Don’t you love to hate a good snack or appetizer tray? I know I’ve struggled with how to handle a couple hours of heavy, buffet-style snacking, immediately followed by a mouth-watering celebration meal. You show up already hungry, and the snacks spread out before you like the poppy field in the Wizard of Oz. What to do?
Three Approaches to Appetizers & Snacks
Delectable bites of sweet or salty goodness are a hit with our taste buds and, like a can of Pringles, once you “pop” (on into your mouth), you can’t stop. Or, it’s really hard to stop!
There are three ways to handle the “Snackmeal” before the actual meal:
- Cold Turkey. No snacks or appetizers whatsoever before the meal. Effective, but no fun at all and a lot restrictive. 👎
- All In! This is the “Whatever, it’s Christmas/my birthday/other & I’m going to eat like there’s no tomorrow!” attitude. This approach usually ends in indigestion and some form of self-loathing. For some people, it’s worth it. 🥴
- Selective Snacker. The SS believes that appetizers and snacks are “before meal” foods. She chooses whole food appetizers that are delicious, curb hunger, and yet leave some appetite for the main meal. 👍 This is the approach that works the best for me.
Snacking Like a Boss
What does it mean to be a “selective snacker”?
If you’re making your own snack tray or showing up at a party with a dozen of them, this is what works for me: choose nutrient-dense, whole food options. Below are eight finger food ideas that are tasty, stave off hunger, and won’t “ruin your dinner” 😜
If you’re looking for more tips on how to avoid uncomfortable overeating at parties here’s a post on just that.
8 Delicious & Smart Appetizer Options
1. Fresh Vegetables & Fruits (GF, DF, V)
You know why. Light on calories, high on fiber and nutrients. You can eat them for hours and still be hungry at dinner.
Fresh vegetable sticks, slices, or leaves are awesome dippers and carriers! Some examples:
- Cucumber slices instead of crackers
- Carrot, celery, and pepper sticks instead of pretzels
- Endive leaves instead of chips.
2. Nuts & Seeds (GF, DF, V)
Crunchy, salty and satisfying – nuts and seeds have ample amount of fat and some protein to dull hunger pangs. Keep in mind that nuts and seeds are calorie-heavy, so go easy.
3. Whole Food Dips (GF, DF, V)
Think hummus, salsa, tapenade, guacamole. Whole food dips pair well with the somewhat uninspired fresh vegetables mentioned above. Even the store-bought versions of these mouth-watering dips are made mostly of basic ingredients all ground up together.
- Broccoli florets or cucumber slices with hummus,
- Red, yellow, or green bell pepper sticks with guacamole
- Jicama with salsa
- Tapenade with endive leaves
Pro tip: I have two unique hummus recipes that are also festive and better than regular ol’ hummus. Everytime I make either of these, I get requests for the recipes (not my own).
- Green Pea Hummus. It’s appropriately green and a bit sweeter than traditional hummus.
- Pumpkin Hummus. This recipe is smooth and creamy, thanks to cashew nuts. No, I can never get enough pumpkin.
4. Cheese (GF) &/or Olives (GF, DF, V)
These are favorites of the low-carb crowd.
Like nuts, cheese and olives are high in fat, which satisfies hunger and makes you feel full.
If you can tolerate dairy, cheese also packs a lot of protein – around 6 grams per ounce (about the size of a typical slice of cheese).
Also like nuts, cheese and olives have a lot of calories, so enjoy these tasty morsels in moderation if you want hope to save room for dinner.
5. Pickled Veggies (GF, DF, V)
Pickled onions, peppers, and pickles are the outcasts of the snack tray, often the lonely remnants after all the other foods have been chosen & eaten. Which means you won’t have to throw any elbows to nosh on pickled vegetables. They don’t retain all the nutrients of fresh vegetables, but flavors are interesting and varied.
I enjoy finding unique or local pickled vegetables (last year it was asparagus) and adding them to a snack tray for a change of pace.
6. Bacon-Wrapped Dates (or any whole food) (GF, DF)
I know, I had you at “bacon-wrapped.”
Savory bacon + sweet dates = flavor nirvana.
Bacon-wrapped appetizers have been around a long time and are well-loved for their deliciousness and simplicity (two ingredients skewered together with a toothpick – yay!).
You can wrap almost anything in bacon and it will be fabulous. Here are a few ideas – aside from dates – to get you going: scallops, water chestnuts, pineapple chunks, apple slices or cubes, or cooked sweet potato chunks.
7. (Very) Dark Chocolate (GF, DF, V)
Dark chocolate – look for 70% cocoa or higher on the label – is delicious, high in antioxidants, and lower in sugar than milk or “lighter” chocolates. In addition, most dark chocolates are made without milk solids, so they are dairy free.
Pro Tip: check out the fiber content on a high-quality dark chocolate bar, especially if it’s 85% cocoa or higher.
8. Dark Chocolate-Dipped Dried Fruit (GF, DF, V)
A natural extension of the dark chocolate bar, no? Dried apricots, orange slices, pineapple rings – anything big enough to grip on one end and dip into melted chocolate.
Yes, this one is high in calories – but also high in satisfaction.
Appetizing Ways to Snack at a Party
We all love snacking, and appetizers are a fun and delicious way to enjoy friends, family, and festivities. I know these tips will help you handle all your snacking endeavors – whether it’s a large get-together or a small dinner party.
Want to Create Your Own Snack/Appetizer/Crudite Tray?
One last thing! I struggle with how to actually put together a snack tray that looks like an adult did it – and doesn’t take hiring a food stylist or spending all day on it myself. Here are two great posts from other bloggers that I have used for years to help guide me in my crudité platter styling: 7 Tips to a Delicious Crudités Platter and Crudité Platter 101.