Hot artichoke dip
This gooey, rich concoction is meant to be scooped up with crackers, but who hasn't been tempted to just dig in with a spoon? Don't do that, okay? Because this dip's pretty potent (sample recipe from www.hellmanns.us ): 100 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat and 200 milligrams of sodium per 2-tablespoon serving. Sure, the artichokes add hardly any calories and even a bit of fiber, though a serving of dip only provides a single gram thereof.
Cook smart: Lower the calories and fat by using light mayonnaise. Drain and rinse the oil-packed artichokes to shave a bit of fat, calories and salt.
Eat smart: Instead of that spoon, dip with sturdy, cut-up vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. Or try Triscuits: Six crackers have 120 calories, and with whole wheat as the first ingredient, they provide 3 grams of fiber. The new triangular Triscuit Thin Crisps are smaller, so you can eat more of them: Fifteen crackers have 130 calories.
Seven-layer Mexican dip
For just 39 calories and 111 mg of sodium per 2-tablespoon serving, you get, well, seven flavors (sample recipe from www.mccormick.com). The refried beans add fiber (1 gram per serving), the guacamole and olives supply heart-healthy fats, and the lettuce and tomato add some bulk but very few calories. You could load your tortilla chip with just those better-for-you layers, but that would be kind of rude.
Cook smart: Use reduced-fat cheese, sour cream and refried beans. Nobody will notice the difference. Use a reduced-sodium taco seasoning, or better yet, skip the seasoning altogether. Honestly, I've never used it, and my dip always gets eaten up. Finally, it takes only a few minutes to make your own guacamole, which gives you more control over the salt.
Eat smart: Veggies work well as a scoop with this dip, too, but tortilla chips are traditional. Tostitos, for instance, are made with corn - a bona fide whole grain - and provide 2 grams of fiber per serving. You can have 24 of the round "bite-size" variety or seven of the full-size triangles for 140 calories.
BUILDING A BETTER CHILI
Chili is a reliable crowd-pleaser, but its calories and fat can be out of bounds. Here's what to put in the pot to keep it relatively healthful without losing points for taste:
Onions: Diced onions sauteed in olive oil provide a dose of Vitamin C, folate, fiber and heart-healthy fat.
Black beans: The darker the beans, the more antioxidants. Make sure there are more beans than meat in your mix for maximum fiber. To keep sodium low, drain and rinse canned beans or start by simmering dry beans.
Canned diced tomatoes: Choose reduced-sodium varieties, and compensate by adding lots of chili powder and cumin, both of which are full of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Tomatoes provide fiber and vitamins A and C.