Lighten Your Favorite Holiday Appetizers

With 10 tips from our "Recipe Doctor -- and some bonus recipes!

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

'Tis the season to go to a lot of parties! You will hear no complaints from me. I love to go to parties and do a little singing, dancing, and chatting -- tasting all of those festive appetizers doesn't hurt either. Or does it? The bad news is that many of our favorite appetizer recipes call for high-fat and high-calorie ingredients. The good news: in most cases we can make some simple ingredient substitutions and trim these recipes down to a healthier level of fat and calories with nary a notice.

10 Easy Ways to Lighten Your Favorite Holiday Appetizers

1. Use light cream cheese in your holiday recipes instead of regular cream cheese and you'll save around 296 calories and 44 grams of fat per 8-ounce block.

2. Use fat-free sour cream in your holiday recipes instead of regular sour cream and you'll shave off around 474 calories and 95 grams of fat per 16-ounce container. I really like the Naturally Yours brand in the black and white cowhide container.

3. Choose reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese (or other reduced-fat cheeses) in your holiday recipes instead of regular cheese and you'll save around 279 calories and 36 grams of fat per 8-ounce package of shredded cheese (2 cups).

4. Use half real eggs and 1/2 cup egg substitute in your holiday egg recipes instead of all eggs and you'll cut around 90 calories and 10 grams of fat and 500 milligrams cholesterol for every 4 eggs normally called for.

5. Use light turkey sausage or turkey bacon such as Louis Rich (and use half as much when possible) in your holiday recipes instead of regular sausage in the regular amounts and you'll trim around 347 calories, 42 grams of fat per 12-ounce package of sausage (9 ounces cooked).

6. Use light mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise in your holiday recipes. But you can shave even more calories and fat by blending 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise with 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream for every 1 cup of mayonnaise called for. You'll then cut around 1058 calories and 136 grams of fat for every 1 cup of regular mayonnaise called for.

7. Use roasted skinless chicken breast for appetizer recipes calling for skin-on chicken thigh and save around 70 calories and 10 grams of fat per 3 ounces.

8. Add fat-free half-and-half for appetizer recipes calling for liquid cream and you'll save around 40 calories and 7 grams of fat per 1/4-cup serving.

9. Oven fry or pan-fry your holiday appetizer in a minimum of oil instead of deep frying and you'll cut around 80 calories and 9 grams of fat if you use 2 teaspoons less oil per serving.

10. Choose whole grain and lower-fat bread and cracker products to accompany your holiday appetizers to increase the fiber and take down the fat. Using reduced-fat Triscuits, for example, instead of regular, will cut around 30 calories and 3 grams of fat per seven-cracker serving.

Here are a few appetizer recipes that are lighter because we made some sensible substitutions.

Spicy Oven Cheese Fondue (in bread bowl)

This cheese fondue has a nice bite to it. I love that the bread becomes the bowl to bake and serve the fondue in. Here's a little secret too -- the best part is eating the bread bowl, which has been cut into wedges after the fondue is mostly gone!

1 (1 pound) loaf of round sourdough or French bread
8-ounce package shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2/3 cup light cream cheese
1 1/2 cups fat free sour cream
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 ounces canned diced green chile peppers
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make a bowl from the round loaf of bread by cutting a circle in the top of the bread. Remove the top by working with your hands to get at the bottom to create a bowl shape (hollow out the loaf) but reserve the bread for dipping later.
  • In mixing bowl, beat the cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream, green onions and chile peppers and Worcestershire sauce together on low speed. Spoon the mixture into the bread bowl and cover the filled bread bowl with a sheet of foil. While baking, place bread bowl on a cookie sheet, bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly (about 1 hour).
  • Serve with the bread top all cut up into bite-size chunks.

Makes 16 appetizer servings.

Nutritional Analysis: 168 calories, 9 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat (2.9 grams saturated fat, 1 gram monounsaturated fat, .3 grams polyunsaturated fat), 12 milligrams cholesterol, 1.1 grams fiber, 324 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 27%.

Light 7-Layer Dip

Everyone loves this fun party dip, even kids! Keep it light by serving it with reduced-fat tortilla chips (homemade or store-bought) or reduced-fat crackers. Include 1/2 cup store-bought guacamole or make homemade by blending the following together in a small food processor:


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