Whet your guests' appetites with tempting appetizers that won't leave them too full for the main course. When appetizers are small, it's easy to overindulge and break the fat and calorie bank, but fat-free appetizers deliver high scores on flavor without the unnecessary and unhealthy excess fat. Whether you revamp your favorite recipes or try something new, nonfat appetizers will be a hit for your next gathering.
Dips and Spreads
Sour cream, cream cheese and shredded cheese raise the fat content of spreadable appetizers, but simple fat-free swaps eliminate fat without eliminating flavor. Fat-free dry soup or salad dressing mixes combined with creamy fat-free Greek yogurt create palate-pleasing dips for vegetable sticks. Vegetable spreads like baba ganoush or spinach dip often contain hidden calories in ingredients such as olive oil or cream cheese, but opting instead for fat-free chicken broth, fat-free creamy dressing, fat-free cream cheese or even cottage cheese ditches the unnecessary fat. To make your own fat-free hummus, omit the olive oil and tahini from the recipe, substitute a bit of fat-free mayonnaise or ranch dressing for creaminess and add flavor with lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts.
Fun with Vegetables
A vegetable platter is a simple fix for a fat-free appetizer, but clever arrangements and fat-free adornments elevate what is an otherwise simple starter. If you're in a time pinch, create your platter in order of colors for an eye-catching display and surround the tray with small ramekins of prepared fat-free creamy salad dressings for dipping. If you prefer a more elegant display, use a wide peeler or mandolin slicer to cut thin ribbons from cucumbers, squash or zucchini. A thin layer of fat-free cream cheese seasoned with garlic salt, curry powder or ranch seasoning mix along each ribbon provides ample flavor, and the delicate slices can be arranged in curled spirals and secured with toothpicks for a quick, elegant treat.
Fat-free appetizers don't have to forgo filling proteins. Shrimp contain negligible amounts of fat, less than half a gram in four large shrimp. Serve up a classic shrimp cocktail with fat-free cocktail sauce in martini glasses with shrimp dressed around the edges. Or serve a less traditional, but no less delicious, non-fat creamy dressing with the shrimp. For a hot appetizer, toss the shrimp on the grill with a splash of citrus juice like lemon, orange or even pureed mango. Crab meat is equally low in fat and suitable for fat-free seafood salads -- opt for fat-free mayonnaise or creamy dressing and dried spices and seasonings to keep fat out. If you want absolutely no fat at all, purchase fat-free imitation crab meat instead of the real deal.
It's traditional to save sweet treats for after dinner, but nonfat appetizers with a hint of sweetness are also light options to kick off a meal. Fruit is refreshing and light -- chop up your favorite melons and slip them onto wooden skewers. Serve them with a drizzle of fat-free vanilla yogurt or offer fat-free vanilla pudding for dipping. Fat-free and even sugar-free fruit-flavored gelatin makes quick single-serve appetizers. Distribute the liquid in a silicone ice cube tray or mini muffin tin and drop small bits of peaches or whole berries into each compartment. Keep the jiggly appetizers elegant by serving them on individual spoons for easy serving.