If you build it, they will come, right?
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey Styling: Lindsey Lower 

Let’s be honest here for a second—nachos get a pretty bad rap. The mere mention of this classic game day appetizer triggers immediate thoughts of a massive dome comprised of salty chips, greasy cheese, enormous globs of sour cream, and a hefty dose of meaty chili, for good measure. It’s a lot to handle in just one finger-licking bite.

That said, we’d like to think that this inherently beautiful starter is way more elegant and lean than your local sports bar makes it out to be. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional super-deluxe-extra-large nacho platter that is dripping in everything but a dang vegetable. However, we’d like to offer that it is possible to make a healthy nacho bar that still tastes delicious. Ready to make that wholesome leap of faith? Here’s how to get the job done:

Credit: Photo: Alison Miksch

Opt for a Multigrain Chip

The foundation and vessel which will transport all your toppings is crucial to the anatomy of your nacho platter. You can stray as far from the generic, salty tortilla chip as you like. From sweet potato chips, to baked chips, to seedy, whole-grain chips, there’s plenty of options out there that pack an extra boost of fiber and protein than your run-of-the-mill bag of white corn chips. If you’re feeling extra wholesome, make your own sweet potato or plantain chips for an extra serving of homemade, starchy goodness in your life.

New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.

Beans! All the Beans!

Steer clear of those packaged cans of refried beans, and choose a fresh, homemade bean salsa instead. Offering an extra boost of hearty protein, a black bean or chickpea salad makes for a satiating topper that’s particularly clutch if you’re trying to keep the spread vegetarian.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Guacamole (Extra, but worth it.)

Put those avocados to good use in a simple but oh-so-delectable guacamole. Again, we’re not technically reinventing the nachol wheel here (if adding guacamole to your nachos is coming as a surprise to you, that’s a problem), but we just wanted to remind you of an already brilliant nacho topping that gets the green light for the health-ified version. AS YOU WERE.

Easy on the Cheese(y)

Look, we’re not here to tell you how to live your dairy life, but if you’re trying to keep things on the leaner side of life, scaling back on the cheese (or omitting it completely) is always a good idea (get your tears out now, people). Whether you use less of that block of sharp cheddar, or you opt for a lighter, less fatty cheese like crumbles of queso fresco, make your cheese count. Bottom line: if you can’t see the chips because they’re buried under a layer of pepper jack, maybe it’s time to rethink things.

Same Goes for Sour Cream

Even though you’ve been told that it starts with a smile and a dollop of Daisy, we like to think that it doesn’t necessarily have to. Swap out the sour cream for Greek yogurt or creamy hummus, or do without the creamy/dairy component altogether. You’re getting tons of flavor and protein from all the other components, so you don’t really need it TBH.

Veggies, Veggies, Veggies

This probably goes without saying, but if you want to add crunch, flavor, and all the colors, there’s only one food group that can do the job, and that of course, is vegetables. Fresh corn, tomatoes, onions, peppers, radishes, or whatever you want! A sprinkle of romaine or iceberg on top won’t hurt, either.

Credit: Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Don’t Forget the Fresh Herbs and Spices

Where the grimy sports bar version is lacking is always in super fresh flavor, and what better way to achieve that than with a heavy handful of fresh herbs? Cilantro is obviously the superior fresh herb when it comes to anything nacho-related, so if your people are into it, give a couple stems a rinse, and disperse the leaves at the very end of the nacho assembling. Still itching for more flavor? Give it a sprinkle of ground cumin and red pepper flakes. BOOM.