You don’t have to sacrifice flavor to serve up more nutritious starters—believe it or not, they can be both healthful and delicious. A salty, fatty bacon-wrapped scallop is unbeatable for special occasions, but it's as complicated as you might think to get some nutrient wins from most of your first courses.
Whether you’re impressing your guests or treating yourself, these options make your starters stand out without derailing your family's health goals.
Skip the bland store-bought hummus and make your own. Rinse canned chickpeas, then blend them in a food processor with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, tahini, cumin, and a clove of garlic until smooth. Fry some lemon zest and minced garlic in olive oil, then drizzle it over the hummus right before serving.
This healthy Middle Eastern dip is packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and essential B vitamins, and the lemon and garlic add a dash of immune-boosting vitamin C. Serve with warm pita triangles and a selection of crunchy veggies.
Forget the overboiled green mush you associate with the “clean plate club” of your childhood. Brussels sprouts oven roasted in olive oil and sea salt are deliciously crisp and caramelized on the outside, and have a subtly sweet nutty flavor. Even better, these tasty morsels are already the perfect size for snacking.
Brussels sprouts boast ample amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, and fiber, among other nutrients. Serve with a creamy honey mustard sauce or your favorite dressing.
Packed with protein and calcium, this creamy, tangy dipping sauce makes eating your veggies enjoyable—and it couldn't be easier to make! All you need is whole milk Greek yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, fresh dill, sea salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Blend together and serve with a rainbow of crunchy crudites, like sliced bell peppers, carrot sticks, cucumbers, purple cauliflower florets, and ripe cherry tomatoes.
This finger-licking alternative to deep-fried French fries gives you 400 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, which plays a starring role in eye health and immune system function. Peel and slice sweet potatoes into thin strips, toss them with olive oil, sea salt, and seasoning of your choice, and bake them in the oven until they're crispy brown along the edges.
Serve piping hot with a spicy cream sauce, like chipotle lime or sriracha aioli.
This brunch classic can easily work overtime as a healthy pre-dinner warm-up. Avocados are an awesome source of antioxidants and almost 20 different vitamins and minerals, including bone-boosting magnesium and cell-supporting vitamin E.
Slice whole grain toast into bite-sized triangles and top with ripe, fork-mashed avocado with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Want to heat things up? Scatter a few chili flakes over the top before serving.
Bring a medley of veggies together for this healthier, fiber-filled take on fried potato pancakes. Blitz a blend of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, carrots, spinach, bell peppers, or other vegetables of your choice in your food processor, then press any excess liquid out of them. Stir in eggs, flour, garlic powder, and other seasonings, then form the batter into balls and flatten on a parchment-lined cookie sheet before baking. (You can also air fry if desired.)
Leftovers? Reheat the remaining fritters and enjoy them in a wrap the next day with your favorite dipping sauce.
Tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside, this meat-free starter rivals fried chicken in flavor—minus the deep-frying part. Simply dip bite-sized cauliflower florets in egg, roll them in seasoned breadcrumbs, then bake in the oven until golden.
Cauliflower is the chameleon of the food world (come on, pizza crust?!) is a rich source of digestion-friendly fiber and bone-healthy vitamin K.
This zero-carb finger food looks fancy without any of the fuss. Cucumbers are low in calories and rich in antioxidants, while smoked salmon is an outstanding source of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
Cut a cucumber into coins, spread on some onion and chive cream cheese, and add a sliver of smoked salmon to each slice. A sprig of fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon adds the finishing touch.
Use small cremini mushrooms to make this meat-free crowd-pleaser bite-sized. Because they contain glutamate ribonucleotides, mushrooms give a satisfying umami flavor to any dish without the need for meat or extra salt.
Mushrooms are also a marvelous source of immunity-boosting antioxidants, brain-protecting polyphenols, heart-healthy potassium, and bone-friendly vitamin D.
The colorful, sweet and salty combo of fresh fruit and cheese will perk up any platter. Skewer cubes of cheese alongside rows of sliced strawberries, grapes, mangoes, blueberries, oranges, and pineapples. The fruit is a sweet source of antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients, while the cheese serves up protein and calcium.
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