With more time spent at home as we navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic, we're all missing our old traditions, like catching up with friends over happy hour drinks or watching your team fight for the win with the other regulars.
And, of course, ordering your favorite bar food that always hits the spot.
But you can recreate many of those go-to orders with a healthy spin from the comfort of your own kitchen. Try one of these seven delicious and a-little-bit-healthier recipes — from nachos to sliders — before you log on to your next Zoom happy hour.
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1. Sweet Potato Nachos
This recipe swaps processed tortilla chips for sweet potatoes. Without the chips, you'll cut back on fat and gain a whole host of benefits, including immunity-supporting vitamin C and gut-healthy prebiotic fiber, says Kellie Gragg, MPH, RDN, a dietitian with Strata Integrated Wellness Spa.
If you're dairy-free or you want to remove all saturated fat from this recipe, Gragg suggests leaving out the cheddar cheese or swapping it for a plant-based option, like cashew cheese. "This is a smart swap considering saturated fat is a contributor to elevated LDL cholesterol," she says.
If you don't have fresh tomato, onion or jalapeño, you can skip a trip to the grocery store and use a half-jar of salsa instead, says registered dietitian Maria Sorbara Mora, RD. Salsa is typically made with many of those same ingredients — just double-check for added sugar!
Get the Sweet Potato Nachos recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Spinach and Kale Yogurt Dip
Spinach and kale aren't just trendy — they're nutrient-dense, too. When using these green warriors in your bar-reminiscent dip, you add beneficial compounds, such as lutein, chlorophyll, myrosinase, glucosinolates, flavonols and lignans, Gragg notes.
If you don't have these leafy greens on hand, registered dietitian Ashley Shaw, RD, says you can substitute any other similar veggie you have on hand, like chard, collards, cabbage, turnip greens or arugula. While they have slightly different tastes, Shaw says they will hold up to the dip-like texture.
And if you don't have low-fat yogurt or light mayo, don't sweat it: Shaw says even the full-fat options will leave you with a final product lower in fat and calories than the dip you order at a bar.
"If you don't have the vegetable soup mix, you can add in your favorite dehydrated herbs, garlic and onion powder, and a little parmesan cheese," she adds.
Get the Spinach and Kale Dip recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Grilled Portobella Sliders
Even meat-eaters will love these satisfying veggie sliders. Made with portabella mushrooms, this recipe offers the same texture and fill you up just as much as beef or turkey sliders.
"Mushrooms contain gut-healthy fiber, B vitamins and a powerful antioxidant called selenium, which helps to support the immune system and prevent damage to cells and tissues," Gragg says. "They also contain phytonutrients that can help prevent cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque build-up," which offers protection against heart disease and high blood pressure.
It's hard timing the ripeness of an avocado, so if you don't have this green goody on hand, Gragg suggests getting creative with other ingredients including sauteed red pepper with onion for a delicious flavor. Or, you can try arugula that's low in calories but big in taste. Another option is red pepper hummus (or really, any hummus) to add a creamy texture.
Get the Grilled Portobella Slider recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Brussel Sprouts Tater Tots
What most people enjoy about tater tots is the crunch. However, that coveted texture is usually achieved by deep-frying potatoes in loads of oil.
Instead, this healthier recipe bakes the potatoes in the oven and adds some nutritious Brussels sprouts, too.
Potatoes are an excellent prebiotic food, and when you mix 'em together with shredded Brussels sprouts, you add vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and fiber, Gragg says. Plus, swapping some of the potatoes for the green veggie helps lower the calorie count per bite.
If you have an air fryer at home, Melissa Nieves, RD suggests using it rather than an oven. This cooking method will add more of a fulfilling bite and takes less time to prepare. If you don't have fresh Brussels sprouts, Nieves says frozen is just fine. And for those who try to avoid dairy or follow a vegan diet, cashew cheese works well with this recipe, too.
Get the Brussel Sprouts Tater Tots recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Turnip Rosemary Fries
While your pals may disagree on plenty of appetizer choices, nearly everyone can get behind a basket of hot fries.
"Although they may be considered a vegetable to some, a serving of traditional french fries has almost 20 grams of fat and 400 calories," Shaw says. And let's be real: Most of the time, fries are paired with another high-calorie food, like a burger, or dipped in cheese or mayonnaise and ketchup.
Instead, try this delicious turnip recipe, which has about 20 percent of the fat and 25 percent of the carbohydrates of traditional fries, all while boasting a larger serving size, Shaw says.
While many people don't think much of the herbs used to season their foods, Shaw reminds us that these little plants are packed with antioxidants. "By using fresh herbs, you do not need to rely so heavily on salt for flavoring your food. Rosemary, in particular, contains some iron, calcium and vitamin B6," she raves.
If you don't have rosemary on hand, try using fresh sage, oregano or thyme. And if you can't get your hands on fresh, dry herbs work as well. No turnips? "Rutabagas would be a good alternative to turnips in this recipe, as they are lower in carbohydrates than white potatoes and won't get mushy when baking," she adds.
Get the Turnip Rosemary Fries recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Wild Buffalo Dip
A typical buffalo dip at a bar contains a whole eight-ounce package of cream cheese, Shaw says. That's about 80 grams of fat before any additional cheese is mixed in.
This recipe uses Greek yogurt in place of cream cheese, cutting down on the calories and fat instantly.
"You may not think of buffalo dip as a healthy option, but this recipe is low in fat and calories so that you can enjoy it as part of a balanced meal," Shaw shares. "Spicy foods also help increase your metabolism, fight inflammation and help you feel fuller and more satisfied with smaller portions."
You can even swap out the mayo for equal amounts of low-fat cream cheese if you have it on hand. Also, consider adding veggies such as cauliflower carrots for more fiber as well as shredded or canned chicken to boost the protein.
Get the Wild Buffalo Dip recipe and nutrition info here.
7. BLT White Bean Bruschetta Spread
Usually served on thick slices of bread, bruschetta feels like a semi-healthy snack since it has tomatoes and onions. But with very little protein and being heavy on the carbs, you'll probably be hungry soon after.
That's why this spin on an Italian classic is a good choice. This recipe takes it up a notch with filling white bean spread that's higher in fiber. Plus, it includes household-fave bacon, providing a salty, savory flavor in every bite.
You can spread this on bread if you'd like, but it could also be equally satisfying on sliced cucumber, green pepper or other veggies.
"If you don't have white beans, you can swap chickpeas for white beans. It still has all the fiber and nutrients of beans and will taste delicious with the rest of the ingredients," Mora suggests.
Get the BLT White Bean Bruschetta Spread recipe and nutrition info here.
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