“Oh, go on, just one more…”
The Holiday season brings bright lights, catchy tunes, cheer, and a whole lot of indulgent treats and snacks. Tackling huge spreads of dip and holiday cookie platters and drinking several glasses of eggnog may feel unavoidable.
And after the sh*tshow that has been 2020, we wouldn’t blame you.
However, while the season is about treating yourself (and others), it is possible to enjoy holiday parties without popping any buttons. If you’re following a specific eating plan, it’s important to stick to it.
Hold up, though — that doesn’t mean denying yourself a treat at the end of a hard year.
This is our guide to managing calories when it comes to holiday treats.
We broke down the nutrition stats of your classic holiday favorites to help make those situations a bit easier and help you picture what a serving looks like.
You’ll also see other objects in the pictures, like tealights or gift tags. Clearly, we’re not anticipating that you’ll eat those. In fact, we’d recommend against it. But it’ll help you visualize portions for a quick grab and nom.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a database called FoodData Central, which is our authoritative source of nutrition information.
However, they don’t always provide the exact serving size that applies. In some cases, we’ve had to give a rough estimate.
For example, if the serving size is 1 ounce, and FoodData Central has information in grams, we’ve calculated the proportions and nutrients/calories accordingly.
For those who are none too accustomed with metric measurements, 1 ounce is just over 28 grams. If the nearest serving they have is 21 grams, we’ll multiply that by the right amount to give you an accurate picture of your calorie count and fat intake.
It’s not like you’re going around the gathering with an ultra-sensitive pair of digital scales, anyway. You shouldn’t let portion counting get in the way of an awesome time.
These bite-sized meals are just there to tide you over ’til the cookies, anyway.
Baked brie and crackers
The recommended serving size for most cheeses is just 1 ounce — the size equivalent of a small pinecone (or about the size of your thumb).
Though cheese does provide some calcium and protein, it’s also pretty high in calories and fat.
Keep your serving of this indulgent, cheesy treat to a minimum by spreading it evenly over three whole-grain crackers.
Veggies and dip
Serving size: 6 carrot and celery sticks with 2 tablespoons ranch dressing, (roughly equivalent to the size of 6 cinnamon sticks and 1 small ornament)
Stats: 132–154 calories (depending on whether you lean toward carrots or celery, as carrot are slightly higher in calorie content) and around 13.5 grams fat.
Seems pretty innocuous, right? We’re big on smuggling veggies into any meal. Unfortunately, fresh veggies are usually accompanied by some not-so-healthy dips at social gatherings.
Rather than ditch the fresh veggies (which are low in calories and virtually fat free), consider ditching the dressing and snacking on veggies au naturel.
We’ve also got options for healthier dressings right here.
Serving size: 5 jumbo shrimps with cocktail sauce (roughly equivalent to the size of 5 mini candy canes with a sauce serving the size of 2 tealights)
Stats: 140.5 calories, 1.7 grams fat
Posting up by the shrimp cocktail platter may be one of the safer bets amongst a sea of naughtier hors d’oeuvres.
Five cocktail shrimps (sauce applied) have roughly 140.5 calories, similar to other snacks, but only 1.7 grams fat.
This snack is a great choice not only for keeping fat intake down, but also because it boasts around 17.7 grams of protein (which may help you feel fuller faster and reduce the urge to eat everything on the snack table — including the tablecloth).
Trail mix with spiced nuts
Serving size: 2 tablespoons trail mix with nuts (roughly the size of 1 heaping shot glass of cranberries)
Stats: 168 calories, 14.8 grams of fat
But dousing them in sugary syrups, molasses, or honey doesn’t exactly make them a healthy choice.
Though many varieties of spiced nuts contain different mixtures, sugars, and ingredients, you can count on around 170 calories and 14 grams of fat for just a couple tablespoons’ worth. (Expect those numbers to jump a bit if the mix you’re snacking on contains additions like chocolate or dried fruit.)
Feel free to skip the prepackaged kind and make your own healthier version to serve at the next holiday party.
Serving size: 3 ounces honey-roasted, smoked ham (around the size of 1 large Christmas ornament)
Stats: Roughly 104 calories and 2.02 grams fat
For many families, honey-baked ham is just as much a Christmas staple as a tree, presents, and heated arguments.
Though the recommended serving size of ham may be smaller than you’d expect (about the size of a deck of cards), it’s down there with the lower calorie counts and fat offerings on the holiday spread.
Just remember to keep an eye on the salty stuff. This ornament-sized serving dishes up 767 milligrams of sodium — over a third of your recommended daily salt intake.
Serving size: 2 medium-sized gingersnap cookies (equivalent to around 3 pieces of Hanukkah gelt)
Stats: 58.2 calories and 1.37 grams fat
We couldn’t help but compare traditional chocolate Hannukah coins (aka gelt) with gingersnap cookies to show just the right size. Because if there’s one festival that celebrates making portions last, it’s Hannukah.
It’s pretty surreal that out of everything on this list, at first glance, a couple of cookies seem to to be the least calorific/fatty foods on here.
However, depending on the recipe used and size, gingersnaps can vary quite a bit in the nutrition department. Generally, though, a serving of two cookies around an inch in diameter won’t really set your daily calorie count back too far.
Serving size: 3 bite-size sugar cookies (around the same size together as around 1 spool of ribbon)
Stats: 90.9 calories and 3.12 grams fat
During the holidays, sweet stuff is ever-present, and no one wants to be the Grinch of the dessert table.
Just like gingersnaps, sugar cookies come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of frostings, sprinkles, and holiday-themed goodies — it’s hard to generalize with the number of varieties, and, no doubt, equally hard to convince anyone to stop at three sugar cookies.
Still, the calorie and fat counts aren’t as imposing as you’d expect — although they do provide 9.63 grams of sugar, which is pretty full-on and very on-brand.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all… just in moderation.
Serving size: 1/2 cup champagne, prosecco, or spumante (about the size of 1 small party popper)
Stats: (Very) roughly 55 calories with variation and 0 grams fat
Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t have a specific entry for champagne, as it falls into a similar category to other sparkling wines, like prosecco and spumante. We’ve had to use spumante for the information, although this will vary between types and brands of sparkling wine.
But what’s a holiday party without a little bubbly? And why are you thinking so much about calories when you’re celebrating?
Compared to a mug of eggnog or hot buttered rum, it’s a wiser choice when it comes to calories. Half a 240-milliliter cup of one particular brand of spumante, for example, only adds 55 calories to your tally. So if you partake in a boozy bevvie or two, live a little.
Plus, it’s fat-free.
The New Year’s favorite elixir has a smaller serving size than most drinks, so keep an eye on heavy hands while pouring.
Serving size: 1/2 cup alcoholic eggnog (about the size of 1 large gift bow)
Stats: Around 135.5 calories and 4.14 grams fat
This thick and creamy festive drink is nearly identical to ice cream, with three basic ingredients — eggs, cream, and tons of sugar.
We’ve made this serving pretty small considering a whole cup has 271 calories, 8.28 grams of fat, and 15.9 grams of sugar (yikes!).
Savor a smaller portion instead, and keep the addition of booze to a standard shot — alcohol adds about 7 calories per gram.
Hot chocolate and cocoa
Serving size: 1 cup cocoa (the size of 1 large jingle bell… all the way)
Stats: Around 176 calories and 1 grams fat
Winter simply isn’t the same without piping hot cocoa (mini marshmallows optional).
As with many of the treats on this rundown, preparation methods vary wildly when it comes to cocoa and make the difference when it comes to calorie count.
One way to reduce calories is using a powdered mix and water, rather than cream or milk.
If you feel like a creamier version, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk the bring down the added calories. For an even healthier edition, choose a quality cocoa powder rather than store-bought mixes.
We give you a hearty pat on the back for keeping such a close eye on what you’re eating. But you know what? It’s been a long, tough year, and it’s a time for celebration, joy, and the occasional spot of overindulgence.
So while, yes, it’s important to know that you’re not absolutely piling on calories, if you feel like sneaking an extra snickerdoodle or two, absolutely no one is judging.
Speaking of treats, we found the best cannabis-based holiday cookie recipes on the web. So maybe make some of your calorie intake, erm, extra special.