Parties and get-togethers with your nearest and dearest are a typical fixture of the holidays. And food is not only one of the main focal points of these meetings but also a great source of temptation too. So it's a good idea to know which foods and drinks are best to be avoided or eaten in moderation.
Rather than obsessing about counting calories, it's better to stay alert and be aware that some healthy-looking dishes are suprisingly unhealthy. Knowing the ingredients of every dish – sweet or sour – is a good technique to help you work out which ones you can indulge and which are better to avoid.
Temptation comes in many forms at this time of year, so to help avoid post-holidays regret, we will point out key culprits on the potentially guilt-laden tables. But above all, remember that nothing should be consumed in excess.
Appetizers and false healthy options
Go through your options a few times. You may find dishes that look healthy on first glance but are actually a calorific trap. Let's take artichoke or spinach dips and nut mixes as an example.
Artichokes on their own are very healthy and are packed full of great nutrients such as vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. But those benefits are drowned when cream cheese and mayonnaise are thrown into the mix. Every spoonful of this type of dip has around 50 calories – that's without including the cracker or bread that often goes along with it. If you can't resist trying it, then combine the artichokes with crunchy carrots or celery and skip the crackers.
Nuts, meanwhile, are rich in healthy fats, fibre, protein and essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, calcium plus some B vitamins and vitamin E. They can be high in salt, so eat in moderation.
Crab tartlettes are another dish that might look healthy on first glance but are often fried in oil and topped-off with mayonnaise. A better alternative would be something lighter like a prawn cocktail salad.
A common appearance at holiday parties are appertizers wrapped up in pastry – often filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. The fillings might be healthy but the outside is not as it's usually prepared with butter and trans fat. It's probably best to avoid these completely as they can be quite addictive too. Let's face it: Once you start, you'll struggle to stop!
Meatballs are another dish to be wary of. They tend to have a high fat content – plus, they are often deep fried in oil, increasing their unhealthy fat content and calories.
Portions of cheese are a common fixture at holiday get-togethers, however, you'll want to eat them in moderation as they generally have a high-fat and calorie content. Combine a small amount of cheese with grapes and vegetables and again – skip the crackers!
What's more traditional than an egg nog at this time of year? Nothing! While you might be tempted to toast the season with this iconic drink, you must bear in mind that one glass contains 300 calories – thanks to its decadent combination of eggs, cream and sugar. Add in a liquor and you're looking at 450 calories per glass... A way to not miss out on this tradition is to use skimmed milk and less eggs than the recipe specifies.
Cocktails are another holiday favorite. Between their combination of alcohol and high sugar content, cocktails are best to be avoided, as much as possible. Beer and wine have less calories but are not exactly the healthiest option either. Drinking plenty of water is a good way of staying hydrated and avoiding the over-consumption of these festive spirits!
Sweet treats abound this time of year and are a huge source of temptation. Decorated, filled or iced, they are delicious but a terrible enemy to our waistline! Eat in moderation or share with loved ones – after all – that is what the holidays are all about!