: peppers, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini squash, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus and carrots. Many of these vegetables are in season right now and full of flavor so there is little need for seasoning. It is great to make a dish that includes a variety of these vegetables so there is something for everyone to try and taste. Many vegetables are also great as a cold salad, a great alternative to the traditional potato salad or macaroni salad. Cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, broccoli and various peas and beans are delicious served as a cold salad.

Meat dishes can also be healthy options, but try to stick with grilled, baked or roasted meats. These preparation methods are healthier and add to the flavor of the meat as well. Stick to the leaner cuts of meat like skinless chicken or turkey breasts, pork tenderloin, London broil, sirloin and top round. Grilled fish is always a great healthy option that is sure to be a hit. Fish is a great source of protein, vitamins and healthy fats that can help protect us from certain cancers and heart disease.
So have some fun enjoying your picnics and potlucks and trying some new healthy dishes that your family and friends just may love. Here are some recipes that may give you a good jump start to trying some new things.  

Roasted Garlic Lemon Broccoli
• 2 heads broccoli, separated into florets
• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, toss broccoli florets with the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic. Spread the broccoli out in an even layer on a baking sheet.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until florets are tender enough to pierce the stems with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and transfer to a serving platter. Squeeze lemon juice liberally over the broccoli before serving for a refreshing, tangy finish.

Fruit and Vegetable Salad
• 1 medium green pepper, chopped
• 1 cup chopped celery
• 1 cup shredded cabbage
• 3/4 cup chopped unpeeled red apple
• 1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
• 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Lettuce Leaves
1. In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and salt. Stir into pepper mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve on lettuce leaves.

Grilled Sesame Chicken
• 1 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
• 1 cup white grape juice
• 1 cup soy sauce
• 1 cup chopped green onions
• 1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
• 2 tablespoons ground mustard
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 2 teaspoons pepper
• 8 cloves garlic, minced
• 12 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1. In a large re sealable plastic bag, combine the first nine ingredients. Remove 1/2 cup for basting; cover and refrigerate. Add chicken to the bag; seal and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
2. Drain and discard marinade from chicken. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 6 minutes. Turn and cook 6-8 minutes longer or until meat juices run clear, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade.

Grilled Salmon
• 2 pounds salmon fillets
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• 4 green onions, thinly sliced
• 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
• 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon pepper
1. Place salmon in shallow dish. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside 1/4 cup for basting; pour the rest over the salmon. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drain, discarding marinade. Grill salmon over medium coals, skin side down, for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Baste occasionally with reserved marinade.

**All of these recipes came from, one of my favorite websites. 

Julie Paul is a registered dietitian with WakeMed ENERGIZE!, a program to help kids and teens who either have type 2 diabetes or who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes learn to make healthy lifestyle changes.  Learn more by clicking here.


3 thoughts to “Recipe for a Healthier Potluck”

  1. It would be a shame to go through all of that self-denial of eating the foods you love at church potlucks. You might get run over by a truck on the Beltline tomorrow, and it will be all for naught!

    Seriously, what I find difficult is that there are rarely good low-carb choices at these great events, except for eating a hamburger with no bun with only a little bit of mustard. Having some non-potato side dishes is good idea!

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