You probably think you know all the pitfalls of the holiday dinner table. Ham is loaded with fat and often smothered in sweet glaze. Mashed potatoes are laden with butter and sour cream, and those oh-so-delightful cakes and pies are just big gobs of sugar! However, there are some hidden “naughties” among all the “nice” looking alternatives. Here are the foods you should steer clear of this holiday season.
A glass of wine isn’t such a problem, but that 125-calorie lapse can lead to other judgment errors during the evening. For example, after a couple of glasses and 250 calories under your belt, those cheese puffs and cookies don’t look like such a bad idea. This is an easy way to gain five pounds without even realizing it. It’s an excellent idea to fill up on refreshing water before a party or get-together, which will help keep you full and hydrated until dinner time.
It may seem less sinful to indulge in a sweet drink than downing a honking slice of pie, but it isn’t. Eggnog whops a punch of 350 calories per cup, and over half of these calories come from fat. It’s also bad for those trying to be heart-healthy, loaded with half of a day’s allowance of cholesterol. Stick to cider, or even better, indulge in black coffee or unsweet hot tea. These drinks are just as warm and satisfying, and don’t bust your daily calorie allotment.
3. Cheese and Crackers
Amid the table loaded with sweet treats and fatty offerings, a simple plate of cheese and crackers seems like a healthier alternative. But beware: cheese is high in both fat and calories, and the crackers are packed with sodium. Just five little cubes of cheese amounts to 345 calories, and when tossed onto a bed of crackers adds up to a whopping 500 calories. Cheese and crackers aren’t filling enough to take that kind of calorie hit.
Stuffing itself is usually swimming in butter, but if it’s cooked inside the turkey it also absorbs all those fats from the bird and becomes an even worse nightmare for those on a fitness program. Not only is this a fattening holiday dish, if the stuffing is cooked inside the bird it can also be a source of food-borne illness. Opt for a slice of lean turkey breast, and decline the stuffing and gravy.
5. Caramel Popcorn
You probably already realize that caramel popcorn is laden with butter and sugar, but do you realize how much? Just four ounces packs almost 500 calories. You’d be better off eating a sizeable piece of chocolate cake than a few handfuls of caramel corn. Air popped popcorn is the least offensive variety, if it’s available. Hold the butter, and go light on the salt.
6. Swedish Meatballs
Compared to some of the breads and potato dishes, Swedish meatballs look like a good alternative for those on high-protein or carb-controlled diets. However, the breading and cream used to make the meatballs is high in carbs, fat, and calories. Traditional Swedish meatball recipes can produce meatballs that contain more than 400 calories each! Aside from these concerns, the meatballs are also packed with 50 percent of your daily sodium allowance — definitely not a good bang for your calorie budget buck.
7. Cranberry Sauce
Surely a fruity dish is a safe dish at the holiday table? Well, not if it’s cranberry sauce. The canned variety is about 200 calories per half cup, and contains about twice the amount of sugar used to make an entire pie.
What are some healthy alternatives available? Most parties offer a vegetable platter, and as long as you steer clear of the ranch or blue cheese dressing that accompanies it, you can fill up without busting your daily calorie allowance. A handful of nuts can tide you over until dinner, offering lots of nutrients, but stick to a single helping, because the calories in nuts really add up.
Don’t arrive at parties starving if you can help it. Have a solid, healthy snack that afternoon, and sip on your water during the day. Then you won’t be so hungry that you lose self-control once you get there.