"Healthy" Holiday Food to Avoid (And Healthier Foods to Eat Instead)

Find out which holiday foods you think are healthy and really aren't.

The holidays are here and with them come a multitude of parties. All of them, no doubt, will have a buffet table packed with delicious holiday treats.

Your tactic for avoiding temptation may be to steer clear of all the special treats and divert yourself with only healthy foods. Great in theory, but not so perfect in practice. Lots of foods that are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are also full of calories. And when you're mindlessly munching as you're mingling, those calories can add up fast.

Don't assume that just because something is healthy it is also low-cal. If you like the healthy treats that sometimes show up at holiday parties, that's great! Have them—in moderation. If you'd rather sample some of the special seasonal treats, just put two or three of the most delicious-looking hors d'oeuvres on your plate and enjoy. Before you head out to party, check out these surprisingly unhealthy holiday calorie bombs and better bets to choose instead.

—Nicci Micco, M.S., Content Director, Custom Publishing & Licensing


Mixed Nuts

Surprising Food to Avoid—Mixed Nuts

Yes, nuts of all kinds are full of heart-healthy fats and the various types provide good amounts of other nutrients too (e.g., calcium, folate, selenium, vitamin E). But grab a couple of small handfuls and you're easily getting a half cup—nearly 450 calories and 40 grams of fat!

Better bet: Go ahead and have one small serving of a spiced-nut mix that feels more like a treat.


Pictured: Ranch Dip & Crunchy Vegetables

Surprising Food to Avoid—Veggies with Ranch Dressing

Hanging near the crudité tray is a great way to keep calories in check—so long as you stay away from the ranch (or blue cheese) dressing, which delivers a devastating 150 calories and 16 grams of fat per two tablespoons. Yes, I said two tablespoons.

Better bet: If you're just eating to eat (not that I advocate that... but it happens), go for the vegetables, unadorned. Or put a small scoop of hummus on your plate. It has a more reasonable 50 calories and 3 grams of fat. Or try our healthier version of Ranch Dip & Crunchy Vegetables—one serving has just 61 calories and 1 gram fat.


Brie Cheese

Surprising Food to Avoid—Cheese and Crackers

On any ordinary day, you'd know that cheese is a high-fat, high-cal choice—but when those simple little cubes are sitting there amid all the holiday treats, they start to look like a good choice. Beware: If you grab five of those little 1-inch cubes, you've just housed 345 calories. Add a small handful of crackers to that and you're easily at 500 calories.

Better bet: If you truly want cheese and crackers, limit yourself to a few—say five crackers (about 80 calories) and top each with a very thin layer of a cheese spread (think: goat cheese or even cheese ball).


Spiced Cider

Surprising Food to Avoid—Spiced Cider

It's an office party and you're staying away from the spiked punch for various reasons. But if you're trying to be festive with a couple cups of spiced cider (240 calories), you're doing just as much damage as you would if you were having a glass of wine—from a calorie perspective anyway.

Better bet: Stick to 1 cup of cider, then switch to seltzer with lime.