The little extras with our meals and snacks can rack up calories faster than we might think. Butter, margarine, mayonnaise, jams and jellies, or sour cream dips are not exactly calorie free. Nor do they provide the kind of nutrition needed when following a healthy low cal diet plan. Getting a balance of nutrients on a 1200 calorie diet is especially difficult, every calorie counts!
So what are some other choices? It helps to have a repertoire of ideas handy for when you’re too hungry to take an extra minute to discover creative low calorie options. Think ahead to be prepared with low cal healthy condiments, spreads, dips, and more to liven up sandwiches, toast, muffins, and whole grain crackers and chips.
I’ll share with you some of my ideas. If you have some favorites not mentioned on this list I’d love to hear from you!
Hummus – At 25 calories or so per tablespoon, hummus is a nutritious, tasty, and low calorie choice for a spread or dip. There are lots of commercial varieties but I prefer to make my own.
Avocado – Don’t rule out this nutritious and tasty vegetable because it is somewhat higher in calories than most veggies. Mash a ripe avocado and use as is for a delicious substitute for mayonnaise. A tablespoon has only 25 calories whereas a tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has 90 calories. (Light or reduced fat mayo might have 25-50 calories.) Guacamole, a spread or dip made with avocado, is another good choice. There are many commercial varieties of guacamole but homemade just can’t be beat.
Thinly sliced or shredded veggies – Tomatoes are a great standby but don’t forget the many other possibilities. How about zucchini, cucumbers, spinach, or beets? These and other veggies offer very low cal additions to sandwiches and possibly muffins or toast with fresh from the garden flavor. (Leave the skin on zucchini and cucumbers for extra fiber and flavor. However, do choose English cucumbers because the skin is sweeter and not bitter like American cucumbers.)
Thinly sliced apples, peaches, or pears
Relish – If you think relish is made only with pickles think again. Relish is actually a condiment made from a pickled vegetable. It could be prepared with beets, avocado, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, onions, or even certain fruits such as pears or cranberries. Relish is definitely for more than just hot dogs!
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Low fat cottage cheese – enjoy this plain or add a little chopped fresh tomato and some seasonings such as curry, cilantro, and freshly ground black pepper for a delicious dip. Or how about a mix of low fat cottage cheese with some relish? (A half cup of low fat cottage cheese has about 90 calories or less.)
Apple Butter – (Look for brands or recipes with 30 calories or less per tbsp.)
Low fat plain yogurt – stir in a little peanut butter or almond butter for added richness and flavor without adding too many calories. Use as a dip or add to waffles or toast as a spread.
Low fat plain yogurt with a little mustard of your choice, salt, and freshly ground pepper. This mix can make a great substitute for mayonnaise. Try it when making tuna fish salad or sandwiches. Choose a low fat plain yogurt with 60 calories or less per half cup. Also, if you miss the mayo go ahead and add a tablespoon to the mix for a flavor and consistency that is closer to what you are accustomed.)
Bean Spread – Chop some white or navy beans (cooked or canned and drained) in a food processor. Add chopped roasted red pepper or a little peanut butter or almond butter, mix, and season to taste. (A half cup of cooked mashed white or navy beans might have as much as 150 calories or so but all you need are a couple of tablespoons for a spread. With the added ingredients this should be no more than 50 calories.)
Salsa – Lots of possibilities here! Tomato based salsas are typically very low calorie. However, there are many other kinds of salsa such as black bean, roasted vegetable, mango, or pineapple. In addition to dips, salsas can be added to omelets or as a topping for scrambled eggs. Fruit salsas are good on muffins or as a topping for lean turkey or chicken. Check out healthy recipe sites online for some low cal ideas.
Puree of dark green vegetables – Tired of eating salads? How about using up the rest of the leafy greens in your fridge by making a delicious puree. Add mixed leafy greens, cilantro, spinach, parsley, lettuce, and any other leafy veggie you might have to a food processor. Finely chop, season, and voila! You have a tasty healthy spread for toast or sandwiches. Try mixing the puree with whole wheat couscous for a different spread.
Laughing Cow Light Cheese (spreadable) – 35 calories for one piece
Tapenade – This one is new to me. It’s usually made with olives but I’m learning that there are many variations. I’ll include a youtube video to give you an example of how to prepare a low calorie heart healthy tapenade made with roasted red bell peppers and artichokes. When preparing tapenade or purchasing a tapenade product be sure to check the calorie count. Some, but not all tapenades are reasonably low calorie.
Tzatziki – This thick and creamy Greek food can be eaten alone or served as a dip, spread, or condiment. You might be familiar with Tzatziki as the yogurt mix added to gyros sandwiches. Although there are many variations on the basic theme, it typically includes Greek yogurt, garlic, shredded cucumber (choose English cucumber to shred with the skin) and olive oil as well as a variety of seasonings.
Till next time, watch those calories and eat healthy food!