Start Smart: Choose the Right Appetizer

Start Smart: Choose the Right Appetizer

Going to a restaurant can be costly to your wallet and your waistline if you aren’t careful with what you order and decide to put into your mouth.  The colorful and glossy photos of appetizers like gooey cheese sticks, tasty hot wings and fried onion rings are tempting before your meal comes, but making smart choices is important to the health of your heart and your weight loss goals.  Read these facts about some of the most popular appetizers:

Onion Blossoms– Watch your hips blossom and expand while you eat this appetizer.  Anything that is fried is taking on the calories and fat content of whatever type of oil it is fried in.  Typically this appetizer contains over 1500 calories, 80 grams of fat and over 5000 mg of sodium!  Onion blossoms are one of the worst appetizers if you are watching your diet.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Just because this appetizer has the word ‘spinach’ in it doesn’t mean it counts as a vegetable serving.  This appetizer could count as a full meal or more since it contains 1200 calories and 75 grams of fat.  Skip the ‘dip’ part of this appetizer and opt for a spinach salad instead.    A salad made with spinach or other leafy greens can be quite filling and research shows that you will eat 10% less during a meal when you start with a salad.  Top it off with a tablespoon of vinaigrette dressing for a total of about 150 calories.

Vegetable Kabobs If they are not on the menu, you can ask for them!  Yummy grilled onions, red and green peppers, zucchini and mushrooms make great kabobs and they are super easy to make which means most restaurants can whip them right up.  One kabob has only about 50 calories.

Cheese Fries Eat these only if this will be the only thing you plan to eat that day.  Cheese fries have more calories than the main entrée, packing in up to 2100 calories!  Some restaurants even offer them up with bacon bits sprinkled on top, adding even more calories to this ‘appetizer’.  Suggestion: Skip them altogether or share them with a friend.

Shrimp Cocktail is very low in saturated fat and calories. To keep the calorie count low, stick to tomato-based sauce.   A 1-cup serving of shrimp cocktail contains around 183 calories. Within that serving, 100 calories come from protein, while 65 calories are provided by carbohydrates. Fats make up just 18 calories. While shrimp cocktail is a good source of calories from protein, it is very high in cholesterol, with 285 mg per serving or approximately 95 percent of the daily recommended intake. The American Heart Association suggests keeping your daily amount of dietary cholesterol under 300 mg to help reduce the risk of heart disease.  Balance this with a meal low in cholesterol to stay under the recommended daily allowance of cholesterol.

Make wise choices when ordering your next appetizer based on these tips.  If the menu doesn’t have something that you want, ask for it anyway!  They may be able to whip it up for you if it is simple enough to make.  Of course appetizers made with veggies are the most nutritious choice but if you want to splurge, split it with someone or get a half order.

Thanks for reading!  Have a healthy week

Contributors: Kim Farmer and Andrea Williams of Mile High Fitness.  Visit w where you can sign up for bi-weekly health and fitness newsletters. Mile High Fitness offers in-home personal training and corporate fitness solutions.  Email

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