After a long hard week at the office, there's really no better way to enjoy a refreshing cocktail than with a salty snack. Sadly though, most of those delicious treats are calorie-laden bombs that will leave your blood pressure soaring while your weight sky rockets with every bite you take! Sure, if you only had one mozzarella stick or just a handful of chips and salsa you would by no means "blow up." But let's be honest -- who really can have just ONE of those fried goodies that capture your senses as the sampler platter catches your eye? Rather than bypass the social hour all together, I have a few tips to help you navigate your home-hosted happy hour that won't leave you screaming come Monday morning when you jump on the scale.
The key first is to recognize the hidden phrase in the above text: HOME-HOSTED HAPPY HOUR! When you engage in social activities in your home, you not only have more control over your menu selections (both noshing and cocktails), but also save a ton of money. This is a win-win in my book.
So, what should you serve at your home-hosted happy hour that will impress even the biggest junk food junkie? Here are my top picks that will leave your guests satisfied and saying next week at the office, "There's no way that was healthy?!"
Shaw's Top 5 Home Hosted Happy Hour Snacks
Oven Baked Tortilla Chips, Guacamole & Salsa
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice corn tortillas into mini triangles and spray lightly with non-stick spray. Heat evenly in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until crunchy. Serve alongside homemade guacamole mixed with non-fat plain Greek yogurt to help decrease the total fat content of the dip. Top with a little house made Pico de Gallo and you have yourself the perfect combo!
Pretzel Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Head over to your nearest Costco and pick up the Organic Soft Pretzel Bites in the freezer section. Can't find them? Opt for their Pretzel Rolls or pick up a Trader Joes Pretzel Bread Stick. Slice into 1" chunks and oven bake lightly until warm. Serve with spicy mustard and a cold brew!
Chicken Nuggets & Ranch Dressing
Grab a box of organic, whole wheat crusted chicken breast nuggets from your local market. Oven bake according to package directions. Mix up a ranch mix using a nonfat plain Greek yogurt mixed 50/50 with fat-free sour cream. Garnish with a few carrot and celery sticks for those who prefer that healthier crunch!
Pick up a bag of crinkle cut French fries at the market. Oven bake for roughly 20 minutes, turning once to evenly brown. Top with a chili spiced lean ground turkey, homemade cumin mashed pinto bean, reduced fat cheddar cheese and a dollop of Pico de Gallo, fat free sour cream and chopped green onions.
Make your own spicy pub mix! Use fat-free air popped popcorn, mini pretzel twists, dry roasted mixed nuts, reduced fat cheddar crackers and wheat Chex. Combine all ingredients in a large zip-lock bag, mixing in a seasoning that contains chili powder, paprika, garlic, cumin and a hint of sea salt. Serve in mini cocktail cups for portion control.
Remember, eating can and should be a social experience that you can engage in without going overboard. Eating mindfully, watching your portions and controlling your cooking techniques is key to making your HOME-HOSTED HAPPY HOUR a huge success. Happy Hosting!
Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, is a San Diego based dietitian. She is owner of Elizabeth Shaw Consulting Services, in which she offers individual, corporate and food service consulting services. She an adjunct professor in Nutrition at San Diego Mesa Community College and is the Dining Dietitian for the University of California San Diego. Read her blog, Simple-Swaps, and connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.