Are you an appetizer person or do you go straight to the main course? Sharing an appetizer with a few friends is a fun way to begin a night out but unfortunately these small plate foods tend to be fried, heavily sauced, breaded or otherwise made extremely tasty yet terribly unhealthy. Clearly someone is ordering these appetizers because menus are still filled with them but what should you know before you place your order?
Web MD recently put out a list of the top 10 worst appetizers. It’s worth a look for both appetizer partakers and appetizer boycotters. The occasional splurge can be fun but regularly eating these foods can have consequences for your health (and waistline). Let’s review the list and the appetizers you should pass on when you go out.
The Most Unhealthy Appetizers You Should Avoid
Keep in mind some basic daily nutritional recommendations as you read this list.
- The recommended daily caloric intake for the average adult female is around 2,000 calories and the average adult male approximately 2,500 calories.
- The FDA’s sodium recommendations state that adults should have less than 2,300 mg of salt per day – about a teaspoon’s worth.
While most of the numbers below don’t exceed these recommendations, remember we’re looking at a small plate that is designed to accompany a full dinner course. It also doesn’t take into account the calories or sodium you had at breakfast or lunch.
1. Awesome Blossom Fried Onions
Calories: 1,949. Sodium 4,100 mg.
It’s just a crispy vegetable, right? Unfortunately, breading and deep frying corrupt the most benign foods. Keep your onions roasted or sauteed in olive oil.
2. Spinach Dip
Calories: 1,600. Sodium: 2500mg of sodium.
Dips can vary based on the ingredients and how they’re made but they tend to run rich. And that’s without the pita bread or chips.
3. Cheese fries
Calories: 2,000. Sodium: 2800mg.
Fries are dangerous enough, adding cheese just adds fuel to the defibrillator.
4. Cheeseburger sliders
Calories: 1,270. Sodium: 2,310mg.
Don’t be fooled, three mini burgers aren’t an appetizer, they’re a meal that will slide to your midriff if you aren’t careful.
5. Loaded potato skins
Calories: 1,340. Sodium: 1,850mg.
They may have fiber but one order packs a lot else. The good news is that one potato skin has about 150 calories so, share generously.
6. Fried calamari
Calories: 900. Sodium: 2,300mg.
Not all seafood is created equal. Skip the fancy fish sticks and go straight to the grilled salmon.
7. Clam chowder
Calories: 630. Sodium: 890 mg.
A 12 ounce serving isn’t as detrimental as other foods on the list but the cream base will do your body no favors.
8. Buffalo wings with a Ranch dip
Calories: 900. Sodium: 2,000mg.
Chicken is a wonderful source of lean protein but when you fry it and slather it in dressing, not so much.
9. Mozzarella sticks
Calories: 930. Sodium: 2,640mg.
Stats are without any dipping sauce. Proceed with caution.
Calories: 1,680. Sodium: 4,270mg
Stats are for an entire order so, sharing a few chips won’t kill you but consider that most times the cheese comes from a can or is severely processed to achieve the desired meltiness.
Low Fat Appetizers?
You’ll notice we left out the fat content for each of these dishes. You can guess that most of the calories in these appetizers come from fat, 50-75% on average. But, in an effort to stop the fear of fat, we want to encourage you to focus on the source of fat should you choose to order an appetizer.
For example, the caprese salad at Macaroni Grill contains 480 calories, 740mg sodium and 40 grams of fat. Not great numbers for an appetizer when you have a full meal ahead but the majority of those calories come from olive oil (a preferred fat source) and mozzarella cheese (one of the better cheese options). Your body will process the 40 grams of fat from the caprese salad a lot better than the 161 grams of fat from the breaded and fried blooming onion.
Why Choose a Healthy Appetizer
If your family is an appetizer family, try ordering from our list of better options. You can still enjoy a delicious pre meal treat, we just recommend that you make smart appetizer choices so you don’t:
- Consume an extravagant amount of calories
- Get full even before your meal comes
- Load up on unhealthy fat sources frequently
- Eat foods that typically have sugar snuck in somewhere
- Get your days worth of sodium in 15 bites
10 Healthy Appetizers for Your Family
Eating healthy appetizers doesn’t have to take the fun out of dining out and good chefs don’t need to bury their food in a lot of oil, salt and sugar to create a satisfying experience. Next time you go out, start with one of these healthy appetizer alternatives:
- Side vegetables or chef’s choice of vegetables. Simply ask the kitchen. Most establishments can easily provide a side of tasty veggies.
- Side salad or garden salad. Even if you are not a lettuce eater, many restaurants offer different types of salads that don’t have lettuce as the main ingredient.
- Crab cakes or salmon cakes. Can be good options if made with quality, whole food ingredients.
- Shrimp cocktails. A great option as long as they aren’t breaded and you don’t go crazy with the cocktail sauce.
- Broth or tomato based soup with vegetables. Soups are often made fresh and showcase the chef’s talents.
- One lettuce wrap with ¼-1/2 cup filling. Share a plate.
- Edamame. Simple. Versatile. Tasty. Healthy!
- 1-2 rolls of sushi. Another perfect item to share with the group.
- Stuffed mushrooms. A good option depending on what they are stuffed with.
- One small veggie spring roll with minimal dipping sauce. Get your veggies without the added sugar.
Got Nutrition Questions?
Eating healthy starts with good choices. Choosing healthy appetizers is a small piece of a bigger personal health picture. If you’d like to consult with a nutritionist about your diet, our team would love to meet you. We offer safe, medically based nutrition counseling along with a variety of other treatments. Fill in the form below to get started.