How to Host a Healthy Outdoor Dinner Party

How to Host a Healthy Outdoor Dinner Party

Summertime Chi is my jam – the month of July especially.

1 hallie wilson instagramming a healthy outdoor dinner party in chicago

This is my second summer back in the Windy City – but the first that I’ve actually had a day off from working and teaching. Crazy, right?

(I was back-to-back all seven days last year… Brutal!)

2 chicago lifestyle blogger hallie wilson's healthy tips for outdoor entertaining in the summer

This season, I’ve been indulging my (very) fair share of Saturdays spent poolside, daytime picnics and sunset cocktails or rooftop soirees… And with Summer Fridays finally in full swing, there’s a perfect opportunity for al fresco entertaining at-hand (coupled with some ice-cold Heineken Lights, as we’re doing today).

3 tips for healthy outdoor grilling and party planning 4 lifestyle blogger hallie wilson advice for planning a healthy outdoor bbq dinner party5 - heineken light lager calories

Admittedly, I’m a notoriously last-minute hostess. Like, notoriously. As a result, I like to keep my party prep simple, relaxed and at-ease.

Entertaining with grace hasn’t always been second nature for me – it was more of a learned behavior (likely instilled in me by blogging/my job, in all honesty).

6 calories in heineken light beer 8 hallie wilson chicago lifestyle fashion blogger and fitness instructor

I’ve picked up a thing or two about planning a summer get-together, though, so today I’m sharing a few of my very best tips and tricks for pulling off a healthy, effortlessly laid-back dinner party – on a budget.

You’ll be a planning pro in no time, my friend.

9 zimmermann zehphyl white dress and janessa leone fedora hat


Get grillin’. Grilling is the quintessential summer cooking method – and a super simple way to whip up sharable dishes that are as healthy as they are delicious. (If you’re a grilling newb, be sure to preheat the grill and clean the grate first-and-foremost so you don’t wind up with burnt burgers and charred chicken.)

12 what to serve at an outdoor dinner party bbq

Opt for a self-serve beverage bin so you don’t have to abandon any last-minute meal prep as your squad arrives. (In the summer especially, there’s nothing quite like a refreshingly chilled beer, is there?)

14 cb2 beverage bin for an outdoor dinner party

Drink-wise, I wanted to keep things on the lighter side, so I served Heineken Light for my guests of honor — thanks, Jess and Lisa! As you may have seen on Snapchat (‘coralsncognacs’), I’ve been working with Heineken Light this summer, so this was a great fit – the girls were both genuinely surprised how refreshingly tasty it is!

The bevvy is brewed with all-natural, high-quality ingredients – no fillers, preservatives or GMOs. Plus, it’s only 99 calories per 12-ounce bottle. Win!

10 heineken light beer carbs and calories per bottle 11 heineken light beer 11.5 how to set up a cute tablescape for an outdoor dinner party in the summer16 chicago style bloggers hallie wilson and jessica sturdy 21 how to host an outdoor dinner party for friends in the summer 25 tips for hosting an outdoor party in the summer

Pick up some small bites like grapes, almonds, crackers and cheese – they’re easy, affordable, and delicious. Instagram’able, too — I know you’re all about that life. Wink!

22 chicago blogger bows and sequins jessica sturdy

Get a cute jar (this pineapple centerpiece/ice bucket, though – so good, right?) and encourage your guests to toss in their devices for a cell phone-free evening. After you get the ‘gram, obvs.

23 silver pineapple jar from cb215 hallie wilson chicago style blogger entertaining tips

Music is a must – create a playlist ahead-of-time or use one of Spotify’s curated mixes. (You can also head over to my Soundcloud profile and hit play).

Don’t overdue it on the details. I kept the décor simple and went with mixed metals and striped plates – all in a color scheme that blended beautifully with Mother Nature. Here’s the items I used (all from CB2, one of my favorite home stores):


14.5 ideas for setting up a table for an outdoor summer dinner party 14.52 cute tablescape ideas for a dinner party outdoors in the summer 13 healthy salads to serve at an outdoor bbq dinner party

Last but not least, save yourself the stress of doing it all – just focus on what you are good at.

My cooking isn’t exactly Top Chef-worthy (and my friends will vouch) so I keep it simple by mixing salads, grilling vegetables and curating pretty-looking fruit and cheese plates. You can always order out, too!

20 janessa leone straw fedora for women and striped towel

I mean, I know my contribution to a good backyard BBQ is in the beverage department.

I kept the menu crisp and fresh, which complemented the distinctive light lager flavor of our drink of choice.

Here’s what I served: 

17 healthy grilling ideas for an outdoor dinner party


  • Watermelon, feta and mint salad. Chop and toss everything in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil and voila! Add chopped cucumbers for an extra crunch.
  • Grilled vegetables — so easy and super healthy.
  • Pre-cut artichokes and tomato tossed in a little olive oil.
  • An assortment of grapes, cheeses (goat brie and asiago), prosciutto and crackers. (Add carrots, broccoli and hummus to give your guests a little extra variety.)
  • Heineken Light, obvs.

18 summer salads artichoke and tomato

*In this post: 

Straw fedora: Janessa Leone (similar $30 version here)
White dress: Zimmermann Zephyr Broderie Dress (splurge, but I love it so much)
Lip color: NARS Satin lip pencil in ‘Rikeugien
Foundation: bareMinerals Complexion Rescue
Nail color: Shellac ‘Romantique’
Hair: Curled with a wand like this

*Entertaining essentials: 

White marble board
Striped plate and bowl set
Colorful mini-bowls
Gold serving spoons
Grey ‘poplin’ napkins
Silver beverage tub
‘Notch’ wood server/board
Gold salt and pepper shaker set
Silver ‘Carmen’ Pineapple ice bucket/jar
Chilewich ‘Petal’ champagne-colored placemats

24 how to host a summer bbq party

So, there you have it. I’d love for you to leave your party planning tips, tricks and dishes of choice in the comments below.

Cheers, my friends! Happy (summer) Friday.

19 janessa leone fedora for women

Thanks to Heineken Light for partnering up on this post (and to Jess and Lisa for dining with me).
All opinions are, of course, my own.


Iron & Honey Photography

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