Greek-yogurt-based dips vs. hummus
Using Greek yogurt in lieu of mayonnaise and cream cheese may lighten the calorie load, but these dips often contain cheese, which means saturated fats and cholesterol in every scoop. "Hummus is lower in calories and higher in polyunsaturated fats, which can help fight inflammation and heart disease," says Limor Baum, a nutrition therapist and registered dietitian.
Cheese balls vs. baked brie
"Serving size is the key here," says Baum, since both baked brie and cheese balls are made with high-fat cheeses that contain loads of artery-clogging saturated fats. So she suggests giving yourself a one-ounce limit, which is approximately the size of four dice and should only cost you about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat.
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Pigs in a blanket vs. meatballs
To satisfy your red-meat hankering, choose a meatball over the Super Bowl staple. "A mini hotdog contains more fats, additives, and preservatives, such as sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite, than a homemade meatball," says Baum. Plus, skipping the pastry-dough "blanket" means bypassing bad-for-you refined carbs.
Oyster casino vs. shrimp cocktail
Skip the butter and bacon in oysters casino and stick with the shrimp, says Karen Ansel M.S., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, since they've only got about five calories apiece. (Yes, you read that right!) But keep in mind that store-bought cocktail sauce often contains loads of added sugars, warns registered dietitian and Mom Dishes It Out blogger Laura Cipullo.
Champagne vs. party punch
"Punch is the liquid equivalent of mystery meat," says Ansel. "You don't know what's in it, and though it may look innocent enough, it could be packed with sugary ingredients, such as sherbet, 7UP, or ginger ale." Sip champagne instead, a five-ounce flute of which, like wine, has only about 120 calories.
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Wheat-based crackers vs. gluten-free chips
Don't be fooled-gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean healthier. Ansel breaks it down: "Often when manufacturers remove gluten from their foods, taste and texture are lost, too. To make up for this, they add more salt, sugar, and fat, so items end up higher in calories and less healthy overall."
Salmon mousse vs. crab dip
With more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, crab dip wins this showdown. However, if the dips are store-bought, avoid both since they are probably filled with fillers (not fish!), advises Cipullo. "Homemade crab dips are generally high in protein and very low in added sugars. Traditional salmon mousse recipes can be good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy fats."
Flatbread vs. sweet potato skins
Sweet potato skins are great sources of fiber, potassium, iron, and beta-carotene, but this decision all comes down to the toppings. "If the skins are laden with bacon and cheddar cheese, you would be better off with a flatbread topped with heart-healthy olive oil, olives, and tomatoes," says Cipullo.
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Bacon-wrapped scallop vs. crab cake
Ansel recommends indulging in a bacon-wrapped scallop (or two!) and avoiding fried crab cakes, which can pack nearly three times as many calories and fat. "Even though it's decadent, a bacon-wrapped scallop typically only has about 50 calories," she says. "Just be sure to keep your portion to one or two servings," adds Cipullo.
Stuffed mushrooms vs. deviled eggs
If the mushrooms are stuffed with barley, quinoa, or another whole grain, choose this potassium- and vitamin D-packed seasonal vegetable. "But avoid mushrooms that look greasy or cheesy and opt for the eggs, each of which has seven grams of protein," says Cipullo. If you're in charge of prep, Ansel recommends mashing the yolk with nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to cut fat and calories.
Nuts vs. dried fruit
"Nuts are an amazing source of unsaturated fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants, and they can help you maintain a healthy weight," says Baum. Just limit yourself to one and a half ounces per day to get the health benefits without jeopardizing your waistline. To keep the calorie count under control, Ansel suggests choosing nuts that come in the shell, such as pistachios. "You'll have to work harder to eat them, so you won't polish off as many."
Magic bar vs. lemon square
Depending on the serving size and the recipe used, these dessert items generally clock in at the same (high) calorie count. "But most magic bar recipes call for sweetened condensed milk, which increases the fat content to 15 grams and the saturated fat to six and a half grams," says Cipullo. That's enough reason to go for a lemon square, which tends to be made with fewer ingredients than a magic bar; the graham crackers, candy, and nuts in the latter make it difficult to decipher the nutrition content and make an informed choice.
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