holiday weight gainIt is so easy to overeat and drink at holiday gatherings; the appetizers alone can give more calories than we need in a whole day! Think cheese and crackers, bacon wrapped _____________ (fill in the blank), mini-quiches, delicious little puffed pastries filled with cheese, sausage, and maybe a little spinach, chips and dip….. These are 50 to 100 calories per bite! It is definitely possible to lighten up your holiday party offerings, and still have delicious and fun treats. Stick to just a couple of those calorie laden delicacies,but  have several waist friendly options. Here are a few ideas of things you can serve at your own gathering or bring to a party. You want to have something you can eat a significant amount of without breaking the calorie bank.

Holiday Popcorn!

Popcorn is a great bargain in both cost and calories! This recipe is about 40 calories/cup and costs pennies to make (about 3 to 5 cents/cup). Compare to any type of chips at around 150 calories, and 20-30 cents per cup.

Make homemade popcorn in a popper or on the stove.

  • 1 tablespoon oil (I like to use peanut oil)
  • 3/4 cup popcorn kernals
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oil in popcorn popper or large, heavy pan on stove with a two-three kernals in it. Once those kernals pop, add the rest of the popcorn and pop. If using a pan on the stove, take pan off heat to add kernals and make sure they are evenly spread over bottom of pan; shake the pan every few seconds to keep already popped corn from sticking and burning. When no longer hearing popping, turn off popper  or take pan off heat. Popping corn in oil is going to give more flavor than air popping and going to allow for seasonings to stick to it.

Makes about 20 cups of popcorn, 40 calories per cup

Source: Lori Brizee MS, RDN, LD, CDE; with pan popping technique from  my niece, Chelsea Roe

Nuts in the Shell

Yes, nuts are fairly high in calories, BUT, it is close to impossible to overeat on nuts when you have to crack them and dig them out of their shell. Have a bowl of mixed nuts, in the shell, with a couple of nut crackers and picks on your table, with a bowl for shells sitting next to it. The nuts look very festive, and people enjoy them.

Source: your nearest nut farmer!

Fruit Plate

Fresh fruit arranged on a platter is always beautiful and will be a hit with your holiday guests of all ages. Oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, apples, grapes, mango….garnish with fresh cranberries or fresh or frozen blueberries sprinkled over the sliced fruit plus a couple mint leaves.

Veggie Plate

The varieties of veggies that can go on your veggie platter are endless, carrots, cucumber, radishes, jicama, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers….. Have a large veggie plate with a couple of different dips. Here are a few recipes. You can find all sorts of dip recipes on the internet, be creative!

Great dips that you can serve with veggies

veggies market

Baba Gha-Hummus

“I noticed, when looking at my favorite recipes for hummus and baba ghanoush, that they were quite similar, so I combined the two making a large amount of dip with half the work.  I make this dish for parties.  Leftovers are great for snacks and sandwiches (especially served in a pita with lettuce and roasted peppers).”  –Helena Scheffer, Beaconsfield, Quebec

1         large eggplant
3         tablespoons Tahini (sesame-seed paste)
Option: substitute  1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil for 1 Tbsp Tahini
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin
1         teaspoon ground coriander
3/4    teaspoon salt
1/8    teaspoon ground red pepper
2        garlic cloves, chopped
1        (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1.  Preheat oven to 375º
2.  Pierce eggplant with a fork.  Place eggplant on a jelly roll pan.  Bake at 375º for 30 minutes or until tender.  Cool and peel, discard skin.
3.  Combine eggplant, tahini, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.  Yield: 2 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup)

Source: Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003, Oxmoor House, Inc; 2002; p 117

Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Herbs Dip

Mushrooms are a staple in my kitchen.  I enjoy the earthy, almost meatlike quality that they add to dishes.  As often as not, I serve them as the main event, rather than simply as an ingredient.  This mushroom spread goes together very quickly.  If you don’t have both fresh oregano and thyme on hand, use dried and chop them with the fresh parsley.  This technique rehydrates the herbs with the parsley juices and helps bring out their flavors.

2     cups chopped or sliced white button mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
4     tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1      garlic clove, crushed through a press
1      tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2  teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2  teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves or 1/8 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
2      tablespoon rinsed, drained, finely diced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

1.  In a medium skillet, cook the mushrooms, onion and 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, parsley, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper; cook for an additional 1 minute. Cool slightly.
2.  Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.  With the motor running, gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.

Source: Marie Simmons Fresh & Fast: Inspired Cooking for Every Season and Every Day, Chapters Publishing Ltd, Shelburne, VT, 05482, 1996,  p 26

Creamy Salad Dressing or Dip

1/2 cup low fat Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup nonfat or low fat plain Greek Yogurt
Option: Omit cottage cheese and use 1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Real Mayonnaise
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried Dill Weed
1/4 teaspoon Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Onion powder
1/4 teaspoon Paprika
1/8 teaspoon dry Mustard
Black pepper to taste

If using cottage cheese, put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If using just yogurt and no cottage cheese, just put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a fork.

Source: Lori S Brizee, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, Central Oregon Nutrition Consultants



For many people, calorie laden drinks are  the greatest contributor to excess intake and weight gain. Plus, when we drink alcohol, we tend to become less inhibited in our eating. Here is a little info about what’s in your drink:

  • 5 ounces dry table wine: 110 calories,
  • 12 ounce beer: 150-200 calories (darker beers are higher in calories),
  • 12 ounce “lite beer”: 100 calories.
  • 1 ½ ounce hard liquor: 105 calories
  • 1 ½ ounce liqueur: 150 to 190 calories.
  • One shot gin + 8 ounces of tonic water: 200 calories
  • 6 to 8 ounce sweet cocktails (e.g. pina-colada: 500-600 calories
  • 12 ounce regular soda: 150 calories
  • 12 oz of 100% fruit juice: 165 calories (orange juice) to 250 calories (Cranberry grape juice).

Here are a few lower calorie festive drinks, with and without alcohol

  • Sparkling water with fruited ice cubes: Freeze pureed fruit or juice in ice-cube trays with 1 raspberry or blueberry in each cube. Put 4 to 5 fruited ice-cubes in a glass and fill with sparkling water: 40-60 calories.
  • Sparkling water with a twist of lime, lemon or orange: 5-10 calories
    ¼ cup orange juice + ¾ cup sparkling water: 38 calories
  • Sparkling water with lemon and or lime + 1 -2 tablespoons of unsweetened cranberry juice: 5-10 calories
  • Gin and Tonic made with sugar free Tonic water: 105 calories
  • Wine Spritzer made with 2 to 3 ounces wine and sparkling water or sugar free 7-Up: 44 to 66 calories
  • 2 ounces fruit juice, mixed with 6 ounces Sugar Free 7-Up or Sugar Free Tonic Water: 28 to 42 calories
  • Pitcher of ice water with apple slices and cinnamon sticks, sliced lemons, limes, oranges, mint leaves and or cucumber slices in it.