Coming up with healthy party recipes can be a challenge when you're trying to keep the calories down and have limited time to spend in the kitchen. Finding appetizer ideas may be the most difficult task of all since so many traditional appetizer options are deep-fried or feature heavy, calorie-laden ingredients. Choose easy, low-calorie appetizers that don't require a degree from culinary school to prepare. The key is to keep the dishes simple and family-friendly, and add big flavor with low-calorie herbs, spices and convenient seasoning mixes.
Dips are a classic appetizer option because they are so versatile and easy to make. However, they can be loaded with calories if you’re not careful about the ingredients. Forgo cream-based dips and use beans as your main ingredient. You can use black, white, red and even lima beans to make delicious, low-calorie dips by combining them with dry salad dressing and dip mix with additional flavor enhancers like garlic, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and onions. If you prefer a cream-based dip, swap out sour cream for plain, fat-free yogurt to keep the calories and fat down. Fat-free and light creamy salad dressings are perfect for dipping, and they have reduced calories. Serve your low-calorie dips with veggies, pita chips or whole-wheat crackers, so your appetizer remains low in calories.
A platter of vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and celery is an ideal healthy appetizer when paired with a low-calorie dip. You can also use your favorite veggies to create other delicious first course options that aren’t packed with calories. Consider serving a pureed vegetable soup for an appetizer at your next dinner party or a cold gazpacho at your barbecue. Grilled vegetables skewers are another low-calorie appetizer option for summer get-togethers and are especially tasty when served with a light creamy dressing. If your kids enjoy fried zucchini or other fried veggies as an appetizer, cut the calories by coating them with creamy light salad dressing and then with whole-wheat flour and baking them in the oven instead of deep-frying them.
Seafood can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to come up with low-calorie appetizer ideas. Smoked salmon is a classic hors d’oeuvres option, which is relatively low in calories if you serve it with creamy fat-free dressing and simple crackers. Grilled shrimp skewers are another tasty but healthy appetizer option. Marinate the shrimp in lemon juice mixed with dry dressing and seasoning mix for a quick, easy first course. Shrimp and crab also make low-calorie fillings for quesadillas, which are fun appetizer options for a casual party. Pair the seafood with reduced-fat cheese, a drizzle of creamy light ranch dressing, and some fresh veggies to create a filling first course that even your kids will enjoy.
If you use skinless chicken breasts, you can create a variety of easy, low-calorie appetizers that are sure to be a hit at your next dinner party. For the kids, make low-calorie chicken “fingers” by using crushed cornflake cereal as the coating and baking them in the oven. Serve them with creamy dressing for dipping. Chicken skewers are usually a big hit with kids and adults alike, and they’re easy to prepare on the grill. Marinate bite-size pieces of chicken in your favorite low-calorie marinade, and alternate pieces of the chicken with veggies like peppers and onions on the skewer. You can also make mini chicken salad sandwiches using fat-free creamy ranch dressing instead of mayo for a fun, tasty appetizer.