The high-calorie pastry used to wrap miniature hot dogs for pigs-in-a-blanket, the saturated fats in the cheeses used to make spinach-artichoke dip and the high-fat content in brownie bites are just a few of the reasons why many party foods are unhealthy. Whether you are hosting the party or bringing a dish to a friend’s, providing a delicious, healthy finger food can help everyone eat less sodium, fat and calories at the party.
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Although splurging at a party once in a while will not hurt your overall nutritional status, frequently consuming finger foods with excessive sodium, saturated fats and lots of calories may make it hard for you to keep your weight under control. Most cookies, cheesecake bites, small quesadillas and meatballs generally contain saturated fat, which contributes to heart disease. Party foods such as cheese and crackers, processed meat roll-ups and tomato sauce based dips can be high in sodium, which may make it difficult to stay under the American Heart Association's recommendation of 1,500 mg per day. Two slices of extra-lean sliced ham have 627 mg of sodium, a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce has over 600 mg, and 1 oz. of feta cheese contains 316 mg.
Fruit Finger Foods
Choose a variety of fruits and present them in interesting ways. Create a tray of strawberries and kiwi threaded on decorative toothpicks to provide your guests with vitamin C. Kiwifruit can give you more than twice your daily requirement of vitamin C.
Make mini fruit pizzas by spreading a small amount of fat-free strawberry cream cheese on a thin bread round, and pressing sliced bananas, blueberries and apples on top. Other fruit-based finger foods include kabobs with pineapples, pears and strawberries, watermelon and cantaloupe balls, and mini-applesauce muffins made with unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. Substituting applesauce for 1/4 cup of canola oil saves about 465 calories from the entire recipe.
Vegetable Finger Foods
Naturally low in calories and easy to cut into bite-sized pieces for a party tray, vegetables are a healthy finger food alternative. Rub 1/2 tbsp. healthy olive oil on sliced potatoes and bake them for an alternative to fried potato chips. Make a homemade hummus dip for vegetables with garbanzo beans, olive oil, lemon juice and your choice of seasonings. Garbanzo beans have 10 g of fiber and 286 calories per cup. Hollow out small cherry tomatoes and fill with fat-free cream cheese combined with dill and garlic. Each tablespoon of fat-free cream cheese contains only 15 calories.
Protein-Rich Finger Foods
Meat-based finger foods can be healthy with some planning. Avoid purchasing processed mini-sausages or hot dogs because both contain nitrates, high amounts of sodium and fats. Instead, make low-fat baked chicken wings or baked turkey meatballs with fat-free barbecue sauce for dipping. Combine crab meat with avocado, lemon, fat-free sour cream and fat-free cream cheese and seasonings for a healthy dip to serve with baked tortilla chips. Crab meat contains just 134 calories per cup and avocados have healthy, monounsaturated fats.