03/26/2012 01:04 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT

THE HEALTHY PLATE: Recipe for slimmed-down version of spinach and artichoke dip

Spinach and artichoke dip sounds like it should be a virtuous treat. After all, it's loaded with vegetables.

Trouble is, it's usually more mayonnaise and cheese than spinach and artichoke. So we decided to see if we could come up with a version that isn't so out of sync with healthy eating.

First order of business was to nix the mayonnaise. But, of course, we wanted something that had a great creamy texture and that could be heated. Greek-style yogurt blended with low-fat cream cheese worked beautifully. It even added a subtle tang which we enhanced with some lemon zest for a nice spring flavour profile. Some fresh herbs took it ever further.

Next up, dealing with the cheese. We handled the inner gooey-ness with the aforementioned cream cheese. But often there also is a pile of cheese or breadcrumbs (or both) on the top. After it's broiled, we wanted that textural contrast and the toastiness that comes with it.

We found that crushed and seasoned whole-grain crackers worked well. Just note that different varieties of crackers can have widely varying nutrition. So be sure to read the labels carefully to select a whole-grain cracker with modest amounts of fat and calories. Aim for around 100 to 120 calories and four grams of fat per serving. You'll also want about three to four grams each of protein and fibre.

Last — and most important — was upping the amount of spinach and artichoke. We went we canned artichokes for ease. They also are available frozen. Either way, be sure to get the variety in water, not oil. Fresh baby spinach got a quick saute with onion and garlic before being added. Serve the warm dip with whole-wheat pita chips, baked tortilla chips or veggie sticks.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Start to finish: 20 minutes

30 g (1 oz/1 serving) whole-grain crackers, crushed

1 ml (1/4 tsp) garlic powder

1 ml (1/4 tsp) onion powder

30 ml (2 tbsp) grated Parmesan cheese

175 ml (6 oz) plain non-fat Greek yogurt

125 g (4 oz) low-fat cream cheese

5 ml (1 tsp) lemon zest

10 ml (2 tsp) minced fresh oregano

10 ml (2 tsp) minced fresh mint

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground black pepper

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

140 g (5 oz) fresh baby spinach

1 can (398 ml/14 oz) artichoke hearts, lightly chopped

Heat oven to 200 C (400 F). Coat a small casserole or gratin dish with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder and Parmesan. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine yogurt, cream cheese, lemon zest, oregano, mint, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook until soft and any liquid has evaporated, about another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in artichokes and yogurt mixture. Spoon into prepared dish.

Sprinkle cracker crumb mixture over dip and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until hot. Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 120 calories; 45 calories from fat (37 per cent of total calories); 5 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fibre; 560 mg sodium.