As soon as holiday commercials begin advertising the foods you’ve been anticipating since last year, chances are you’ll start planning a holiday indulgence. If your wish list includes a way to enjoy holiday favorites while avoiding the annual January diet, there’s great news for you! We’ve highlighted a few popular holiday food traps to avoid, and a worthy substitute that will keep you on track without leaving you feeling deprived.
Holiday Food Favorites: Keep the Flavor, Avoid Fat and Calories
Drink Traps: Sipping Calories
If eggnog is a must, pour yourself a small cup, and only indulge once or twice this season. A 155 pound person would have to sweat out a 30-minute aerobics class plus a brisk two-mile walk just to burn off one cup of eggnog. Or why not give reduced fat eggnog a try this year? You won’t save lot on calories, but you can cut the fat by more than half, depending on the brand you choose. For an even healthier sip, substitute a glass of red wine for your eggnog; it contains less than half the calories, and none of the fat, plus it’s loaded with HDL-boosting antioxidants.
Beware of seasonal specials at the coffee shop, too. If you enjoy two peppermint mochas a week for the entire holiday season, you’ll gain a pound by the time you ring in the New Year, solely from your holiday coffee habit. Instead of the peppermint mocha, try a small hot chocolate (sans whipped cream) with skim milk and a shot of peppermint flavoring. You’ll save about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat with every drink.
Tiny Traps: Heavy (literally) Hors d’oeuvres
Hors d’oeuvres are typically loaded with buttery, savory, cheesy ingredients meant to deliver a bite-sized flavor punch. Spend time standing by the buffet, noshing as you talk, and it’s easy to take in an entire meal’s worth of calories and fat. Ditch the creamy dips; safe bets at the buffet table include shrimp cocktail, fresh fruits and vegetable crudités, a small handful of nuts, and a few small cubes of cheese.
Not-so-Sweet Traps: The Dessert Buffet
Cheesecake often reigns as king of the dessert buffet. For every creamy slice you eat, figure on about 260 calories and 18 grams of fat (8 of them saturated). A slice of cheesecake contains about as many calories as a 4 oz T-bone steak. A regular sized sugar cookie (not a mega cookie) is a better choice. At just 70 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 saturated), you can even have two cookies and you’ll still stay within your discretionary calorie budget (100-300 calories) for the day. If you’re a fruitcake fan, help yourself to a small slice, since at just 140 calories and 4 grams of fat per slice, it’s a much better choice than cheesecake.
The Bottom Line
In a season where holiday food and treats abound, enjoy old standbys only occasionally, and lean on lower-calorie and fat alternatives. If you do indulge, savor every bite or sip, and balance your intake with other healthy choices you make during the day. Using our tips, you can avoid having to make a “weight loss” resolution in the New Year!
Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master Degree in Public Health. An experienced nutrition counselor, writer and public speaker, Beth specializes in translating complex nutrition information into practical concepts. Beth was awarded a Nutrition Communications Fellowship to the National Cancer Institute, and has worked on the internationally recognized Nutrition Action Healthletter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.