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Keep Your Holiday Portions in Check

November 13, 2008

'Tis the belt-loosening season — that time of year when holiday get togethers are more abundant than Diddy's bling.

But if you don't watch your mouth while attending holiday get togethers, you can consume hundreds of additional calories a day — enough to add five pounds just in time for your New Year's resolutions.

Why do we tend to overeat during the holidays? According to psychologists at the University of Toronto, regardless of how hungry we are, social cues dictate our food intake — which is usually too much. People eat more when they’re with a group — even in groups as small as two, people can eat as much as 30 to 50% more than when eating alone.

But since no one likes to miss out on the great holidays, here’s the lowdown on how to control your portion sizes and prevent a food overdose without surrendering your holiday favorites.

Here are some tips to get you started:

* Never go to a party hungry
* Bring something with you (that is a healthier dish and something everyone can enjoy)
* “Cheat” wisely
* If you’re the host or hostess plan for a couple of healthier options

Most importantly, know how many calories and fat are in typical holiday foods and choose wisely:

Passed appetizer plate:
1 pig in a blanket: 108 calories, 6.5 g fat
1 mini-quiche: 102 calories, 8 g fat
1 mini-crab cake (no sauce): 113 calories, 7 g fat
1 piece chicken satay with peanut sauce: 98 calories, 6.5 g fat

What to eat?
Chicken satay or any other grilled meats are good, just go extra light on the sauce. Freshly made pizza without a lot of cheese, meaty toppings or pesto can be good choices, too. Tuna tartare is a great option but if it’s served on a fried wonton or chip, avoid the chip!

Cold appetizer plate:
2 crackers (buttery), two 1-inch cubes of brie, two ¼-inch thick slices pepperoni: 202 calories, 16 g fat
5 carrot sticks or baby carrots, 5 celery sticks, 3 Tbsp. creamy dip: 291 calories, 27 g fat
Small handful (1/4 cup mixed sweet spiced nuts): 329 calories, 24 g fat
Total for these few pick-ables: 822 calories, 67 g fat

What to eat?
Look for shrimp cocktail. It’s super lean and low in fat if dipped in cocktail sauce. Look for a cold-cut tray and go directly for the turkey. Also, veggies are great. Just be sure to go extra-light on the dip.

Dessert plate:
1 small piece of fudge (1/48th of a 13x9 inch pan): 219 calories, 10 g fat
1 iced cookie: 323 calories, 17 g fat
1 cheesecake bit (2-inch square): 171 calories, 12 g fat
Total for 3 pieces: 713 calories, 39 g fat

What to eat?
Go for the strawberries and other fruits. Indulge a bit by dipping a couple into the chocolate fondue, if it’s there. Un-iced gingerbread cookies are another option that are relatively light. A small piece of dark chocolate is another great option.

Bottom line: It’s all about awareness and a pre-gathering strategy.

* Think of what a portion would be at a normal meal. Ideally, for meals, you want to eat a protein about the size of a deck of cards, about ½-1 cup of a whole grain carbohydrate or some fruit and plenty of veggies. If you want to make party food your dinner, keep that picture in your mind and try to stick to it.
* If you’re eating before (highly recommended), pick the couple of things that you really love then have a couple of pieces. Don’t fill up or hit your daily intake.
* If you know you’re going to indulge, commit to spending more time in the gym that morning then eat light foods with lots of fiber and lean protein. Fill up with veggies before you get to the party and save your calories splurging for the party. Then stop when you’re full.
* It’s all about making conscious choices about what you choose to put in your mouth. Then eating small portions of your favorites isn’t such a big deal.


By Devin Alexander, Women's Health
updated 3:36 p.m. CT, Mon., Nov. 3, 2008

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