Healthy eating: Calories are coming to town…

Find out which of your holiday favorites are 'naughty' and which are 'nice' for your waistline (part II).

By KATHRYN RUBIN
December 22, 2010 12:22
Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Better watch out! Better not cry. Better not pout. I’m telling you why – the scale never lies.

To help you be "good" this holiday season I made a list (and checked it twice) of the worst foods you should stay clear of this time of the year. Last week's  list kicked off with some of the most "naughty" culprits that you will find outside: peppermint lattes, hot cocoa, gingerbread men and sugar cookies! This week's column continues with a list of more unhealthy festive treats that will find there way into your home and onto your dinner table.

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1. Don’t double dip!

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Don’t be fooled by their size, appetizers are a primary culprit when it comes to holiday weight gain. While appetizers may appear all small and innocent, the ingredients that they contain as well as the number that you actually consume can cause your calorie intake to sky rocket. However when it comes to “les hors d’oeuvres”, one weight sinner stands apart from the rest – the DIPS.

Dips are one of the more dangerous choices for appetizers. It is virtually impossible to know what is in them, and which "deadly" ingredients are driving you to keep on dipping.  Take for example the holiday favorite spinach artichoke cheese-dip. Don’t be deceived by the word spinach, a serving of this infamous holiday spread contains around 300 calories and 17 to 20 grams of pure fat.

TIP: Instead of a cream or mayonnaise based dip, choose humus or a simple salsa. While these choices may not be completely fat free, at least you know what is in them. Also, switch those fatty chips with fresh veggies such as carrot, cucumber and bell pepper sticks.


2. Beware of the dark “Dark Side”

While turkey has generally less fat than other meats, you must remember to choose your cut wisely. The dark meat (with skin) has up to 70 more calories and three times as much fat as a serving of white meat without the skin. In fact, the skin alone can have as much as 44 grams of pure fat.

TIP: Trim down your fat and calories intake by going for a skinless piece of white meat.


3. Pass the sauce?

When there is turkey, there is the ultimate holiday sidekick - Cranberry Sauce. While this sauce is a real festive treat, it is also incredibly sweet. Cranberries naturally have an incredible tart flavor, so to get them tasting so sweet it takes mass amounts of sugar (usually high fructose corn syrup) to do the trick. While cranberry sauce may give your turkey that added holiday flare, you and your guest can certainly do without all those empty extra calories.

TIP: If you buy your cranberry sauce from a store look for one with reduced sugar content. However, if you are the type of person who likes to make everything from scratch, then experiment with different sugar substitutes (such as splenda). While your guests will never notice the difference, they will be thankful when they have extra calories to splurge on your delectable desserts.


4.  The infamous sinner : Pecan Pie

With 500 calories, 37 grams of fat and 50 grams of sugar per slice this festive pie tops our most “naughty” holiday food list. Before you even make it “a la mode”, by decorating it with a scope of vanilla ice cream, this holiday favorite has the highest caloric content of just about any of our holiday favorites. Pecans are already one of the most fattening members of the nut family, but combine them with tons of butter and sugar and you honestly can’t be surprised when the next morning the scale slants in the wrong direction.

TIP: While this pecan pie may be delicious, don’t be a nut by wasting all your calories on one slice of this dessert. If pie is your weak spot, opt for an apple or pumpkin pie. While both these dessert still contain around 300 calories per slice, they still have considerably less than a pecan pie. However, if it must be pecan – then to reduce your fat and calorie content cut down on the pecans by mixing the nuts (a 1/3 a cup) and oatmeal (2/3 of a cup).


5.  Have yourself a "sweet" holiday

While caramel apples typically make their appearance at carnivals and the circus, this time of the year they are everywhere. Now caramel appeals are very deceiving – yes we know that they are coated in sugar, but at the same time they are still an apple right? Wrong! While apples are loaded with vitamins and fiber, the caramel sauce that they are dipped is pure sugar and corn syrup! As a result, this holiday sweet contains more than 300 calories, 28 grams of sugar and 16 grams of fat per apple. Big surprise right? 

TIP: Baked apples are the healthiest alternative of course. Simple bake your apples in the oven and coat them with tons of cinnamon. You will still get that holiday feeling without ending up in a sugar coma. However, if you simply can’t resist the sweet taste of a caramel apple than lightly coat your apple in a fat- free ( or even sugar free) caramel syrup.

Next week, make New Year health resolutions that you can actually keep.


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