I have an untested theory. I think when dining out, people are either appetizer people or not appetizer people. The 10 worst appetizers are still around because we still order them right? When a family goes out to eat, some families always order an appetizer to share. But some families go straight for the entrée. Possibly there is a side salad/soup or the special occasion appetizer, but they do not habitually order appetizers.
When you go out with friends, do the same people look at the menu and say expectantly to the group, “what should we start with?” Do you have friends with a trained eye to skip the starters section of the menu altogether?
Which are you, really? Appetizer person or no appetizer person? Do you think this theory is accurate or is there more of a middle ground I’m missing?
Either way, appetizers are tricky. It helps if you are sharing an appetizer with a few other people but unfortunately these small plate foods tend to be fried, heavily sauced, breaded or otherwise made extremely tasty yet unhealthy.
Web MD recently put out a list of the top 10 worst appetizers according to their rankings. It’s worth a look for both appetizer partakers and appetizer boycotters.
- Awesome Blossom Fried Onions average 1,949 calories with 4,100mg of sodium.
- Spinach Dip is tricky because it can vary based on the ingredients and how it is made but typical restaurant spinach dip runs 1,600 calories and 2500mg of sodium. That’s without the pita bread or chips you dip.
- That little basket of cheese fries top in at 2,000 calories and 2800mg of sodium.
- Cheeseburger sliders slide in with 1,270 calories for 3 mini burgers and 2,310mg of sodium.
- Loaded potato skins have fiber right?! True, but one order has 1,340 calories and 1,850mg of sodium. Good news is that one potato skin has about 150 calories if you are sharing with the table.
- One order of fried calamari contains 900 calories and 2,300mg of sodium.
- The cream base of a clam chowder contributes to 630 calories in a 12 ounce serving with 890mg of sodium.
- Buffalo wings with a Ranch dip average 900 calories and 2,000mg of sodium.
- Mozzarella sticks without any dipping sauce have 930 calories with 2,640mg of sodium.
- An entire order of nachos contains 1,680 calories and a whopping 4,270mg of sodium. And then consider that most times the cheese comes from a can or is severely processed to melt like that.
You’ll notice I left out the fat content for each of these. 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, I 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 still ahead. But the majority of those calories are coming 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.
Here is a list of better appetizer options if your family is an appetizer family. Nothing wrong with that; I just recommend that you make smart appetizer choices often 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
Better Appetizer Ideas:
- Ask for an order of side vegetables or the chef’s choice of vegetables.
- Side salad or garden salad. I know, I know. 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 cocktail is great as long as you don’t go crazy with the cocktail sauce. (And no breaded shrimp please)
- Broth or tomato based soup with vegetables.
- 1 lettuce wrap with ¼-1/2 cup filling
- 1-2 rolls of sushi is a good starter
- Stuffed mushrooms can be a good option depending on what they are stuffed with
- 1 small veggie spring roll with minimal dipping sauce can work
- Another really great option is to order a side of vegetables as an appetizer before the main entrees arrive
What are your go to appetizer options? Share your tips on our Facebook Page.