The Holiday season brings bright lights, catchy tunes, cheer, and a whole lot of indulgent food — tackling huge spreads of dip and holiday cookie platters and double-fisting glasses of eggnog may feel unavoidable. While the season is about treating yourself (and others), it is possible to enjoy holiday parties without popping any buttons. We broke down the nutrition stats of your classic holiday favorites to help make those situations a bit easier. Read on for Greatist’s portion guide to a healthier holiday season.
Baked Brie and Crackers
Serving Size: 1 oz brie and 3 crackers (1 small pinecone, 3 gift tags)
Stats: 185 calories, 11 grams of fat
The recommended serving size for most cheeses is just one ounce — the size equivalent of a small pinecone (or about the size of your thumb). Though cheese does offer up some calcium and protein, it’s also pretty high in calories and fat. Keep this rich treat to a minimum by spreading it evenly over three whole-grain crackers.
Veggies and Dip
Serving Size: 6 sticks carrots and celery, 2 tablespoons dressing (6 cinnamon sticks, 1 small ornament)
Stats: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat
We’re big on sneaking veggies into any meal. Unfortunately, fresh veggies are usually accompanied by some not-so-healthy dips at social gatherings. America’s favorite dressing — ranch — often complements the veggie tray with a whopping 140 calories and 14 grams of fat per 2 tablespoon serving. Rather than diminish the healthiness of fresh veggies (which are low in calories and naturally fat-free), consider ditching the dressing and snacking on veggies au natural.
Serving Size: 5 jumbo shrimp and 2 tablespoons cocktail sauce (5 mini candy canes, 2 tea lights)
Stats: 85 calories, 1 gram of fat
Posting up by the shrimp cocktail platter may be one of the safest bets amongst a sea of naughtier hors d’oeuvres. Five shrimp have roughly 80 calories and 1 gram of fat, while cocktail sauce has negligible nutrition stats. This snack is a great choice not only for keeping calorie intake down, but also because it boasts around 18 grams of protein (known to help us feel fuller faster) Effect of different protein sources on satiation and short-term satiety when consumed as a starter. Abou-Samra, R., Keersmaekers, L., Brienza, D., et al. Nestle Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland. Nutrition Journal, 2011 Dec 23;10:139..
Spiced Nuts or Trail Mix
Serving Size: 2 tablespoons mixed nuts (1 heaping shot glass of cranberries)
Stats: 170 calories, 14 grams of fat
Heart-healthy nuts have tons of health benefits, from maintaining healthy skin and hair to lowering cholesterol. 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 and ingredients, you can count on around 170 calories and 14 grams of fat for just an ounce (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 pre-packaged kind and make your own healthier version to serve at the next holiday party.
HONEY BAKED HAM
Serving Size: 3 oz ham (1 large Christmas ornament)
Stats: 125 calories, 5 grams of fat
For many families, honey baked ham is just as much a Christmas staple as a tree and presents. Though the recommended serving size of ham may be smaller than you’d expect (about the size of a deck of cards) it weighs in at only 125 calories and 5 grams of fat. But keep an eye on the salty stuff: This ornament-sized serving has nearly half of the recommended daily intake of sodium.
Serving Size: 2 medium-sized cookies (3 pieces Hanukkah gelt)
Stats: 65 calories, 2 grams of fat
Though Hanukkah has come and passed this year, we couldn’t help but compare traditional chocolate coins (aka gelt) with gingersnap cookies to show just the right size. Depending on the recipe used and size, gingersnaps can vary quite a bit in the nutrition department. For cookies around an inch in diameter, a serving of two will only set you back roughly 60 calories and 1 gram of fat.
Serving Size: 3 cookies (1 spool of ribbon)
Stats: 150 calories, 7 grams of 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. Without all the extras, 3 reasonably-sized cookies contain around 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 11 grams of sugar. While this serving size may look surprisingly large, turns out the basic sugar cookie isn’t so bad after all.
Serving Size: ½ cup champagne (1 small party popper)
Stats: 78 calories, 0 grams of fat
What’s a holiday party without a little bubbly? Compared to a mug of eggnog or hot buttered rum, champagne is a wiser choice, with only 78 calories per 4-ounce serving. The New Year’s favorite elixir has a smaller serving size than most drinks, so keep an eye on heavy hands while pouring. Beyond being fairly low in calories, champagne may also have some impressive health benefits, including containing antioxidants called polyphenols, which can help lower blood pressure (among other benefits) The involvement of a polyphenol-rich extract of black chokeberry in oxidative stress on experimental arterial hypertension. Ciocoiu, M., Badescu, L., Miron, A., et al. Department of Pathophysiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Medicine and Pharmacy. Iasi, Romania. Evidence Based Complimentary and Alternative medicine, 2013;2013:912769..
Serving Size: ½ cup eggnog (1 large bow)
Stats: 172 calories, 9 grams of fat
This thick and creamy 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 nearly 350 calories, 20 grams of fat, and a whopping 21 grams of sugar (yikes!). Tone down your ‘nog sipping and savor a smaller portion instead, and keep the addition of booze to a standard shot (which adds around 100 calories).
Serving Size: 1 cup cocoa (1 large jingle bell)
Stats: 113 calories, 1 gram of fat
Winter simply isn’t the same without piping hot cocoa (mini marshmallows optional). When prepared using a powdered mix and water (rather than cream or milk), a cup of every kid’s favorite seasonal drink has only 113 calories and 1 gram of fat. If you’d like a creamier version, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk for just a few more calories. For an even healthier version, choose a quality cocoa powder rather than store-bought mixes.
Do you practice portion control around the holidays? What strategies do you abide by? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmdermott.