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Appetizers Can Add Flavor Without Adding Calories

By clairelaine on Aug 14, 2009 12:00 PM in Recipes

We love appetizers - those tasty bites that get a great meal going. At a restaurant, I can make an entire meal of appetizers. I have fond memories of dinner parties past where lavish appetizers were enjoyed. In the present, at home, or when a guest at a home dinner party, I seldom see them served.  It's a shame, too - they are fun to serve and especially to eat, whether served at the table as the first course, or handed around with beverages before dinner. 

Part of the reason is the trend to keep the calories low and to make the meal healthier. Perhaps we can change this and instead of thinking of the appetizer course as excess, think of it as another component of a healthy menu. Having a small appetizer or two takes the edge off hunger and can help you control your appetite when the meal is served, so think positively.

Some appetizer tips:

  • If you serve a dip, rather than usimg sour cream, use fat free Greek style yogurt, which is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt. 
  • Be creative when you arrange your tray of raw vegetables.  A few different selections could include seeded jalapeno peppers halved lengthwise, cherry tomatoes speared on a toothpick with a leaf of fresh basil, slices of fresh cucumber sprinkled with fresh dill, or mini kebabs of different colored bell pepper squares.
  • Skip the crusts on dishes quiche and instead use a crustless recipe
  • Avoid the crackers and find creative ways to provide crunch and a base for spreads. The small leaves from the heart of romaine lettuce work well, as do leaves of Belgian endive.  Whole wheat pita or tortilla triangles are also a good alternative to crackers.
  • Think about the nutritional aspect of the food.  Healthy doesn't mean boring.

Until now, adding appetizers to your menu meant adding too many calories.  It doesn't have to be so.  We've selected some recipes, all submitted by Calorie Count members using the Recipe Analyzer.  We hope you will try them soon.

  • Mini Florentine Cups - dainty cups of thin sliced deli ham cradle a tasty spinach and cheese filling.

  • Cucumber Dip - very low in calories - you'll never miss them in this creamy, dill flavored dip.

  • Smoked Salmon and Caper Rolls - use low fat or fat free cream cheese to make these delicious little rolls even lower in calories and fat.


Hummus and Greek tsatsiki are great healthy dips, available in my supermarket deli.

Living in Spain these Appetizers could be called tapas.  Normally you have them with a mid morning wine, I have my favourites.

A Boiled prawn with a grilled muchroom with crusty garlic.

Wild mushroom served with a small slice of serano ham.

Boilded octupus with paprika.


There are many more. All bite sized and after a half a dozen I don't think about lunch.

If you can't find Greek yogurt, putting regular fat free yogurt in a srtainer with a coffee filter overnight thickens it up very nicely.

Here are the recipes featured in the Newsletter

Mango Salsa

Perfect served on lettuce leaves, or tortilla triangles, this salsa is also good served as a side dish with Southwestern foods... continue reading


Stuffed Mushroooms

Portabella mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat and cheese, served piping hot... continue reading


Red Hot Yogurt Dip

Extra spicy with cayenne pepper sauce and salsa, the creaminess moderates the heat... continue reading

I need to come up w/ a healthy alternative or version to Southwest eggrolls since they are my boyfriend's favorite food ever. I guess I will start out with flatouts healthy tortilla...

any ideas?

mmmmmmmm....I love those south west eggrolls too! I'll have to think about it, but I bet you could figure something out to make them lower in fat and calories.

i know it sounds weird but, it's so good:

veggie deli ham slices

crushed pineapple

fat free cream cheese

[mix cream cheese and pineapple in the food processor. spoon onto deli ham slices and roll up. cut in halves or threes and toothpick the center.]


deish and so low in fat/cals! even my 6 year old loves this afternoon snack!

mmmmmm that sounds yummy!!! I like lettuce wraps too, you could do the southwest eggrolls wrapped in lettuce instead of deep fried phyllo

If you DO happen to need a couple of crackers to serve with spreads or dips, I very recently discovered the new Special K Original Multi-Grain and Special K Sun Dried Tomato Snack Crackers.  Very yummy and only 60 cals for 12 crackers.  The multi-grain cracker is similar to a Wheat Thin and goes great with hummus.  Not bad at all. 

oh nice! that is totally not bad for crackers!! will keep a look out for them.

I fixed a variation of the cucumber dip.  Instead of dill, I used fresh cilantro and lime zest, and a little cumin to give it a southwest flavor.  Then I served it with those halved jalapenos I mentioned.  I got a package of them that are on the small side and both red and green.  My friends piled the dip in the little pepper boats.  A scoop of the dip is only 5 calories and two halves of a pepper are 4, so there is no guilt whatsoever.  I also served baked corn tortilla triangles and other vegetables.  My friends all asked for the recipe.

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