Pick Holiday Food that Won’t Pack on the Pounds

ImageNavigating the food choices at holiday parties can be a challenge for nutrition-conscious people.  Here are a few general strategies and specific ideas to enjoy a healthy holiday.

Don’t arrive hungry.

Although it can be tempting to skimp on breakfast and lunch to “save up your calories” for a party, this strategy almost always backfires.  Eat balanced meals and avoid arriving hungry, or you risk overindulging in high-calorie party foods.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition, but low in calories.  When you fill up on fruits and vegetables, it’s easier to moderate the amount of higher-calorie foods you eat.  This is a good habit to adopt not only around the holidays, but year-round for good health.

Choose wisely.

Not all holiday foods are created equal.  Here are some common holiday foods and better choices to avoid packing on the pounds.


  • Instead of egg nog (350 calories), choose sugar-free hot chocolate (25 calories).  Packets of sugar-free or “diet” hot chocolate are available at most grocery stores.  Skip the whipped cream though, or you’ll add 150 calories.
  • Instead of mixed drinks (250+ calories), choose light beer, red wine or champagne (100 calories).  Keep in mind that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making moderation at dinner more challenging.  After 0-2 alcoholic drinks, switch to calorie-free beverages.


  • Instead of crab cakes (400 calories), choose shrimp cocktail (150 calories).  In general, appetizers that are fried soak up a lot of oil, and calories along with it.  Stick to appetizers that are steamed, baked, grilled or fresh.
  • Instead of chips and dip (290 calories), choose vegetables and hummus (75 calories).  Salsa is another excellent low-calorie dip choice.


  • Instead of prime rib (600 calories), choose grilled salmon, beef tenderloin, or roasted turkey breast without the skin (180 calories).  The proper serving size for meat is 4 oz, or about the size of the palm of your hand (fingers not included!)
  • Instead of traditionally prepared stuffing or mashed potatoes (300+ calories), find recipes with lighter versions online (150 calories).  Hidden ingredients like butter and turkey drippings add unnecessary calories.


  • Instead of pecan pie or cheesecake (600 calories), choose pumpkin pie and leave off the crust (150 calories).   Another good strategy is to share your favorite dessert with a friend.

The holidays are a time for celebration, so plan to enjoy small amounts of your favorite holiday foods.  Balance them out with a few of these healthful strategies, and you can relax and enjoy the holidays without worrying about packing on the pounds.

This article was originally written for Comstock’s Magazine, the premier monthly business publication in California’s Capital Region.

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