10 holiday foods unmasked

10 holidays foods unmasked


When it comes to holiday food I find that many of my clients love to stop their nutrition programs and relax their rules. The mentality seems to be that ignorance is bliss when it comes to eating the traditional holiday goodies. But, I say knowledge is power. By knowing what is in your food you can equip yourself to enjoy the holiday fare while keeping your waistline in check. As part of my post-pregnancy get back in shape plan (month 6) I will be thinking twice about how much I eat these holidays.


Here are 10 traditional holiday foods exposed using Betty Crocker recipes or commercially available recipes. The order isn’t random either. These are listed in order of the least to the greatest health offenders. Note, I am not just considering the calories as calories alone does not tell the whole picture of how a food will make us feel.


Candy Canes


1 regular sized candy cane is 50 calories and 9 grams of sugar.  What this means is every time you indulge in that great childhood tradition you are eating the equivalent of 2 sugar cubes.


Cranberry sauce


1/4 cup of cranberry sauce is 110 calories, 29 grams sugar. What this means is every time you heap cranberry sauce onto your turkey or ham you are eating the equivalent of 6 sugar cubes.


Gingerbread Cookies


1 cookie is 160 calories, 14 grams of sugar.. are you eating just 1 because a batch makes 24 cookies. If indeed you do just eat 1 cookie you will be eating the equivalent of 3 sugar cubes.

High intakes of SUGAR will spike your blood sugar causing a hormonal cascade effect that can lead to weight gain. My everyday recommendation is to limit your sugar intake to less than the equivalent of 5 sugar cubes in a day. I relax the limit a little for the holidays… but only a little!


Shortbread Cookies


1 cookie is 90 calories, 7 grams of sugar.. careful a batch makes 48 cookies! These cookies may seem plain and harmless, but each one adds up.  Here is something to think about before you eat too many cookies: The amount of calories in one shortbread cookies is the same as the amount of calories in a serving of rum.




1 serving (1/10th of the recipe) is 250 calories, 540 mg of sodium. This means you will be reaching 1/3 (arguably almost half) of your sodium limit with one food.




1 latke is 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 420 mg of sodium. And.. who eats one latke? Not me! Without toppings you will already have a high fat meal. Even more alarming is the amount of sodium in 1 latke – at least 1/3 of your daily limit in 1 latke.




1 cup if the “light” version has 220 calories, 270 mg sodium, and 32 grams of sugar. What this means is the “better” version of eggnog can still set you back by offering up the equivalent of 6 sugar cubes and 1/4 of your daily sodium limit in 1 small (250 ml) cup!


Pumpkin Pie


1 slice is 350 calories, 370mg sodium, 21 grams of sugar. This dessert is high in calories (easily 20% of your daily needs) on top of being high in sodium (over 1/4 of your daily sodium limit) and high in sugar (the equivalent of 4 sugar cubes). I am not trying to scare you. The take-home message here is if someone offers you the leftover pumpkin pie to take home maybe it’s worth it to say no thank you!


Mixed nuts


1 small handful of mixed nuts has 280 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 170 mg of sodium. So stop eating the nuts after 1 or 2 handfuls. The calories alone should be enough of a warning. But if you didn’t catch the first number here is another. 4 mindless handfuls of mixed nuts later and you will have eaten 1120 calories! That is likely more than half your daily needs.


The cheer


Alcohol is in the #1 health offender position because it stimulates your appetite and at the same time adds on the calories. Each alcoholic drink ads 90 to 150 calories to your intake without including mixers (juice, soda, and eggnog). My advice is to cheer in moderation.  If your tendency is to drink extra during holiday parties then create an active strategy that keeps you from overdoing it this holiday season. This year my active strategy is built in as I am still nursing my little one – nursing moms never, I mean never, have a reason to celebrate that they can’t indulge in alcohol so this is a shout-out for the nursing mom who will be that much fitter this holiday season! Maybe there is someone who will motivate you to stay more sober this year?


For more details you can also watch my TV segment on Global, Holiday Eating.

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