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Appetizers: Appealing or appalling?

Heidi McIndoo
Environmental Nutrition

It’s always nice to start a dinner party with a pre-meal appetizer. But preparing those trays of bite-size starters can take time. Food companies have made the job easy by providing an array of frozen and refrigerated appetizers, such as chicken wings, mushroom bites, egg rolls and more. Such store-bought appetizers can be a great time saver — just heat and serve. Plus, these appetizers can go beyond parties to make fun snacks. But how do these packaged starters rate nutritionally?

Unfortunately, many prepared appetizers are high in fat and sodium because they are fried, filled with cheese or wrapped in pastry. In fact, some contain more than half a day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat in a single serving. However, you don’t have to give up on these tasty munchies altogether, as long as you make careful choices.

Before you start nibbling, check out our best tips below:

Watch your servings. Keep in mind these products are meant to be appetizers or snacks, therefore the portion sizes are small. If you’re not careful, you could easily take in two or three (or more) servings at one sitting, which can net you up to 750 calories, depending on the type of appetizer.

Cut the grease. Try to skip high-fat appetizers, such as deep-fried fare. If you do choose these, place the appetizers on a paper towel-lined plate after removing from the oven. This will help absorb some of the fat.

Go veggie. While not always the case, often the meatless options are lower in calories, fat and sodium than those containing meat. If you prefer those with meat, check the Nutrition Facts label to find those lowest in calories, fat and sodium.

Balance the choices. Many of these appetizers can be delicious additions to a party, but too many can be a fat and sodium overload for guests. Consider alternative easy offerings: fresh vegetables and hummus, edamame or fresh fruit.