Light Bites - Better Nutrition

Light Bites

Have a healthy New Year's nosh with these nutritious gluten-free appetizers

An appetizer is a perfect starter to a meal, but a combination of the right appetizers can make a meal in itself. Especially if your holidays were filled with more food than you wanted-and your pants feel a little tighter than they used to-light, easy-to-make hors d'oeuvres are a great way to start the New Year. Try these ideas for back-to-basics, naturally gluten-free, real-food light bites.


Get creative with vegetables.
Out of all the food groups, vegetables offer the best deal in nutrition-most are low in carbs and calories and high in nutrients and fiber. Many of us eat fewer vegetables than grain- and sugar-based foods, especially during the holidays. So by the time January rolls around, it's time to "veg" out.

Vegetables can be used in many inventive ways to make wonderful appetizers. They can be roasted (think garlic roasted asparagus spears); stuffed (such as celery sticks or Belgian endive spears), topped with toppings (try cucumber rounds), or sautéed (such as savory garlic sautéed mushrooms). And raw vegetables go great with dip.

Promote the protein.
The ability of vegetables to satisfy the appetite only lasts a short while. What really transforms a spread of snacks into meal-worthy hors d'oeuvres is some slower-burning protein. For carnivores, meatballs made of organic grass-fed ground beef, lamb, or pork often are perfect additions. For something on the light side, try Lemon Basil Roasted Shrimp Skewers. Simply marinate wild-caught shrimp in gluten-free Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and basil; then roast them in the oven at 450°F for 5-7 minutes. Egg-based, crustless mini-quiches or organic goat cheese fit the bill for some vegetarians, and bean-based dips or nuts work well for vegans.

Try making foods on a stick.
Use cocktail picks to make antipasti skewers with pitted olives and artichoke hearts, or with fresh mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. Marinate chunks of meat and skewer them on stainless steel skewers to make kabobs; or thread heavier vegetables such as onion, mushrooms, and green pepper pieces on skewers to make vegetable kabobs. For a colorful dessert, arrange equal-sized, ½-inch pieces of Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced kiwi, pineapple cubes, and peeled and sliced banana on skewers, and sprinkle with organic unsweetened shredded coconut.

Upgrade your chips.
For chips and dip, buy organic salsa; make your own guacamole with avocado, lime juice, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and fresh cilantro; or make white bean dip with cannellini beans, roasted garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and olive oil. Serve with Certified Gluten-Free, RW Garcia Classic Blue Corn Chips, Beanitos Black Bean Chips, Foods Alive organic flax crackers, or thinly sliced jicama strips. Or try organic kale chips such as Rhythm Superfoods Kool Ranch Kale Chips or ChocolaTree Vegan Cheddar Kale Chips.

Endive Boats Stuffed with Fennel, Apple, & Walnut Salad*
Makes 24 Appetizers

Tired of weeks and weeks of heavy holiday food? Try this light, endive-based hors d'oeuvre containing apple and fennel-two therapeutic foods for digestion-to get you off to a healthy start in the New Year.

zest of ½ lemon zest of ½ orange

1½ tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. orange juice

½ tsp. gluten free organic Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. organic extra virgin olive oil

½ large fennel bulb, sliced thin and finely chopped

1 medium organic Gala apple, sliced thin and finely chopped

½ cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped

2 Tbs. organic dried cranberries

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

3 Belgian endive heads

2 oz. crumbled organic goat cheese (optional)

  1. Whisk lemon zest, orange zest, lemon juice, orange juice, mustard, and olive oil in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add fennel, apple, walnuts, and dried cranberries, and mix well. Add cinnamon and additional salt if needed, and mix well.
  3. Slice 1 inch from base of each endive head. Arrange spears on serving plate. Lightly stir salad, and add goat cheese, if using. Fill each leaf with salad mixture, and serve.

*Recipe reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2012.

PER SERVING: 34 cal; 1g pro; 3g total fat (<1g sat fat); 3g carb; 0mg chol; 5mg sod; 1g fiber; 1g sugar

Melissa Diane Smith, a nationally known writer and holistic nutritionist who specializes in personalizing the gluten-free diet, offers long-distance telephone counseling and coaching services to clients across the country. She is the author of Going Against the Grain and Gluten Free Throughout the Year: A Two-Year, Month-to-Month Guide for Healthy Eating. To learn about her free newsletter, visit For info about her books, long-distance consultations, nutrition coaching programs, or speaking, visit

Copyright ©2013 Melissa Diane Smith. This article and recipe may not be reprinted on other sites without written approval and permission from the author. For more information, please email




Gluten-free Giving

Don't feel like holiday shopping in the malls? Head over to your local natural foods store where great gluten-free gifts abound


Super Sweet

Create delicious gluten-free treats using whole food powders, naturally sweet and nutrient dense