Choose your appetizers wisely

Recipe: Pineapple chicken skewers with coconut yogurt dip

September 16, 2011|Melissa Tewes and Joe Fleischman | Your Health Matters
  • Pineapple chicken skewers with coconut yogurt dip are appetizers with a tropical flare. See Joe Fleischman's recipe at left.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Special to The Herald-Mail

By definition, an appetizer is a small dish of food or a drink taken before a meal to stimulate one's appetite. Depending upon your choice, appetizers can make or break your nutrition goals to consume a healthier diet.

Appetizers can be eaten as the traditional definition describes but also can be used to avoid overeating, curve your appetite or as a wise choice for an entree.  

If you choose to eat an appetizer as a precursor to your meal, be careful not to choose typical high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium appetizers that many restaurants offer. If you aren't careful, you might be choosing one that is higher in fat and calories than your entire entree.  

Do your homework and research your restaurant in advance. Most restaurants offer nutritional information online. If you plan ahead, you might eliminate the temptation of making unhealthful choices by knowing what you plan on consuming in advance.  

You also will avoid the temptation to munch on the bread and butter or chips and salsa that often are placed on the table while you are browsing the menu. Tell your server to skip the bread or chip basket and save your appetite for healthful choices.

Don't be afraid to ask your server how the menu items are prepared. Avoid dishes that are deep-fried or covered in fat-laden, high-caloric sauces and dressings. Make special preparation requests to improve the nutritional content of your dish such as leaving sauces, gravies and dressings on the side. It's always a safe bet to opt for grilled appetizers, shrimp cocktail, or fruits and vegetables.

If attending a party or buffet dinner, you could have a snack or appetizer prior to going so you do not arrive in a famished state.

Over the years, portion sizes have grown far beyond what our bodies need. Recommendations for portion sizes for protein are typically 3 to 6 ounces per meal. Typical restaurant portion sizes of meat range from 8 to 16 ounces, which is equivalent to up to five or more serving sizes. Choosing an appetizer as the protein portion of your meal often is a wise choice, as the portion size is typically closer to that which is recommended.  

Add a side of vegetables and a salad for a healthful and well-proportioned meal.

Melissa Tewes is the clinical nutrition manager at Meritus Medical Center. She has 16 years of experience as a registered dietitian and is also a certified personal trainer.


By Joe Fleischman

Special to The Herald-Mail

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, the start of the holiday season will soon be upon us.
As the party invitations begin to arrive, many of them will request you to bring a food item, usually an appetizer. What could be more original than this easy starter?
The tropical flare will have party guests begging for seconds, as well as the recipe.  
If nuts are an issue, substitute the coconut products with honey and fresh herbs, or try salsa and cayenne pepper for a spicy twist.                               
Joe Fleischman is executive chef at Meritus Medical Center. He has 20 years of experience as a professional chef, culinary instructor and speaker.

Pineapple chicken skewers with coconut yogurt dip

1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 pounds chicken breasts cut into 1-inch strips
Bamboo skewers, already water-soaked

Place juice, sugar, soy sauce and honey in small saucepan and place over medium heat.
Remove from heat when sugar and honey are incorporated into liquid and are no longer visible. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.  
Place chicken in medium mixing bowl, cover with pineapple juice mixture and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Thread chicken strips onto water-soaked bamboo skewers, place on preheated grill and cook until juices run clear, approximately 4 minutes.  
Serves 4 to 6.

Coconut yogurt dip
2 cups vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt
6 ounces coconut milk
2 dashes hot sauce
2 ounces crushed pineapple
1 ounce shredded coconut

Place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl; combine well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.


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