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It’s game time. A super party is not complete without an assortment of dips. Spinach artichoke, buffalo chicken, bean dip, fruit dip and more are must-haves when feeding a hungry crowd. But a dip can quickly become a downer when it packs on the pounds. Lightened-up dips, low-calorie dips and portion-controlled dips are the way to win the game.

A dip is a thick sauce in which finger foods are dunked before consuming. Salsa is a natural low-calorie dip, made simple with tomatoes, peppers and spices. About one-third cup salsa will yield only 36 calories and zero grams of fat. Creamy vegetable and chip dips can be made low-calorie when using non-fat or low-fat plain yogurt. Plus, you get the added bonus of gut-healthy probiotics.

Hummus and other bean dips can be good sources of protein. Seven-layered bean dip, however, can also load up on bad fats, with the addition of sour cream and cream cheese. Opt for the bean dip recipe below for a lighter version. Hummus, traditionally made with chickpeas, can also be a source of good fats. Olive oil and tahini (ground sesame seeds) provide unsaturated fats that may help lower blood cholesterol. Similarly, guacamole, mashed avocados with a salsa flare, is also a source of good fats.

When it comes to all dips, portion control matters. Think of a ping-pong ball when adding dip to your plate, and aim for that sized amount. In addition, don’t forget about the vessel. Raw veggies or fruits are the best, cocktail shrimp are also a star, and whole-wheat crackers or bread are not so bad either. Just one rule: no double dipping!

Layered Bean Dip

1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup taco sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese

Optional: shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced green onions

Using a potato masher or fork, mash beans in a medium bowl. Add taco sauce and chili powder; mix well. Spread bean mixture evenly in a pie plate, and sprinkle shredded cheese over the beans. Top with lettuce, tomatoes and green onions, if desired. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or raw vegetables.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition facts (per serving): 130 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 280 milligrams sodium, 13 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 9 grams protein

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.

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