Friendly gatherings are often associated with scrumptious spreads and dips, many of which may be unfriendly for your hips. So whether you're hosting or attending a casual party or game-day gathering, you'll want to whip up one (or more!) of these better-for-you recipes. One of the benefits of dips and spreads is that they act as an ideal vehicle for getting some healthful foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. There are studies to back this up. For instance, a study among preschoolers published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that offering vegetables with reduced-fat dips containing familiar herbs and spices can increase flavor and ultimately promote the consumption of vegetables. Hey, if it works for kids, why not you? Try it out for yourself with these 10 great-tasting, good-for-you recipes. And make them a day in advance so they're ready to go when the action starts.
1. Wild Buffalo Dip
Buffalo wings seem relatively harmless to health since they're so little -- and they're chicken. But the preparation makes them a health loser because they're breaded, fried and tossed in a rich, buttery sauce. To lighten this dish, start with grilled organic chicken nuggets or grilled chicken skewers, then go "wild" by dunking them into this yogurt-based dip. Or have it with vegetables, such as roasted cauliflower florets or raw celery sticks. The dip includes a little blue cheese, which Buffalo wings are often paired with. Plus, it's finished with hot sauce. Make it as "hot" as you like! CALORIES: 42
2. Fresh Green-Onion Dip
One of most popular party dips is French onion dip. It's the perfect match for potato chips. Unfortunately, "chip dips" that you find at the supermarket are often filled with ingredients that your body doesn't need, such as partially hydrogenated oils, monosodium glutamate and artificial flavors and colors. There's no call for a science experiment; all you need is five real ingredients to make a scrumptious dip fit for chips -- yogurt, olive oil, garlic, salt and scallions. Try it with other dippers like vegetable chips, whole-grain pita chips or red bell pepper strips. This fresh dip is delightful dolloped onto a baked potato or potato skins too. CALORIES: 63
3. BLT White-Bean Bruschetta Spread
If you were to transform the mouthwatering tastes of a BLT sandwich into a spread, this would be the result! The base of this delightful spread is a velvety white-bean hummus, which has a lovely spring-green hue, thanks to fresh baby spinach. It acts as the "lettuce" of the BLT. It makes the spread a significant source of folate, which is important for its potential breast-cancer-preventive role. To create a dippier texture, green tea is the liquid of choice. The recipe is completed with fresh tomato and a just-right amount of crispy bacon that contains no added nitrates or nitrites. The spread pairs perfectly with whole-grain toast or crackers. Serve it bruschetta-style for a stylish flair. CALORIES: 94
4. Roasted California-Grape Guacamole
Grapes are satisfying and tasty on their own as a snack. They're also a nutritiously sweet mix-in to snacks, salads, sandwiches, sides, smoothies and, yes, guacamole. Interestingly, they contain the same heart-healthful compounds found in red wine, including resveratrol, which is found in the skins of grapes of all colors. Here the grapes are roasted for extra depth of flavor. Of course, the avocado in guacamole is notably healthful too, contributing nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. To further jazz up this recipe, coriander provides warm earthiness and nuts add crunch -- both providing lovely balance to the grapes. Dunk into this guacamole with organic blue-corn tortilla chips or warm tortillas. Your palate will be intrigued. CALORIES: 83
5. Dark Milk-Chocolate Fondue
Chocolate comes with some heart-health benefits due to naturally occurring plant nutrients called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. So embrace chocolate -- and keep it on the dark side because, generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the better. Just make sure it isn't accompanied by excessive amounts of added sugar. In this fondue-style dip, a combination of unsweetened cocoa and semisweet chocolate is accompanied by a trio of healthful ingredients, including bananas for natural sweetness and punch of potassium, chickpeas for creaminess and a boost of fiber and low-fat milk for consistency and a kick of calcium. Have fun dipping into it with fresh strawberries or dried fruit like banana chips. CALORIES: 110
6. Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese Ball
One cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet is nuts, including pistachios. They're a great-tasting, fun and convenient everyday healthful snack. A Harvard University study suggests a daily handful of pistachios may have a role in health and longevity. So serve in-shell pistachios for a smart snack often -- and at your next gathering. Incorporate pistachios in recipes like this goat cheese ball too. You'll mix goat cheese with part-skim ricotta to lighten it; then add apple-cider vinegar and black pepper to up the flavor. But the star of the show is the pistachios, which generously coat the ball. It's delicious spread on fruit-nut bread or paired with seedless grapes or pear wedges. CALORIES: 108
7. Grilled Zucchini Baba Ghanoush
Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern eggplant dip, but it's nice to switch things up and make it with other vegetables. Instead of eggplant, this version is prepared with zucchini. To get the dips' distinct smokiness, the zucchini is grilled and a pinch of smoked paprika is incorporated too. One of the other key players in this baba ghanoush is tahini, a sesame seed paste. It's a surprising way to nudge your iron intake up a notch. The final preparation is easy; just pulse ingredients together in a food processor, creating a dip with lots of texture. Scoop up this dip with a whole-grain pita, pita chips or lentil chips -- and enjoy the plant-centered goodness. CALORIES: 58
8. Caribbean Avocado Mousse
Newly published research in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that eating an avocado a day as part of a cholesterol-lowering, moderate-fat diet seems to help improve bad cholesterol levels in people who are overweight and obese. Hello, guacamole! There are many wonderful options beyond guacamole to tempt the palate using avocados too. One dip idea that's incredibly easy is to whirl avocados in a food processor, creating a fluffy savory mousse. Here, the additions of garlic, lime juice, salt and cumin give it Caribbean appeal. Pair it with plantain or sweet potato chips, cherry tomatoes or grilled shrimp or chicken. This healthful recipe doubles as a mouthwatering sandwich spread too. CALORIES: 85
9. Seasonal Fruit Dip
Greek yogurt wasn't invented in the United States, but this recipe was! And it doesn't get much easier than this. All you do is stir together plain Greek yogurt with a little coconut nectar or honey, white balsamic or apple cider vinegar and a pinch each of cinnamon and sea salt. Since it's made with Greek yogurt, it also means you'll get a beneficial boost of high-quality protein and digestion-friendly probiotics simply by eating it. Dip into it with fresh fruit that's seasonal in your area; strawberries, apple wedges and peach slices work well. And it's a refreshing change of taste from the usual vegetables with dip. CALORIES: 42
10. Three-Seed “Everything” Schmear
If you like the taste of an "everything" bagel, then you'll fall in love with this "everything" spread -- or, as some like to say in New York, "schmear." What makes this unique spread better for you than regular cream cheese is the naturally lower-calorie mixture of quark (a fresh European-style cheese) and Neufchatel (a light cream cheese). If you can't find quark, Greek yogurt works fine too. A trio of nutrient-packed seeds -- sesame, hemp and poppy -- mixed with fresh chives, garlic and a generous pinch of sea salt make this spread delectable. Spread it on toasted whole-grain bagels or bagel chips. Or dunk into it with fresh broccoli florets or raw celery stalks. CALORIES: 105
What Do YOU Think?
Are you planning to serve dips at your upcoming gatherings? Why or why not? What's your favorite party dip? Are you looking for healthy options or do you like splurging on dips that are truly decadent? Leave a comment below and let us know.