When you’re attending one holiday party after another, all of those calories can add up fast.
The average American gains 1-2lbs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—which probably shouldn't come as a surprise, considering all the heavy foods, desserts, and drinks typical of the holiday season.
Fortunately, making a few simple swaps (or just avoiding the worst calorie bombs on the appetizer table) can save you from dreaded holiday weight gain. Here are seven holiday foods that pack enormous amounts of calories—and what to eat instead.
Just one cup of eggnog has about 350 calories, 11g of saturated fat, and 20g of sugar. Spike it with a shot of rum, and just one drink can pack in nearly 450 calories. If you drink another glass or have food alongside your egg nog, that can easily add up to half a day’s worth of calories in minutes.
Healthier swap: apple cider
Switching to spiced cider saves you more than 200 calories per cup, and cuts out all the saturated fat. A cup of apple cider still packs in 26g of sugar, so drink it in moderation (or opt for the homemade variety with no added sugar). But at 120 calories per cup and 0g of fat, it’s still a healthier option than eggnog for holiday sipping. Have a handful of nuts or some sliced turkey alongside your cider for some protein and healthy fats that'll slow down the sugar spike. Chow down on the veggie platter, too, for extra fiber to fill you up.
Since latkes are fried, they soak up a lot of oil and result in a dish no healthier for you than a plate of french fries. Just three small potato latkes can set you back more than 400 calories and 15g of fat—and that’s before you top them with sour cream.
Healthier swap: roasted latkes
Lighten up your potatoes by cutting the oil and roasting them instead of frying. Roasting allows you to get the same crispy edges that you crave from latkes while cutting about 10g of fat and 200 calories. Just prep your latkes as usual, and instead of frying place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can spray them with some light olive oil to help them crisp up more and keep the traditional aspect of latkes intact.
One cup of roasted potatoes only sets you back 200 calories and 5g of fat, a much lighter option that’s still satisfying. Plus, you can leave on the skin when grating your potatoes for extra fiber to keep you full longer. Potato skin is also rich in potassium to help counteract the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium.
Most people don’t think of glazed ham as a calorie bomb, but a 6-oz portion can set you back nearly 600 calories. Sure, it has protein—but you credit a lot of those calories to the sticky-sweet glaze, which adds a whopping 43g of sugar to that portion. A 6-oz portion of glazed ham also comes in at 1,680mg sodium—which is about the recommended amount for an entire day.
Healthier swap: roasted turkey
Roasted turkey doesn’t usually come slathered in sugary glaze, so you’ll shave off all 43g of sugar. That ends up saving you mega calories, too. A 6-oz portion of roasted turkey has just 280 calories and 700mg sodium, a huge cut from the same amount of honey-glazed ham.
Bread pudding may seem like an innocent enough dessert when lined up next to pies and ice cream, but rich ingredients make it a definite calorie bomb. Soaking bread in a mixture of cream, egg yolks, and sugar creates a calorie-dense dessert that packs in more than 650 calories and 23g of saturated fat per ¾-cup serving. That’s far from friendly for your waistline.
Healthier swap: gingersnaps
Passing on the bread pudding doesn't mean you need to say no to dessert altogether. The key is to stick with portion-controlled desserts like small cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard. Thin gingersnaps tend to be lower in fat and calories than most other Christmas cookies, but they still provide satisfying sweetness. Enjoy three thin gingersnaps for just 130 calories and 1g of saturated fat, saving you more than 500 calories compared to a hunk of bread pudding.
Mashed potatoes are notoriously loaded with butter and cream, making for a decadent (and high-calorie) side dish. Just a ½-cup serving of mashed potatoes can add about 250 calories and 7g of saturated fat to your plate. Serve that with honey-glazed ham and bread pudding for dessert and you’ve reached nearly 1,500 calories from one meal.
Healthier swap: mashed cauliflower
Swapping out the potatoes for cauliflower cuts calories without losing the creamy texture or appearance. Just a splash of milk and a pat of butter go a long way in making cauliflower taste decadent, so you can enjoy a ½-cup serving for just 70 calories and 1g of saturated fat. Plus, you’ll lower the carb count on your already carb-rich holiday plate.
You might think spinach dip is a healthier option to scoop up at an appetizer table because, well, it’s got spinach in it. But aside from the spinach, this dip is mostly sour cream and mayonnaise. That makes it clock in at 240 calories for just a ¼-cup serving—and that’s not counting the bread or crackers you use for dipping. Eight crackers tack on another 130 calories, putting you at nearly 400 calories before your meal even starts.
Healthier swap: hummus
Swapping the sour cream- and mayo-based dip for a lighter chickpea-based dip like hummus cuts the calories in half. A ¼-cup serving of hummus has 120 calories, and when you use veggies for dipping you save even more. Bonus points for getting extra fiber and some plant-based protein at an otherwise carnivorous feast.
Caramel popcorn is easy to snack on a handful at a time, which means calories can add up without you even noticing. A few handfuls of caramel popcorn can easily add up to 3oz—and that means you’ve put away 475 calories and 44g of sugar. Since each kernel of popcorn is coated in butter and sugar, it’s far from an abs-friendly snack.
Healthier swap: kettle corn
Kettle corn still satisfies your cravings for sweet-salty popcorn, but with much less sugar and fewer calories. Since the popcorn is tossed in a mixture of sugar and salt, rather than coated with a thick layer of caramel, kettle corn clocks in at 170 calories and 6g of sugar per serving, compared to caramel corn’s 475 calories and 44g of sugar. Your January self will thank you.