Nutrition and Wellness Blog

Recipes and tips from a Functional Dietitian Nutritionist

5 Easy Summer Party Dinner Menu Ideas

Jul 2022 | Recipes

Outdoor Easy Summer Dinner Party Menu, A family stands around an outdoor table and seating chatting and smiling with a bunch of food and drinks spread out on the table top

The Origins of My Easy Party Dinner Menu

For years my future husband hosted 4th of July at his house with an extensive spread of food. The buffet was the foundation for a great party that included friends, good cheer, and fireworks. His hosting capability was one of his many traits that made me fall in love with him. Afterall, food is the way to any dietitian’s heart. And who doesn’t love a good barbecue or picnic with fireworks? The year we reconnected, he hosted a party at his house and served a spread of tacos and all the necessary sides. His meat marinade and homemade salsa are top notch recipes! This got me thinking – why do we traditionally serve hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato salad for this American holiday? Why don’t we serve tacos or another type of cuisine? Lucky for me, the Smithsonian has extensive research on this holiday and its fare. The shortened version of this history lesson is that various settlers arrived in the Americas with a variety of foods. Over the centuries, the ingredients expanded to include domesticated livestock, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon. Even the preferred desserts such as ice cream and pie were introduced to the Americas by immigrants. Our quintessential 4th of July American meal is as diverse as our history. This celebration will continue to evolve as we evolve. This evolution may not just include food choices but also an analysis of how we can celebrate and indulge with moderation. In honor of a holiday that means a great deal to me and my husband, I want to share my balanced, delicious, and easy party dinner menu. These recipes might become your go-to summer meals. And, of course, I’ll explain why I made these choices.

My Top 5 Easy Summer Party Dinner Menu Ideas

Outdoor Easy Summer Dinner Party Menu, A large mound of coleslaw is set in a wooden bowl on a blurred out background

1. Vinegar Based Coleslaw

This recipe provides a refreshing and easy way to increase vegetable consumption for your summer dinner party menu. The ingredients will balance your taste buds and your nutrient sources. Most importantly, the fiber content will aid in digestion of other foods, balance blood sugar levels, and promote gut health and satiety. Beyond fiber, the star nutrient in this dish is vitamin C, a key support for the immune system.

Salad Ingredients:

  • ½ head of green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 cup red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • ½ red or yellow onion, finely sliced

Dressing Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add the shredded green and red cabbage, carrots and onions to a large bowl.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, olive oil, celery seed, salt and pepper to create the dressing.
  3. Add about half the dressing to the cabbage mixture and gently toss. Slowly add the remaining dressing until you reach your desired flavor and consistency.

Outdoor Easy Summer Dinner Party Menu, Potato Salad rests in a clean white plate garnished with bits of basil

2. Healthy Creamy Potato Salad

Traditional potato salad or macaroni salad are often served at BBQ functions. This is a slightly different take on the traditional cold starch salad. Carbohydrates are not bad foods, and we definitely need them in our diet to meet our body’s needs. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to serve them with excess fat. The fats you choose can make or break the benefits of the star ingredient. In this recipe, I use eggs and olive oil to add flavor and provide healthy fats for the body. If you do not eat eggs, this ingredient can be easily removed, and the olive oil can serve as the main fat source for this dish. It also showcases how you can infuse flavor using apple cider vinegar, mustard, onion and parsley.


  • 3 cups mini potatoes, chopped
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped green part only


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for about 8 minutes until tender. Drain and let them cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a second pot of water to a boil. Hard boil the eggs. Cool, peel and separate the yolks from the egg whites. Finely chop the cooked egg whites.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and cooked egg yolks. Fold in parsley, cooked potatoes, chopped egg whites, and green onion. Season with additional salt if needed. Serve chilled and enjoy!

Chicken in small pieces on kebab sticks set over an outdoor grill

3. Citrus Grilled Steak or Chicken

Citrus is often enjoyed as juice or as an on-the-go snack, and its nutritional compounds and flavors make it an easy and delicious pairing for protein. From a nutritional perspective, the vitamin C in citrus helps your body absorb the iron in protein. Beyond that, the fruit itself delivers a variety of benefits including vitamins, minerals and fiber. This recipe includes two types of citrus, lime and orange. The zest provides essential oils while the body of the fruit including its juice provides B vitamins, magnesium, copper, potassium and vitamin C. Next time you prepare fish, turkey, red meat, pork or chicken, think about how you can add citrus to your meal.


  • 1 lb skirt steak or boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 ½ lime, juiced and zested
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
  • ¾ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place the steak or chicken inside a large resealable freezer bag or large dish. Add the lime juice and zest, orange juice, oil, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Ensure the steak or chicken is well covered. Let it sit in the fridge for up to one hour.
  2. Heat the grill to medium-high heat.
  3. Once the grill is hot, remove the steak or chicken from the marinade and pat dry, reserving the marinade. Season the steak or chicken with salt and pepper and then place it on the grill and cook for seven to nine minutes, depending on thickness and desired doneness. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the leftover marinade. Bring to a boil (this step is very important) and then reduce to a simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.
  5. Slice the steak or chicken. Drizzle the orange marinade over the top. Garnish with cilantro.

Summer Dinner Recipes, Berry Salad

4. Limoncello Berry Bliss

This sweet take on berries can serve as a side dish or even a substitute for dessert. I commonly recommend berries because I find that they are well tolerated by most of my clients. Berries can support health in a variety of ways including blood sugar control, heart health, cognitive function and digestion. For the purpose of this blog, I want to highlight the antioxidant capacity of this fruit family. Berries serve as your body’s superhero against the accumulation of free radicals and resulting oxidative stress. Free radicals become detrimental to the human body when they grow in number. Like anything in life, excess is bad. Enter the berry. Research has shown that this family of fruit protects the cell from damage thus preventing the onset of disease and other inflammatory responses. (1-5)


  • ¼ cup superfine sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon rind, grated
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp limoncello
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries


  1. Combine the sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice and limoncello and let stand until sugar dissolves
  2. Gently stir in berries and let them macerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Three scoops of sorbet are set out in a clear dish garnished with mint leaves

5. Mojito Sorbet

Vegetables for dessert? Yes! Think outside of the box when you’re preparing a sweet treat and your body will thank you. This recipe allows you to satisfy your sweet tooth and hydrate simultaneously.


  • ½ cucumber, chopped and frozen
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, fresh
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp water, cold


  1. Add frozen cucumber and mint to a food processor or high-powered blender and blend until it reached a shaved ice consistency.
  2. Add lime juice, maple syrup and water and blend until well combined and smooth. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!

Outdoor Easy Summer Dinner Party Menu, Several friends sit around an outside dining table full of empty dishes and serving dishes of food, with twinkle lights all around them

Bonus Healthy and Easy Summer Dinner Menu Idea

Check out this California Harvest Salad if you’re looking for an appetizer or something fresh to add to the dinner menu.

These are all healthy, delicious, easy summer dinner party menu ideas that will satisfy your tastebuds and your body’s nutritional needs – and I wager your guests will be raving about each dish (and maybe even asking for the recipes!)



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