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Lighten up your Super Bowl party

By Faith Hicks, Special to The Baltimore Sun

1:59 PM EST, February 1, 2012

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Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post to The Baltimore Sun's health blog Picture of Health (baltimoresun.com/pictureofhealth), which is reprinted here. This week, Faith Hicks weighs in on Super Bowl food.

Imagine a typical Super Bowl party spread: fried chicken wings, meatballs, sour cream and cream cheese dips. This translates into a feast of meat and lots of fat, particularly saturated fat. It will probably be your dinner on gameday, but hardly a "Strive for Five" or "My Plate" meal.

I'm a nutritionist married to a former high-end caterer, and one of my hobbies is throwing parties. I enjoy developing more healthful recipes and menus that guests will be comfortable indulging in without the problems that accompany overindulgence.

Offering a vegetable tray is a good way of making your game day spread well-rounded. Dips can be made with low-fat cream cheese or low-fat or fat-free sour cream. A fruit tray with a yogurt dip is also festive, colorful and healthy. Here are a few recipes for homemade appetizers that are so good your guests won't notice healthy food sneaking on their plates.

Spinach-artichoke dip

16 ounces light cream cheese, softened

1 cup grated parmesan

1 tbsp. rosemary

1 tbsp. thyme

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well

1 can artichokes, drained and chopped into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces

In a medium or large bowl with a mixer, blend cream cheese, parmesan, rosemary, thyme, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon or two of milk if needed to make mixture spreadable.

Stir in spinach and artichokes. Spray an oven-proof dish with cooking spray. Spread dip into bowl. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and top is slightly browned. Serve with toasted pita triangles or toasted baguette slices.

Coconut baked shrimp with sweet chili sauce

(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on or off

2/3 cup cornstarch

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground red pepper

1 tsp. curry powder

5 egg whites, beaten

4 cups coconut

Rinse shrimp and place on paper towels to dry.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Mix cornstarch, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place some of the coconut in another bowl.

Dip each shrimp in the cornstarch, then the egg whites, and then roll in coconut. Continue until all shrimp are coated with coconut, refilling the bowl with fresh coconut as needed.

Bake 10 minutes and turn each shrimp over. Continue baking until coconut is toasted and shrimp is no longer translucent when cut into the center with a knife, about 8-10 minutes.

Sweet chili sauce

Mix together:

1/2 cup sweet and sour sauce

1 tsp. red chili paste or chili garlic paste