‘Tis the season for tasty foods. And if you’re on a special diet for personal or health reasons, navigating holiday food fare can be tricky. But you can still enjoy yourself and make wise choices, with some help from Santa. He’s made his list—and checked it twice—to let you know which foods are naughty and which ones are nice!
Naughty: Although each one is tiny, calories from franks in a blanket, fried egg rolls, mozzarella sticks, cheeseburger sliders, empanada chorizo and steak en croute can add up quickly. For example, two sliders add up to 300 calories, and 69% of the 200 calories in three franks come from unhealthy saturated fat.
Nice: Top choices include shrimp cocktail, grilled chicken skewers, fresh spring rolls, raw veggies (25 calories a cup) and fresh fruit. Eat dips made from low-fat or non-fat plain Greek yogurt or sour cream. The savings from even a few scoops is significant when you consider that regular sour cream has more than twice the number of calories per ounce than non-fat sour cream and yogurt.
Other healthy options : Wrap a fig or a piece of melon with a thin strip of prosciutto for a fiber-rich sweet treat that provides 23 calories. A piece of bruschetta made with olive oil and chopped tomato provides 50 calories and a healthy dose of antioxidants. Or try raisin crostini for a savory twist (Raisin Crostini Appetizer recipe here). Although nuts are heart healthy and packed with protein, they’re also high in calories at 160 per ¼ cup—so pay attention to portion size.
Naughty: The skin of turkey and chicken is loaded with saturated fat. For example, four ounces of dark turkey with skin has about 206 calories (183 calories without skin). Wings have 256 calories (184 calories without skin).
Nice: Eat turkey or chicken breast without the skin. There are 158 calories in four ounces of turkey (compared to 185 calories with skin).
Naughty: Prime rib weighs in at 75 calories per ounce. Most restaurants offer a 10 oz. or 12 oz. serving size; some up to 16 oz. Yikes! You do the math.
Nice: An ounce of filet mignon is 58 calories per ounce, while tri-tip—a small triangular muscle cut from the sirloin—is 52 calories per ounce. Baked ham is 45 calories per ounce. And then there’s the other white meat—pork tenderloin—at 40 calories per ounce.
Naughty: Stuffing is typically loaded with butter and high-fat meat like pork sausage. A single scoop may have up to 550 calories.
Nice: Cut the calories! Replace butter with low-sodium chicken broth, and skip the sausage in favor of a low-fat protein like chicken or oysters. Add fresh herbs and a nutrient-rich dried fruit like raisins. Finally, use whole-grain bread instead of white bread to add fiber.
Naughty: Usually, a lot of milk, butter and salt go into this classic comfort food. On average, a cup of homemade mashed potatoes (made with whole milk and butter) has 240 calories. Compare this to homemade macaroni and cheese at 400+ calories per cup and the potatoes look like a bargain!
Nice: Mash the potatoes with non-fat or low-fat milk, low sodium fat-free chicken or vegetable stock, and limit the amount of added butter.
Naughty: Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables out there. They’ve got vitamins A and C, plus calcium and potassium. But they’re often served in a figure-unfriendly fashion: a casserole made with marshmallows, butter and lots of sugar that adds up to 210 calories per half cup. And candied yams? They’re not far behind, with about 180 calories per half cup.
Nice: For a healthier casserole, reduce or omit the butter, cut the sugar in half and lightly top with mini marshmallows. This will shave calories and fat without sacrificing taste. Roast, grill or mash your root vegetables and use herbs and spices to punch up the flavor rather than relying on traditional unhealthy add-ins. A ¾ cup serving of sweet potatoes brushed with a little heart-healthy olive oil is only 100 calories. This way, you get more potatoes for fewer calories, and a dose of vitamins and fiber from the potatoes along with monounsaturated fat from the oil. Another good-for-you alternative is to make twice baked sweet potatoes with a small amount of butter topped with naturally sweet and nutrient-rich raisins. (Sun-Maid’s Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes here).
Naughty: Vegetables that are creamed, crispy or tempura-style (battered in flour and deep-fried in oil).
Nice: Keep it simple. Opt for steamed, grilled or stir-fried vegetables. Skip the calorie laden-sauces and adorn vegetables with fresh squeezed lemon juice and herbs, crushed nuts or a little grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese. For a delicious sauce try Sun-Maid’s Balsamic Raisin Sauce for Roasted Vegetables (recipe here).
Naughty: Although pecans are packed with healthy fat, vitamins and minerals, pecan pie = sugar + calories. That’s because it’s made with lots of corn syrup, butter and sugar. A typical slice of pecan pie has more than 500 calories (and that’s before you add the whipped cream).
Nice: Opt for a small slice (1/8) of homemade pumpkin (220 calories) or apple (290 calories) pie. Apple-Pear-Raisin Compote is an easy go-to dessert that’s full of flavor and nutrition for about 150 calories per cup. Simply peel, chop and core 2 Apples and 2 Pears. Place the fruit, ½ cup raisins, ½ tsp ground cinnamon or cinnamon stick, a pinch of nutmeg and 1 tsp lemon in a sauce pan. Stir occasionally and cook over low-medium heat until fruit is soft (about 10 minutes). When cool, add a dollop of whipped cream on top.
Naughty: Milk chocolates, especially those filled with caramel or cream are high in fat and low in the disease-fighting compounds found in purer forms of dark chocolate.
Nice: Solid dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is most beneficial, but only in small amounts. Choose dark chocolate with heart-healthy nuts or dried fruit.
Naughty: Alcohol, heavy cream, eggs, and sugar = 340 calories (19 grams fat) per 8 oz. cup. That goes for egg nog lattes too…
Nice: Make low-calorie egg nog with skim milk, egg substitutes, and artificial sweeteners. Have the barista cut your egg nog latte with non-fat milk to reduce overall calories.
Naughty: Hard alcohol is 100 calories/oz., wine is 200 calories/4 oz. and beer is about 100 calories/can. Some cocktails are 400-500 calories depending on size and the kind of beverage mixer that is used.
Nice: Try a wine spritzer—add a splash of sparkling water and light cranberry juice to 2 ounces of wine. Pour over crushed ice.