Best and Worst Holiday Foods

David Zinczenko, author of the Eat This, Not That! series of books, offers tips to help you make healthier food and drink choices this holiday season.
Holiday food
The Eat This, Not That! Guide to Holiday Food
Whether your weakness is mayo-spiked deviled eggs or rum-spiked eggnog, the holiday season is packed with one belly-bloating temptation after another. In fact, studies show the average person consumes an extra 600 calories a day between Thanksgiving and New Year's, which translates to an extra 6 pounds of lard.

While everyone's entitled to a little indulgence, there's a fine line between festive and fattening. Fortunately, making simple food swaps helps keep the pounds down without sacrificing merriment. You don't have to diet. You don't have to deprive yourself.
Worst cocktail:
Gin and tonic (8 ounces)
240 calories
22 g sugars

Drink this instead:
100 calories
5 g sugars

Before your raise your glass to good health, consider your own. The sad truth is that light-tasting tonic water contains as much sugar as two glazed doughnuts, making it nothing more than a glorified soda. Champagne is just as bubbly but contains only one-fourth of the sugar and half the calories.
Worst dip:
Spinach and artichoke dip
300 calories
19 g fat

Eat this instead:
Salsa (1/4 cup)
10 calories
0 g fat

The wrong dip can transform healthy veggies and a whole grain pita into vessels for fat and hundreds of extra calories. Avoid creamy, cheesy dips at all costs and stick to the tomato-based salsas and bruschetta, which are low calorie and offer a healthy serving of vegetables to boot.
Baked potato
Side Dishes
Worst side:
Baked potato with butter and sour cream
400 calories
14 g fat (6 g saturated)

Eat this instead:
Roasted red potatoes (1/2 cup)
100 calories
5 g fat (1 g saturated)

The difference here is in the toppings. Add bacon and cheese to the mix, and add an extra 150 calories. Another smart sides rule: Not all salads are paragons of virtue. Greens with croutons and Italian dressing pack in 140 more calories than a serving of peas with pearl onions.
Hot drink
Hot Drinks
Worst hot drink:
White chocolate mocha (20 ounces)
660 calories
22 g fat (15 g saturated)
95 g sugars

Drink this instead:
Café au lait with peppermint syrup (20 ounces)
150 calories
5 g fat (3.5 g saturated)
17 g sugars

Sugary coffee concoctions are a holiday shopping staple—but the wrong one could deliver more calories than a Big Mac! Avoid mochas, lattes and cappuccinos and order a café au lait with a spurt of flavored syrup instead.
Chocolate fondue
Worst dessert:
Pecan pie à la mode
810 calories
65 g fat
55 g sugars

Eat this instead:
Chocolate fondue
340 calories
10 g fat
28 g sugars

In the wide world of holiday pies, nothing is worse than a slice of pecan. Blame the filling, which is a sickly-sweet sludge of corn syrup and sugar. Fondue, in comparison, is a fun and relatively healthy way to splurge after a big meal. Angel food cake makes an ideal dipper: light, low in calories and virtually fat-free. Fruit is even better.
Holiday ornament and measuring tape
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Simple Eat This, Not That! food swaps will make holiday weight gain a thing of the past. These holiday party survival rules may even help you lose weight:

  • Watch what you drink. The average American consumes about 450 liquid calories a day. Forgoing the fancy holiday drinks means extra room for other sweets and treats.
  • Snack smart. Protein-based snacks, like jumbo shrimp, cheese or prosciutto, will make you feel full longer than carb-loaded breads will.
  • Master the buffet. Use a small plate—a study from Cornell University found that you'll serve yourself less, but feel like you've eaten more!

David Zinczenko is the editor-in-chief of Men's Health magazine and co-author of the Eat This Not That! series of books.

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