By Dietitian Jill Place
So again … for several years now … here’s the best and worst picks for Christmas dinner from my fave website (and books) Eat This, Not That! I would’ve done Hanukah too … and I don’t know WHAT’s a “best” there because EVERTHING is done with Schmaltz AKA chicken fat (possibly why I was sooo butterball [pun intended] when I was a kid). But it’s already past.
Eat This, Not That!‘s whole idea is … if you make better choices for some of the things you eat … especially at this time of year … you’ll at least maintain your weight until New Year’s.
And this time (I was a little late for Thanksgiving) it’s early enough for those who DO cook to make better choices for some of their holiday foods. That’s why I’ve divided these best and worst into food categories … even including two types of drinks! You can access the entire Eat This, Not That! article here if you want to know more.
If the nutritional analyses of calories and fat doesn’t deter you from eating some of these, I don’t know what will. So let’s start with …
I thought I’d begin here because I didn’t include this in my Thanksgiving article … and we tend to imbibe more on Christmas … especially …
WORST: Eggnog There are MANY different kinds (I prefer the soy or almond-milk versions now and made a lowfat dairy one for YEARS for holiday parties and dinners) but the average eggnog has in 1 cup: 343 calories, 19 g fat.
BEST: Vodka Soda with Lime 1 cup: 120 calories, 0 g fat Club soda, yes. Tonic water, no (lots of sugar!). This is one of the very best cocktails you’ll find (but I myself turn my nose up to vodka … my apologies to those who are “white” alcohol drinkers!)
WORST: Zinfandel 5 fl. oz, 129 calories, 13.5% ABV (Alcohol by Volume) Most red wine has a higher sugar content, which increases the calorie count.
BEST: Sauvignon Blanc 5 fl. oz, 88 calories, 9% ABV White wines are mostly (except for sweet dessert wines) much lower in sugar and alcohol than their red counterparts. And this wine is my all-time fave … and what I drink most of the time (I also like a GOOD Viognier … and during the holidays champagne’s no slouch either!)
I NEVER serve these because I figure the meal is definitely caloric ENOUGH … but many do. So here’s the:
WORST: Pigs in a Blanket 4 pieces, 533 calories, 33 g fat Any hors d’ouvre with puff pastry or a crust, gobs of butter, and fatty meat or cheese is an appetizer no-no.
BEST: Habanero Stuffed Olives 0.50 oz., 15 calories, 1.5 g fat Eat This, Not That! pointed out that spicy appetizers help you eat less … a group of Canadian researchers found that men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at meals than those that didn’t. Me … I’d rather just eat less than have burning lips and tongue.
These get a little richer at Christmas ,,, with the most caloric being …
WORST: Cheescake 1/6th cake, 470 calories, 26 g fat I make lower-fat versions of this SOOO popular dessert (SOOO popular that there’s even a popular restaurant chain named after it). But I’m not eating dairy anymore, and now make these Paleo TOTALLY from dates, cashews and coconut cream … and they’re even more caloric than the traditional cream cheese … but a lot healthier.
BEST (and STILL the CHAMP!): Pumpkin Pie 1/8th pie: 192 calories, 6.3 g fat If you’re not yet sick of pumpkin pie … this is still the best dessert. If you are, Eat This, Not That! also suggests homemade chocolate chip cookies as 1 medium, 2-1/4″ dia is 78 calories, 4.5 g fat. But who can eat just one?
Even with the best of these, it’s a good idea to go light on the butter and use lower-fat or alternative milks like soy or almond … especially in the …
WORST: Cornbread 2 x 2 slice with butter, 190 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated), 450 mg sodium More calories, fat, and sodium than a regular roll. Eat one if you must but have the pumpkin pie or just a sliver of cheesecake for dessert.
BEST (and AGAIN STILL the CHAMP): Mashed Potatoes 1⁄2 cup made with whole milk, 87 calories, 0.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 317 mg sodium If you want to cut calories even more, here’s a good place to use less butter and lower-fat milks.
I know we think that veggies are the least fat- and calorie-laden of all dishes, but many holiday veggies are just dripping. I always serve green beans almandine (steamed with a small dollop of butter [or walnut or coconut oil] and toasted slivered almonds) with my holiday meals [they’re also sooo much less labor-intensive when you’re making so many other dishes]). Here are their picks …
WORST: Creamed Spinach ½ cup, 220 calories, 14 g fat (7 g saturated), 440 mg sodium Eat This, Not That! recommends sauteing this nutritional powerhouse in olive oil and chopped garlic instead.
BEST: Roasted Brussels Sprouts 1⁄2 cup, 28 calories 0 g fat 16 mg sodium I know that some people don’t like them, but these are one of my fave vegetables … … and incredibly nutritious too!
Christmas entrees are as vast as your imagination. And most people are turkied-out by this time and want something totally different. So here’s the best and worst ones …
WORST: Prime Rib 4 oz, 400 calories, 23 g fat (8 g saturated), 580 mg sodium Tons of fat here … but it tastes sooo good …
BEST: Ham 4 oz bone-in rump, 148 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 948 mg sodium Ham is one of the leanest meats out there, but also one of the saltiest. If you’re not entirely tired of turkey, skinless white meat weighs in at 144 calories, 2.4 g fat (0.6 g saturated), and 200 mg sodium for a 4 oz. serving.
Since the average holiday meal can weigh in at 3,500 TO 4,000 CALORIES OR MORE … especially at Christmas because, after an entire month of sugarplums dancing everywhere, it’s kind of the last-ditch indulgence … it might be a good idea to choose lower-cal stuff in some of these catagories. If you do, you may not have to wear drawstring pants yet again. Or roll on the floor in agony!