Before you completely blow your diet around the holidays, there are some ways to make the holidays just as fulfilling and delicious without all the calories and bloating.
Jaclyn London MS, RD, CDN and Head of Nutrition & Wellness at WW (formerly Weight Watchers) shares some Eat This Not That Holiday Edition tips on some of your favorite holiday food and drink.
London outlines why it’s better to eat peppermint bark vs. holiday cookies, chocolate covered nuts vs. chocolate covered fruit, Irish coffee vs. eggnog, and several other holiday favorites.
Peppermint bark vs. holiday cookies
Go with the bark. While these hover around the same amount calorie-wise (1 oz of bark vs. 1 medium or two small cookies), the bark is more flavorful and satisfying, especially when it’s made from dark chocolate which makes it taste ultra-decadent, so you’ll want to savor each bite.
Chocolate covered fruit vs. chocolate covered nuts
Go with the nuts. Both are treats, but a standard bag of the nuts (about 17 pieces) will pack some (about 3–5 grams per serving!) of plant-based protein, which can help you fill up. Chocolate-covered fruit = a double dose of added sugar (chocolate-covered raisins have an extra 2.5 teaspoons, since the fruit is sweetened for confectionary purposes). You’re better off eating grapes for fruit and treating yourself to the occasional chocolate-covered peanut, almond, or cashew for a more satisfying nibble.
Macaron vs. macaroon
Go with the macaron. Each of the French delights are about 100 cals made from egg whites and almond flour. While the macaroon is around the same calorie-wise, it adds 5 g of saturated fat from coconut.
Scalloped potatoes vs. green bean casserole
Go with the green beans. While both are heavy on heavy cream and butter, you can make the casserole without loads of saturated fat-filled cheese (plus, no battering and deep-frying!). Skip the fried onions on top for an even more nutritious dish.
Mini quiche vs. mini tart
This one is a draw. Neither are great, since they’re both wrapped in pie crust, which leaves you “microdosing” saturated fat and/or added sugar. You’re better off going for straight-up cheese (if you’re keen on quiche: 3 mini quiche = SIX cubes of cheese) and chocolate (1 chocolate tart = 10 pieces of milk chocolate!), so you can load up on volume without losing the delicious flavor.
Meringues vs. gum drops
Choose the meringues. They’re super-festive and just 30 calories a piece—which means you can have plenty of ‘em considering it’s otherwise deemed a cookie. (Sixteen mini-meringues = 250 calories, which is in line with my recommendation for your day’s worth of dessert!). The gum drops, on the other hand, are about the same calorie-wise, but they’re a.) easier to overeat, since they’re so “poppable” and b.) usually stale, so they’re kind of pointless anyway, no?
Eggnog vs. Irish coffee
Go with the Irish coffee. One cup of eggnog can set you back a minimum of 223 calories and 7 grams saturated fat—35% of the daily value. If you’re at a party, your best bet is to skip this one and opt for a glass of champagne, which feels celebratory and festive but isn’t going to put you over the edge calorie-wise (about 90 calories per glass). If you’re making your own—swap the heavy cream and whole milk for nonfat milk and powdered milk, and cut the sugar in half. Season with extra spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and my personal secret weapon—pumpkin pie spice!
Hot buttered rum vs. hot toddy
Go with the hot toddy. One serving of hot buttered rum can be up to 300 calories and at least 30% of your daily value for saturated fat. You’re better off with a hot toddy, which runs about 110 calories—just be careful not to overdo it with the honey.
Mulled wine vs. red wine
It depends on the ingredients. Some mulled wine recipes call for extra added sugar—in which case, go for the red wine, about 100–120 calories for a 5-oz glass. But, if you’re not adding sugar to mulled wine, the mulled is a better option. Why? If you’re adding brandy or port, you’re making a stronger cocktail. So while the calories will be higher per glass (about 200), the combo of being hot and powerful will help you nurse your cocktail for longer.
Gin & tonic vs. vodka soda
Go with the vodka soda. Vodka soda is always an easy choice, since it’s roughly 65 calories (per ounce of vodka—the soda is calorie-free!). Gin and tonic, on the other hand, is 124 calories from the tonic alone (not to mention 32 grams of sugar), plus another 65 from the spirit…so one drink is just shy of 200 calories.