By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

Appetizers get blamed for unnecessary calorie consumption, but they can actually be part of a healthy diet, an ideal weight, and a friendly menu for acid reflux sufferers. The appetizers here don’t have trigger ingredients, but they do have flavor! They’re also easy to make because they have few ingredients and few steps. Who says good health has to be difficult?

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/robynmac]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/robynmac

Carrot Fries

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

1-1/2 pounds carrots, scrubbed and cut into sticks

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. In a mixing bowl, place all the ingredients and mix until evenly coated.

  3. On a greased baking pan, arrange the carrots in a single layer.

  4. Transfer to the oven and bake until the carrots are tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

  5. Enjoy immediately.

Per serving: Calories 126 (From Fat 60); Fat 7g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 277mg; Carbohydrate 15g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 2g.

Carrot fries are a healthier version of french fries, and they taste great! If you get tired of them, though, you can substitute the carrots with sweet potatoes. The texture of sweet potatoes is more like a french fry than a carrot fry is, and like carrot fries, sweet potato fries are very healthy — sweet potatoes are high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

By the way, the term sweet potato is often used interchangeably with yam, but they’re different vegetables. Yams are larger and more starchy than a sweet potato. You can make fries out of yams, too, but they may not be as tasty as carrot fries or sweet potato fries.

Sautéed Swiss Chard

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves chopped

2 tablespoons golden raisins

1⁄8 teaspoon thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

  1. In a skillet, dry-toast the pine nuts over low heat until they just start to brown and become fragrant, about 4 minutes.

    Pine nuts burn very easily. At first you won’t see any difference in color and may think the pine nuts aren’t cooking, and then suddenly, they may burn. Watch them carefully and stir every couple minutes. When done, remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

  2. Add the olive oil to the pan, and heat for 30 seconds.

  3. Add the Swiss chard, raisins, and thyme to the pan, and sauté until the Swiss chard is tender, about 5 minutes.

  4. Add the salt and pepper.

  5. Just before serving, add the cheese and pine nuts.

Per serving: Calories 164 (From Fat 113); Fat 13g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 447mg; Carbohydrate 12g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 3g.

Not a fan of Swiss chard? You can substitute fresh spinach or kale. Both are super healthy and will work just as well as Swiss chard in this recipe.

Millet Mashed “Potatoes”

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

1 cup millet

3 cups water

1 cup cauliflower florets

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon tamari

Sprig of parsley, for garnish

  1. In a medium skillet, lightly roast the millet by stirring over medium-low heat until it smells toasty, about 5 to 8 minutes.

  2. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat, and add the millet, cauliflower, and salt.

  3. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes.

  4. Add the tamari and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  5. Using a potato masher or a hand blender, mash the millet and cauliflower, adding water if necessary.

  6. Place in a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley.

Per serving: Calories 454 (From Fat 35); Fat 4g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 233mg; Carbohydrate 90g (Dietary Fiber 6g); Protein 14g.