20 Delicious, Healthier Appetizers

by Marla Walters on 17 February 2014 2 comments

My favorite type of party is the cocktail party. My parents threw quite a few of them in the '60s and '70s. To me, of course, it wasn't about the cocktails, but rather the dazzling array of interesting snacks. What a reprieve from ordinary dinner! Although I'd love to chow down on a cheese ball or hold down the couch with a bag of chips and some clam dip again, I am trying much harder to eat healthily. Fortunately, our good friends also love cocktail parties, and we have come up with some healthier snacks. (See also: Tasty Two-Ingredient Cocktails)

Soup to Nuts

Especially when it is chilly, a small cup of soup is welcome. This is also fun, because it is an unexpected "party" food.

Butternut squash soup or tomato soup are good choices. If you serve the soup in small cups or bowls, there is no need to bother with spoons. Squash contains beta carotene, which our bodies convert to Vitamin A. Tomatoes give us a boost of vitamins A and C plus lycopene. It's nice to serve some whole-grain crackers on the side.

Nuts are a very healthy snack, especially almonds, walnuts, and cashews. To make them more party-friendly, here is what I do:

Marla's Party Nuts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of shelled walnuts, cashews, almonds, or a mix of anything you like
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t garlic salt
  • 1 t oregano

Method

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine ingredients. Spread on a cookie sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway. Serve warm from the oven.

Spreads

Mushroom toasts are so hearty, you won't miss having dinner after cocktails. I'm cheap, so I just use plain old white mushrooms. To keep the calories down, I also use reduced-fat sour cream. These are nice to have if some of your guests are vegetarians, too. Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D. (See also: Nutrients You Need More Of)

Lately, I have been experimenting with eggplant recipes. Eggplant has also been shown to be promising in lowering your risk of heart disease, as it is rich in phytochemicals. Baba ghanoush is not only fun to say but is also fun to eat with crispy toasts, crackers, or whole-grain chips.

Fish and Seafood

Poke is one of my favorite foods. If you can get fresh ahi (yellowfin tuna), this is a great party dish filled with protein and low in carbohydrates.

Let's not forget shrimp, though, which is similarly nutritious, and delicious in this Lemon Ginger Shrimp. I buy frozen shrimp in large bags when on sale. If you clean and boil it yourself, there is a significant savings. (See also: 70 Shrimp Recipes)

Also great for parties? Smoked salmon. Try making your own, and get those Omega-3 fatty acids for your "good" cholesterol.

Dips

I know I took you down memory lane when I referenced the clam dip, above. Good news: There is a low-fat clam dip (gotta love Greek yogurt). Clams are a great source of iron, something I am always nagging my daughter to eat. Keep it low-fat by nixing the potato chips. Opt for toasted pita chips, instead.

Guacamole, anyone? Look at all the health benefits of avocados:

Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C,K, folate, and B6. Half an avocado has 160 calories, 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat. One globe contains more than one-third daily value of vitamin C, and more than half the day's requirements of vitamin K.

Cottage Cheese Dip didn't sound all that exciting to me, but this one has horseradish in it, which really makes it zippy. I used low-fat cottage cheese, which is low in calories but high in protein. Pass the dip! (See also: Tasty, Frugal, Non-Beef Protein)

Fruits and Vegetables

At the most recent cocktail party we attended, the guest of honor, who was raised in Ecuador, was busily frying plantain chips. These are so wonderful! I could have eaten them all. Traditionally, they are fried in lard, but he used vegetable oil and drained them well. I was surprised to learn that plantains contain more vitamin A, C, and potassium than regular bananas. They were a very fun party food, and we ate them as quickly as Fernando fried them.

Another interesting vegetable is kale. Kale is so "hot" right now in the veggie world. You see it in everything from smoothies to bagged, fresh salads. I like Baked Kale Chip for parties because they are high in Vitamins A, C, and K, so I feel like I am serving my guests something good for them. I think these baked chips are best when eaten right away. Watch them carefully so that they don't burn. (See also: Easy Kale Recipes)

Meats, Poultry, and Tofu

In keeping with my obsession with All Things Skewered, check out Easy Chicken Satay. We eat lots of chicken because it is high in protein, low in fat, and usually very affordable. I recommend a peanut sauce for dipping.

If you are looking for a kebab that is high in vitamin B12, check out these Spicy Beef Kebabs. The sauce is a keeper, too.

I cannot leave out these Grilled Tofu Skewers because they have Sriracha sauce on them. Tofu is high in protein, calcium, and iron. Yum!

Pick-Up Nibbles

Edamame is the Japanese word for boiled soybeans. Edamame is chock-full of health benefits: Fiber, protein, and vitamins C and A. They are especially delicious when they are still warm. We like to toss ours with sea salt, after draining well. They are also easy to make. If you can boil water, you can make Edamame.

Stuffed mushrooms are another popular party food. My mother would have made them with sausage, which is delicious, but they are a little healthier with spinach and feta (and equally tasty).

Being a child of the '60s and '70s, I cannot leave out Party Mix. Lots of fiber and nuts, and less fat, are featured in this version.

Lastly, who can leave a bowl of mixed olives alone? Many stores now have "olive bars," but you can certainly make your own marinated olives. Olives are a great place to get fiber, vitamin E, and iron. Make sure you have little plates and toothpicks at the ready.

What healthy appetizers do you enjoy making? Please pass them around in comments!

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I'm trying my best to eat healthier. I'm attempting Doctor Oz's plan so I can put meal planning on auto pilot for a bit.

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Marla Zumwalt

Some excellent cocktail party recipe ideas!