Photos by Leigh Beisch

Menus for entertaining, it seems, are often chosen from the notorious triumvirate of unhealthy food groups: fatty, salty, or high in cholesterol. For this reason, nothing strikes more fear in the soul of a health-conscious eater than two little words: party cuisine. It’s a contradiction in terms. It’s dangerous. It conjures visions of Bacon-Wrapped Cheese Logs and mayonnaise in everything. Is it any wonder our nation’s hearts are suffering?

In consideration of friends and loved ones who are monitoring their fat intake, make a change for the better and serve these healthy but delicious alternatives at your next get-together. Heart-friendly ingredients—items low in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar but high in fiber and good fats—already taste great, especially when you use the freshest organic foods you can find. The trick is to combine them in a way that fools the doubters, pleases the health-conscious, and satisfies the crowd. The following party-perfect dishes do all three.

Nori and Kale Salad
Serves 6 / A high-protein, high-vitamin, high-fiber combination that’s a great make-ahead dish. Peppers add color and heart-healthy antioxidants, and sesame oil lowers blood pressure. TIP: If you can’t find nori, almost any other firm seaweed works. Don’t use dulse, though; it’s too delicate to hold up to the crunchy kale.

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/2 ounce dried nori or other thick, firm seaweed, cut into 1/4-inch strips 4 cups boiling water
1 bunch kale with medium-size leaves, cleaned, trimmed of center vein, and torn into salad-size pieces
1 small red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch slivers
2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons liquid aminos or tamari
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1. Place sesame seeds in small nonstick skillet on medium heat, stirring or tossing almost constantly. When seeds begin to turn brown, smoke lightly, and sizzle, immediately remove from heat. Cool.

2. In a large bowl, cover nori with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes.

3. Steam torn kale leaves for 7 minutes. Drain kale and remove excess water with a salad spinner. Drain nori and remove excess water with a salad spinner. Combine with kale. Add bell pepper and toss gently.

4. Combine oil, liquid aminos or tamari, garlic, ginger, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk to emulsify. Add to kale mixture and toss. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days, if desired. Just before serving, toss salad and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 91
% fat calories: 62
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 6g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 248mg

Classic Scallop Ceviche
Serves 8 as appetizer / This low-fat, dairy-free Mexican starter features scallops, which contain less cholesterol than any other shellfish. I like this full-flavored tangy lime version; others may prefer a half lemon-half lime marinade. Serve with whole-grain crackers or corn chips. TIP: You can also use halibut or another firm white fish, cut into similar small pieces.

1 pound fresh bay scallops (without shells), cleaned
2 cups fresh lime juice, pulp strained
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, trimmed, and diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 small avocado, peeled and diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, trimmed, and finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste

1. Place scallops in lime juice in a large glass bowl and refrigerate, covered, 6 hours or overnight. Stir occasionally.

2. Remove scallops from marinade, discarding all but 2–3 tablespoons of lime juice. Add remaining ingredients. Salt lightly, stir, and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 125
% fat calories: 43
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 19mg
Protein: 11g
Carbohydrate: 8g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 97mg

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spinach, Apricots, and Feta
Serves 6 as appetizer / Lean pork is low in fat and filled with flavor. My wife calls this household favorite “pork sushi” for its unique presentation. It appears much harder to prepare than it is—always a plus when you’re entertaining! TIP: The best way to judge pork loin doneness is by touch; when just right, it should feel like it does when you press on the fleshy area beneath your thumb.

1 8- to 12-ounce pork tenderloin, fat trimmed
6 ounces baby spinach, cleaned, briefly blanched, and excess water pressed out
1/4 cup cooked long-grain wild rice blend
2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 2-inch sprig fresh rosemary, needles removed and finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Make a long slit almost to both ends of the tenderloin to form a long pocket. Line pocket with spinach, cooked rice, apricots, feta, garlic, and rosemary. Salt and pepper lightly. Close and secure with toothpicks. Salt and pepper again, lightly.

2. Coat a large oven-proof skillet with cooking spray and place on high heat. Place stuffed pork loin in skillet and brown lightly, turning, until meat is a consistent pinkish brown. Transfer to oven and roast for 15–20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 150–155° internally (allow heat to peak, then level off, for accurate reading). Remove pork and cool for 15 minutes. Remove toothpicks. Slice 3/4-inch cross-sections using a thin, sharp knife. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 82
% fat calories: 28
Fat: 3g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 27mg
Protein: 10g
Carbohydrate: 5g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 97mg

Potato-Mushroom Gratin
Serves 8 / If you don’t divulge it to your party guests, they might never guess this is dairy-free and low-fat—but don’t let your heart-conscious friends miss out on trying a spoonful. TIP: If you have a mandoline, use it to slice the potatoes, which should ideally be about 1/16-inch thick and no thicker than 1/8 inch; otherwise use a thin, sharp knife.

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 pound button or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
Cooking spray
2-1/2 tablespoons nondairy canola spread, divided
3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced (about 2 pounds)
4 large cloves garlic, diced or pressed (about 1-1/2 tablespoons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups plain soy milk
2 ounces meltable, nondairy cheddar cheese alternative, grated

1. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet on high. Add onion and mushrooms and steam thoroughly, stirring occasionally, until all liquid evaporates and mushrooms nearly burn. Remove from heat and toss with 1 tablespoon of the nondairy spread.

2. Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a 1-1/2- to 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Arrange one-third of the potatoes in a layer and dot with 1/2 tablespoon nondairy butter spread. Sprinkle with one-fourth of the garlic. Salt and pepper lightly. Repeat.

3. After the second layer, add mushroom-onion mixture in single layer. Sprinkle with half of the remaining garlic; salt and pepper lightly. Layer remaining potatoes, garlic, and nondairy butter spread.

4. Whisk flour into soy milk and pour over potato mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake 40 minutes. (Place a sheet of foil under the pan to catch any drips.) Uncover and sprinkle with cheese alternative. Reduce heat to 350° and cook until potatoes are tender, 20–30 minutes more. Cool 5–8 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 188
% fat calories: 22
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 30g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 132mg

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup
Serves 8 / This flavorful, nutrient-dense soup excels in the summer months but works fine any time of year if made with organic peppers and tomatoes. Just be sure to choose the ripest, brightest veggies to get the most antioxidant punch. TIP: To save time, this can be made ahead and reheated before the party.

2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese
4 red bell peppers
4-6 large tomatoes, halved horizontally, seeds removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 fresh basil leaves, plus 8 small leaves for garnish
Salt, to taste

1. Blend yogurt and cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth. Reserve.

2. Preheat broiler. Arrange whole peppers and tomatoes, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil about 20 minutes, turning peppers regularly, until skins are black. Remove from heat and cover with foil. When cool enough to handle, slice peppers in half; discard seeds from peppers and skins from peppers and tomatoes. Add peppers, tomatoes, and all pan juices to food processor with yogurt mixture.

3. Heat olive oil in medium-hot sauté pan, then add onion. Cook until translucent, then add garlic, wine, and broth. Reduce liquid by half. Add mixture to food processor. Add balsamic vinegar and 6 fresh basil leaves. Process until smooth, scraping sides as necessary. Season with salt. Serve hot, garnished with small basil leaves.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 54
% fat calories: 31
Fat: 2g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrate: 8g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 23mg

Blueberry-Apple Bread Pudding
Serves 8 / The antioxidant power of sweet blueberries combines with tart apples to create this incredibly easy, low-cholesterol dessert. Serve warm with nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt. TIP: If you must use frozen fruit, drain excess liquid thoroughly before use.

Cooking spray
3 cups peeled and chopped tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
2 cups cubed French bread (day-old is best)
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 12-ounce can evaporated skim milk
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat an 8x8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Toss apples, blueberries, and bread cubes together in a large bowl. Transfer to dish.

2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over fruit. Let sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to oven and bake 1 hour or until top is golden brown and filling is set. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 154
% fat calories: 4
Fat: 1g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 2mg
Protein: 5g
Carbohydrate: 32g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 150mg

Colin Berry lives in Guerneville, California, where he writes fiction, reports for art and design magazines and NPR, and cooks—avidly.