healthy ranch dip

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The Vegetable Platter with a Secret
The last thing Phoenix nutritionist Wesley Delbridge wants to feel like when he goes to a party is the "food-police dietitian." Yet he does want to offer people an alternative to high-calorie, high-fat foods. So he brings a platter brimming with celery, carrots, broccoli, jicama sticks, red and yellow bell peppers and grape tomatoes, accompanied by a ranch dip made with plain, nonfat, protein-rich Greek yogurt and low-sodium ranch seasoning. He doesn't tell people what's in the dip until they try it, and ask—and, he says, they usually wind up requesting the recipe. Party enjoyed; mission accomplished.
hawaiin chicken kabobs

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The Minimeal on a Stick
Jennifer McDaniel, a dietitian in Clayton, Missouri, knows it's hard to resist foods on skewers—so, she takes advantage of the format by loading the sticks with nutritious ingredients. One version is essentially a panzanella salad: basil, baby cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls and homemade croutons drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; another has a Hawaiian spin, consisting of chicken, pineapple, pieces of bell pepper and onion—all grilled. McDaniel even has a dessert-y option, where she threads fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, a cube of angel food cake and mint leaves onto a stick for a light and fresh treat.
fruit salad

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A Fruit Salad That Keeps Its Color
You can serve it as a side or as a dessert; it goes with everything; and, it adds gorgeous color to a food table. What's not to love about fruit salad? Especially if you make it Tamara S. Melton's way, that is. The Atlanta dietitian even has a trick for keeping the fruit from browning. She squirts a good dose of lime juice over the bowl of berries, mangos, kiwis, peaches, cherries and nectarines, which also adds a subtle tart counterpoint to the sweet fruit.
potato salad with eggs

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A Way to Ensure You'll Be Full
If the host asks you to bring a salad, consider following Torey Armul's advice and augmenting your contribution with protein. It's a good course to take when you want to make sure there is a healthy entrée, regardless of what else is being served, says the registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A few of her favorite variations: leafy-green salad with beans, lentils or nuts; or, potato salad with hard-boiled eggs and Greek yogurt (you can also stir in radishes, carrots and other vegetables for color, crunch and added nutrition.)
dragon fruit plate

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The Dish They May Not Have Tried Before
We may not want to order something totally new as an entrée when dining out, but sampling an unknown dish at a potluck? Absolutely. That's the thinking behind Chicago nutritionist Jennifer Bruning's approach to bringing food to parties. She incorporates ingredients that are a little outside the norm: a fruit platter with dragon fruit, a salad featuring Berbere-spiced roasted veggies or a dessert that sneaks in some chia seeds. It gives people the chance to try new foods that they might have been hesitant to buy on their own, she says.