Jun. 14. 2017
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

First off, can we agree to bring back the word “shindig”, it’s too good as far as party-talk is concerned. Let’s talk parties, gal pal hangs, and how to make them healthy and FUN. Today I’m sharing my step-by-step guide on how to host a healthy summer shindig from music, recipes, atmosphere, to party favors.


Is it just me or as we get older, it becomes more challenging to sync up all your gal pals to hang out without planning months in advance? I invited a couple of my good friends over to catch up this past weekend, which was much needed! This past month has flown by, with buying our place, remodeling, moving into an office, growing the team, and a trip to Hawaii; it’s felt like a whirlwind of the best kind but still a lot to juggle. I was craving some girl time and a chance to break in our balcony – all the more reason to have some catch up time with Emily of Consider the Wldflwrs (most of my jewelry is from her company!), the lovely Rebekka of Camellia Fiber Company, and Kelsey who’s normally behind the camera, but this time only for a quick minute then joined in. Anyways, I’m constantly asked about how to make parties healthier, what things to drink, eat, and bring to stay on track while enjoying yourself to the fullest. I put together a quick guide that will hopefully help you navigate throwing summer parties and shindigs!


I typically will keep appetizers very simple yet tasty – so my go to process for this is to make a couple recipes and surround them with things like vegetable trays, fruit skewers, tortilla chips, dark chocolates, nuts/seeds, and an assortment of dips from hummus, salsa, to guacamole.

Here are my favorites foods for a healthy shindig: 

  • Fresh fruit and vegetable platter: opt for a mix of fresh or roasted veggies and fresh fruit to give the platter a little texture, think the colors of the rainbow!
  • Dips galore: Lemon Lime Guacamole, Salsa three ways, hummus, Dill Cream from my cookbook, and the crowd pleaser Classic Cashew Cheese
  • Sweets, sweets, sweets! I keep it simple with having a platter of assorted high quality dark chocolates, some of my favorites I’ll pick up from Whole Foods like Endangered Species, Tazo, etc. and break them into chunks with a spread of raw almonds, pistachios, dried apricots, fresh cherries, etc. It’s a beautiful display and it allows your guests to choose which sweet they want
  • Drinks: I love having a large assortment of drinks from sparkling water with lime or lemon, iced herbal tea like rose or lavender with fresh fruit slices, and kombucha. For spirits or alcohol I like to keep it simple with sparkling rosé, red wine, and a mixed cocktail like a variation of my Watermelon Mint Twist with gin, vodka to mix with sparkling water and fresh fruit (spiked infused water), or in a large pitcher add a couple liters of flavored sparkling water mixed with and a bottle of white wine and sliced lemon or orange. This will serve the entire party all night long – resourceful and the water helps dilute the alcohol so it’s a “light” drink for those who like a little.


Besides cooking, styling and interior design is one of my FAVORITE past times and a place where I can let my creative juices flow and experiment with different looks. Setting the physical scene of your place is so important to how the vibe and energy of the night pans out. Just think about it, if you walk into a party that’s black tie/fancy, sociology tells us our demeanor and personality will match that surrounding; same with a chill night in with your closest girl friends equipped with PJ’s and popcorn, the night and mood is very casual and chill. It’s all about matching your physical space to the evening!

As you know, my boyfriend and I just moved into our new place and it’s been a blast making a loft, our home, including the patio! The kitchen and patio are open to each other which makes entertaining a blast while keeping the door open for a nice breeze and the flow of people moving in and out of the kitchen to patio. My friends at Article have the best outdoor patio furniture, it’s super chic, timelines, yet modern and we’ve had so much fun just switching up simple textiles like pillows, throws, or candles depending on the mood of our party. Not only was kitchen seating really important, but I knew we’d hang outside most of the night so making sure you have enough seating is key! Article is one of the most modern, chic, affordable yet high quality furniture places we’ve decorated our place with (and the office!), their whole motto is giving back to the customer helping save 70% off compared to traditional stores by being 100% online which is awesome when you’re trying to decorate full rooms or add some modern vibes to your space! I furnished our patio with these pieces by Article for a functional yet modern vibe:

MIRA work table | MIRA rectangular coffee table which we use as a bench to create more seating! | NIMBUS white side table | SALA white lounge chairs, these are seriously cozy | SUNDA round pouf perfect for additional seating, foot rest, or holds trays. My biggest tip is when you’re working with smaller spaces is using items that can be multi-functional to maximize the space and go with the flow as your parties change!

Sustainable Clothing Companies


Music and lighting to match the mood or set the mood (i.e. fun, lively, chill, romantic, etc.) is KEY! It’s an additional layer to build on from the decorations and furnishings. For this shindig the music was all about fun, cheerful, pop, and a little bit of hip hop/rap. Most nights if it’s just my boyfriend and I with his brother and sister in law, we’ll keep it really chill and play a lot of Radiohead, Ryan Adams, LCD Soundsystem, etc. Check out my music playlists for tons of inspiration! I played the Sweat it Out Summer Soundtrack for this shindig and it was a hit, keeping the energy up all evening! Also, think about candles, lighting on the balcony/outdoors, etc. We love using LED lights on a timer, string lights and a combination of real candles with citronella.


If you have extra time on your hands before the party OR if you want your friends to help you “clean up” tell them to bring tupperware to send them home with extra food! They’ll love it and you’ll be left with less mess to clean up and peace of mind knowing your loved ones will have some healthy snacks on hand later. I hope you enjoy this guide and I can’t wait to hear and see how you live #nutritionstripped on Instagram!

How do you host?

I’d love to hear from you how you host parties, BBQ’s, etc. and what you do to make it feel uniquely you and special to you and your loved ones! I’m sure we’ll have tons of advice, stories, and items you can’t live without in the comments section, so let’s get to chattin’ below!

xx McKel

photography by Kelsey Cherry