The Best & Worst Appetizer Choices

Best & Worst Appetizer Choices
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When you're eating at a restaurant, it can be tough to resist ordering appetizers. Luckily, you don't have to! I'm Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien, and I'm here with advice on what to order—and what to avoid—from the starter menu.

The Healthier Appetizers

  • Shrimp cocktail. If there's shrimp cocktail on the menu, it's a no-brainer: Order it! The shrimp itself is packed with protein and low in calories, and the tomato-based cocktail sauce tends to be relatively healthy. My number 1—hands down!
  • Broth-based soup. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Soup is totally underrated. It makes a great meal starter—hot, delicious, and it'll take the edge off your hunger so you don't overeat during the main course. In fact, studies show that we tend to consume fewer calories overall when we start a meal with broth-based soup. Wow! Just avoid anything cheesy or creamy.
  • Steamed mussels or clams. Steaming is one of the healthiest food prep methods out there: No oil or butter is used to actually cook the food. Just be mindful of the liquid that it's served with. Lemon-wine mixtures and tomato broths are great, but avoid buttery sauces.
  • Lettuce wraps/cups. These are becoming more and more popular on appetizer menus, which I love. The trick is to pay attention to the protein and sauces. Go for grilled chicken, shrimp, and tofu; watch out for fried fillers. And when it comes to sauces, stick with teriyaki and soy but avoid anything creamy.
  • Hummus. Two caveats with this one: Ask for veggies instead of pita chips or bread, and watch your portions! I like to request a side of salsa, which is lower in calories, so that I can alternate my veggie dipping.
  • Side salad. I can't not mention this one; it's a fantastic way to start a meal. Request light dressing on the side (then dip, don't pour!), and skip heavy toppers like cheese and croutons.

    Appetizers to Avoid (Plus Some At-Home Swaps!)

    • Spinach artichoke dip. Don't let the veggies in the name fool you. Cheese and cream and chips equals a calorie catastrophe. A steamed artichoke, on the other hand? Perfect!
    • Mozzarella sticks. Who doesn't love mozzarella sticks? They're fried, they ooze cheese, and they come with a deliciously zesty dipping sauce. The problem? Um, they're deep-fried sticks of cheese. Not a smart appetizer order. But if you can't live without 'em, make calorie-slashed mozzarella sticks at home!
    • Nachos. Restaurant nachos are typically made with fried chips, copious amounts of cheese, and too many fattening toppings to name. However, nachos are super fun to make at home.
    • Buffalo wings. The problem with Buffalo wings isn't the chicken, it's the fact that they're usually breaded, fried, and served with fatty sauces. It's best to avoid ordering wings at restaurants—chicken satay (sauce on the side) is a better call. Get your fix at home with deliciously spicy guilt-free boneless Buffalo wings.
    • Loaded potato skins. The spud skins themselves are a-okay (as long as they’re not fried). The “loaded” part is the problem. These are usually full of bacon, cheese, and sour cream. Stay away from them when you're dining out; make this low-cal version for your next night in (it's number three on the list). 

      Now that you have your appetizers figured out, when it's time to order the main course, make sure you know what to order when you're dining out!

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