Party dips are good to have on hand for the holidays. Commercial dips are often high in fat, calories and sodium, but you can make low-fat, vegetable-based dips that are quick, easy and flavorful with ingredients you usually have in the kitchen.

Not only are homemade dips fresher tasting, they can offer health-protective phytochemicals, natural compounds that can prevent the cancer process from beginning or stop cancerous cells from becoming tumors.

The antioxidant power of herbs and spices can be as great as that of fruits and vegetables. If these dips are served with cut-up vegetables and whole-grain crackers, you are offering your guests an appetizer that's healthful as well as colorful and tasty.

Chickpeas, spinach and tomatoes make rich but healthful bases for party dips. Each is high in phytochemicals. Spinach, for example, is rich in several of these natural substances. Two, lutein and zeaxanthin, are also believed to protect against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 65.

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which has been linked to reduced prostate cancer risk and is now being studied for its potential to protect against other cancers.

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Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), which make a creamy base for dips, are rich in protein, fiber, vitamin B6 and many important minerals. They contain a group of phytochemicals, called isoflavones, that may help prevent hormone-related cancers.

Many healthful dips contain garlic, which is rich in phytochemicals called organosulfides. They offer a variety of heart- and cancer-protective features.

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The following Southwestern-style dip uses roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes that have not been packed in oil and, therefore, are virtually fat-free. It includes a small amount of reduced-fat Neufchatel cream cheese, which has a more satisfying flavor than "lite" or "fat-free" cream cheese.

Santa Fe Sunset Dip

Makes 10 servings (about 1/4-cup each).


  • 3 oz. (1 package, or about 30) sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • 2 jars (7-oz. each) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallion
  • 4 oz. reduced-fat Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Tabasco or hot chili pepper sauce, to taste (if desired)


  1. Soak dried tomatoes in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain well, reserving 3 tablespoons of the soaking liquid.
  2. In a food processor, puree red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, cilantro and scallion until smooth and well-blended. Add cream cheese and puree, adding enough of the reserved tomato-soaking liquid to thin the dip to the desired consistency (scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally). Blend until smooth. Blend in salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Adjust seasoning, adding more garlic, cumin, or lemon juice if needed.
  3. Transfer to a container with a cover. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before using. Bring dip to room temperature before serving.
  4. Serve in a small, attractive bowl placed in center of a large serving platter, surrounded with assorted cut-up vegetables and, if desired, baked tortilla chips.

Per Serving:
67 calories
3 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat)
10 g. carbohydrate
2 g. protein
1 g. dietary fiber
303 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Low-Fat Milk, 2 Vegetable


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