Health & Fitness

A sweet-tooth guide to holiday calorie cutting

The coming weeks will be packed with parties, treats and indulgent annual traditions. Instead of mindlessly diving in and ignoring the repercussions until Jan. 1, keep your head about you. Choose wisely, and you can have your jollies and still feel good in your jeans on New Year’s Day. Here are 12 simple holiday swaps that add up to more than a thousand calories saved, without a putting dent in your festive mojo.

1. Instead of a chocolate truffle (105 calories):

Go for a candy cane (40 calories).

Save: 65 calories

Unwrap an iconic red-and-white peppermint stick instead of a chocolate bonbon and get a sweet holiday treat with fewer calories and none of the saturated fat. Plus, if you can resist crunching into it, a candy cane lasts longer.

2. Instead of a slice of Starbucks pumpkin bread (410 calories):

Go for a Starbucks pumpkin-spice latte with skim milk (195 calories).

Save: 215 calories

When you stop for a shopping break, get a 12-ounce pumpkin-spice latte, which has the same seasonal taste and aroma as a hunk of pumpkin bread, with less than half the calories. On top of that, the drink gives you milk’s filling protein and essential nutrients. Just remember to skip the whip.

3. Instead of crackers with cheddar cheese (293 calories):

Go for apple slices and soft goat cheese (170 calories).

Save: 123 calories

Soft cheeses such as chevre and feta naturally have about two-thirds the calories and fat as hard cheeses such as cheddar. If you spread some on fresh fruit slices instead of crackers, you save even more calories, and gain flavor and fiber.

4. Instead of potato chips with onion dip (260 calories in 1 ounce of chips, 2 tablespoons of dip):

Go for vegetables and guacamole (48 calories in 1 cup of celery and 2 tablespoons of avocado).

Save: 212 calories

Dips are ideal party starters because they get everyone close together, sharing and bumping elbows. Instead of fried chips and a sour-cream-based dip, use vegetables to scoop up much more healthfully creamy guacamole. You save a couple hundred calories swapping out a mere ounce of chips and two tablespoons of dip. Most people easily eat twice that in the course of the night.

5. Instead of a cup of eggnog (344 calories):

Go for a glass of champagne (154 calories).

Save: 190 calories

Not only is eggnog packed with calories, but one cup has a whopping 11 grams of saturated fat; that’s half a day’s worth! Why swallow that when you can celebrate with the same amount of bubbly for less than half the calories and no fat at all?

6. Instead of three mini sausages (96 calories):

Go for three large shrimp (21 calories).

Save: 75 calories

When it comes to finger foods, you can’t go wrong with shrimp. It’s a tempting, tidy, two-bite nibble, packed with lean protein and minerals. So skip the greasy sausage and make a beeline to the seafood platter; it usually goes fast.

7. Instead of spiced apple cider with rum (189 calories):

Go for a hot toddy with rum (127 calories).

Save: 62 calories

A warm, spiced cocktail is a comforting pleasure on a cold winter’s night. A tea-based toddy will do the trick with less of a calorie hit than cider, and it has heart-healthy flavanoids to boot.

8. Instead of a slice of fruitcake (440 calories):

Go for a slice of panettone (284 calories).

Save: 156 calories

Panettone, the traditional Italian holiday cake, is sweet and studded with fruit, but it is also famously fluffy and light, so it is much easier on the waistline than the denser American cake.

9. Instead of a large handful of mixed nuts (410 calories):

Go for a large handful of pistachios in the shell (160 calories)

Save: 250 calories

Of course nuts in their jackets are lower in calories than the same volume already shelled; there are fewer nuts in the handful. But, chances are, you will feel equally satisfied with that smaller portion because the shells slow you down, allowing your brain to register the food before you swallow the whole fistful.

10. Instead of a slice of apple pie (410 calories):

Go for a slice of pumpkin pie (320 calories).

Save: 90 calories

Thanks mainly to its double pastry crust, apple pie packs a much bigger calorie wallop than the open-faced pumpkin pie. And, really, how many times a year is pumpkin pie on the menu?

11. Instead of hot cocoa with whole milk and whipped cream (320 calories):

Go for hot cocoa with 1 percent low-fat milk and mini marshmallows (278 calories).

Save: 42 calories

A steaming cup of cocoa is a must after sledding or snowman-building. Make it with 1 percent milk for a more healthful treat that is still nice and creamy. Instead of whipped cream, top it with a few mini-marshmallows just for the fun of it. They have just 2 calories each.

12. Instead of two small sugar cookies (140 calories):

Go for two small gingerbread men (60 calories).

Save: 80 calories

If sugar cookies are your thing, then go ahead and have a couple. Savor, don’t deprive yourself of, your true holiday favorites. But if it is a tossup, opt for the gingerbread men, which are a tad more healthful because the molasses they are sweetened with contains minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium – and you get to contemplate which body part to nibble first.

Calorie counts are based on an analysis of data from ESHA Food Processor, a diet analysis and fitness software tool, using nutrition labels on product packaging and websites.