Healthy Holiday Question of the Week: What Holiday Foods Should I Avoid?

Creating a healthy eating plan for the holidays is key in creating the balance between enjoying all the season has to offer, without piling on tons of extra calories.

By deciding in advance which parties, gatherings and events are going to offer the most opportune circumstances at which we can partake in a bit of decadence, we can plan accordingly.

A slice of flourless Christmas torte or a shared, gorgeous bottle of red wine sitting by the fireplace with our significant other warrants a splurge far more than standing around at the obligatory office party, drinking cocktails made from a mixer and store bought holiday cookies!

But is everything and anything fair game, even when we plan around it?

Not necessarily.

Some foods and drink rank far less healthy than others, even if consumed at the bare minimum amount.

Below are the top five holiday foods and drinks I’d suggest avoiding like the plague!

Commercially prepared eggnog. While it looks lovely and festive, such as in the image above, most brands you’ll find in the store are nothing more than a concoction of thickeners and stabilizers, artificial colors and flavors; some are also sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. One-half cup typically has 170 calories and 8 grams of fat (1), but most portions poured out are at least one full cup, plus the extra calories from rum! You’re better off with a neat spirit if you want something boozey; try a neat gin with sparkling water and a raw cranberry or two to make it look more festive!
Candied Nuts: Sure, a handful of sprouted nuts can make for a great snack. But that same handful of candied pecans can cost you 610 calories, 24 grams of which are coming from sugar. (2) Steer clear of anything labeled ‘candied’; even that little bit of sugar can be enough to trigger that naughty little devil which tells us it’s a good idea to have just a little more. Instead, if you are going nuts, do so with the old stand by; raw walnuts.
Store-bought Christmas Cookies: if you’re making a batch of gluten free holiday cookies with the kids, with the understanding that once in a while, we have some wiggle room to do so, that’s one thing. You’re 100% in charge of what’s going into the dough and you can be sure you’re not getting the usual, dirty culprits you’ll find in all too many of the store bought varieties: corn syrup, dairy from unknown sources and a host of additives and flavorings. Stick with higher fat, lower sugar options of the homemade type, such as a nut cluster made with coconut butter, coconut oil….and shredded coconut! Play around and create your own concoction.
Fruitcake. Made of candied and dried fruits, ginger, flour, butter, eggs, spices and then soaked in alcoholic spirits, a typical slice of this old-time sweet can clock in at more than 400 calories (3). Want fruit? Have an apple… and make it a green one!
Caramel Popcorn. 96% of the corn we have is GMO and it’s also used to make tampons, diapers and packing material. If that’s not enough reason to avoid it, how about all the added sugar you’ll be ingesting in a cup of this holiday snack food? Focus on spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, and toss them with raw nuts, diced green apple and a handful of raw cranberry instead of a far healthier crunch.

Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, but if you keep to the theme of avoiding the sugary and highly refined culprits as much as possible, you’ll be doing yourself, your body and your energy levels a huge favor!
(1) http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2011/12/19/homemade-vs-store-bought-eggnog/?oc=linkback
(2) http://www.sparkpeople.com/calories-in.asp?food=candied+pecans
(3) http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1009102-unhealthy-holiday-dishes-avoid/#slide=2