Christmas is just around the corner, and along with the arrival of festive attire and office holiday bashes, come the dreaded buffet tables of food and cocktail snacks. Nibbles and sips here and there can really add up and do some serious diet damage. Some studies even claim the average person can consume an extra 1,000 calories a day during the holiday season. And while that does mean you should be wary of indulging in too many Christmas treats, it does not mean you should avoid them all together. You simply need to know where to draw the line. Here are a few of the worst Christmas party foods and savvy substitutions to keep you from gaining weight while making merry.
Why it's a problem: Made from milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs and various liquors, eggnog can contain a whopping 450 calories per cup (and who stops at one cup?).
What to reach for instead: Hot chocolate (spike it with a shot of rum if you want to sip an alcoholic beverage).
Why it's a problem: Many cheeses, especially creamy ones (like brie or camembert), are laden with fat. For example, one cup of brie has almost 900 calories and 66 grams of fat.
What to reach for instead: Low-fat cheese or mozzarella. Many hard cheeses can be bought in low-fat form; ask your hostess if that's an option in her appetizer spread. If it's not, reach for small pieces of mozzarella, which has about one-third the calories and fat of brie.
Why it's a problem: This common party dip is heaving with hidden fats, thanks to the mayonnaise, cheese and sour cream that make it so rich. Add the calories of the crackers or bread you dip into the spread, and you're looking at one serious nutritional bomb.
What to reach for instead: Salsa and tortilla chips. Nowhere near the calorie or fat content of spinach dip, this yummy combination is also rich in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.
Stuffed puff pastry
Why it's a problem: Many store-bought puff pastries are loaded with trans fats and come pre-stuffed with jelly or cheese mixtures that are high in calories.
What to reach for instead: Shrimp. One full cup of shrimp has only 220 calories and two grams of fat, making it a nibble that's almost 90 percent lighter than crust-covered appetizers.
Why it's a problem: Don't let the name of this traditional dessert fool you, there's nothing fruity or healthy about it. In fact, the amount of fruit that goes into this sweet is negligible, and the fruit that is included is candied. Add the sugar, flour and butter and you're looking at a dessert that's over 100 calories per ounce.
What to reach for instead: Chocolate fondue with fruit dippers, such as berries, banana slices or orange segments. Not only is fondue fun to play with, you'll also be eating real fruit (which has almost zero calories) and you'll get a delicious dose of heart-healthy antioxidants from the chocolate.
Regardless of the foods you choose at the upcoming Christmas parties, slow your calorie consumption by eating slowly and savoring every bite.
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