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Appetizers are one of civilization’s finest creations, whether they are served as tiny tastes to accompany cocktails or as a predinner nibble to stimulate the appetite. Sadly, some of the most delicious appetizers are a dietary horror due to deep-frying, butter, cream, and an array of unhealthy ingredients. Fortunately, folks who are watching their waistlines or want to keep their hearts beating have plenty of healthy options. Dips and spreads made of beans or veggies, lemon or vinegar, marinated yummies, and seafood treats top the hit parade of healthy appetizer ideas.
Dips and spreads are the home cook’s go-to for drop-in visitors or an afternoon watching the big game. Black beans, butter beans, chickpeas, and a host of other beans can be mashed with a little high-quality olive oil, a splash of lemon, or flavored vinegar such as balsamic or fig and a little garlic. In spite of their rich flavors and stick-to-the-ribs heartiness, they contain very little fat and lots of fiber. They are perfect with tortilla chips, but good ways to raise the nutritional ante include serving them with a veggie platter containing celery, carrots, and cucumbers or with homemade pita that has been toasted into bite-sized crisps.
For more upscale healthy appetizer ideas, the wise cook turns to shellfish or other seafood. Finely shaved smoked salmon curled atop a whole-grain cracker smeared with a little low-fat cream cheese makes an elegant treat. Shrimp that has been cooked and cooled, then marinated in a small amount of first-pressing extra virgin olive oil with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a little garlic, and some freshly minced herbs is another winner. Green or black olives that have been marinated in freshly squeezed lemon juice together with minced rosemary and thyme take only moments to prepare and are a treat for the eyes as well as the tongue.
Those who are partial to fried appetizers will find healthy appetizer ideas that offer plenty of oven-baked options. Green or yellow summer squash cut into sticks and lightly breaded can be baked to a crisp instead of soaked in a deep-fryer full of oil. Sweet potato sticks coated with cooking spray and finished in the oven are a perfect substitute for greasier, deep-fried counterparts.
The best healthy appetizer ideas often begin with old favorites. Substituting yogurt or cottage cheese for sour cream, lightening and caloric load with low or fat-free options, and cooking with little or no oil puts appetizers on a diet that makes them even more delectable. The addition of fresh herbs and garlic adds flavorful zest as well.
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