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Nutrition Articles  ›  Seasonal & Holiday Tips

11 Holiday Foods You Can Enjoy without Guilt

Eat, Drink and Be Merry This Winter

-- By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian
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The holidays should be a cheerful time of year. But is the constant worry about making the "right" food choices making you feel less like a sugar plum fairy and more like a Grinch? Relax! You don't need to hibernate at home to avoid weight gain or food temptations. Resolve to eat, drink and be merry this season by focusing on all the healthy foods you CAN enjoy without guilt!

At holiday get-togethers, high-cal foods are par for the course. But you can also serve (as host) or bring along the following nutritious foods to please any guest's palate. Here are six healthy party foods that will fit in at any holiday gathering.

Bruschetta
Freshly cut tomatoes mixed with basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and a splash of olive oil on top of lightly toasted bread. Is your mouth watering yet? When made right, bruschetta (get the 84-calorie recipe here) becomes a light and nutritious appetizer that everyone loves to munch. Its tomatoes provide the phytochemical lycopene, and by swapping whole-grain bread for white bread, you'll boost the fiber content. Those benefits make this a snack worth relishing.

Artery-Loving Artichoke Dip
Who doesn't love a creamy artichoke dip? Most classic recipes are loaded with saturated fat and calories, but this quick recipe (66 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving) makes a rich tasting spinach dip perfect for fresh-cut veggies and whole-wheat rolls alike.

Baked Apples
There is nothing better than leaving the cold behind and entering a warm, cozy home filled with chatting friends and the smell of cinnamon-apples wafting through the air. Treat yourself and your friends or family to a winter delight with 70-calorie freshly baked apples during your next gathering. Naturally sweet apples pair well with cinnamon and just a dash of sugar (or calorie-free sweetener) for a healthy, low-cal dessert.

Sweet Potatoes
These orange, nutrient-packed root veggies are often used in rich pies and casseroles, but don’t forget about the lighter ways to enjoy them. Tasty sweet potatoes don’t need much to flavor them, thanks to mother nature. Get some fiber, vitamin A and plenty of antioxidants while you indulge (guilt-free!) in one of our earth's healthiest foods, with a recipe that doesn’t add extra fat and sugar. Enjoy them as chips, "fries" or mashed.

Lean Ham
A lean cut of ham can be the co-star on a healthful holiday dinner plate. Trimming any visible fat before cooking helps remove saturated fat, and flavoring your protein dish with fruit rather than brown sugar can also up the nutrition content of your meal. Pineapple and peaches both compliment the meat nicely. This flavorful entree is definitely easier on the calorie budget than fried poultry or high-fat roast beef.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • Oh my goodness, 166 GRAMS of cholesterol in shrimp? I hope you mean milligrams! - 12/25/2011 9:03:50 AM
  • It's interesting that this article 'gives permission' to enjoy shrimp as part of the holidays and yet, whenever I list them in my nutrition tracker, thus upping cholesterol consumption for the day, I get a major (virtual) lecture about avoiding cholesterol and making wiser food choices. Sigh.... - 12/12/2011 7:30:00 PM
  • I actually prefer sweet potatoes when they're treated like potatoes. I've never liked sweet potato pie, for instance or candied sweet potatoes. I just bake them. - 12/12/2011 11:21:46 AM
  • These are pretty solid ideas, especially the wine spritzer one. I love seltzer, yet I always forget about it when the alcohol comes along, so I always get "Grinch-y" because I feel like it's all or nothing: blow calories on a glass of wine, or feel left out because I'm not having any!

    My strategy with these kinds of things is pretty much the same: fill up on the lean meat and veggies, and then for dessert eat one portion of whatever looks the best. I do have to stay away from chocolate chip cookies, though, because they're a gateway for me. If I eat one, I'll eat until I'm sick. But with anything else, if I'm really, truly, fully satiated from meat and veggies, I won't want more than a bite of the sugary stuff anyway.

    I do second the comment about a little bit of dark meat. Quite honestly, every full turkey I've ever eaten has had breast that leaves me dissatisfied unless it's covered in gravy or cranberry sauce because it's so dry and flavorless. The only truly delicious turkey breast I've ever had is from when people (my parents, relatives, and myself included) have worked with just a turkey breast. The brined organic turkey breast my dad made this year was the best I ever had, so when I found an organic turkey breast in the grocery store after Thanksgiving, I snagged it and did the same and had two weeks' worth of fabulous leftovers. I'd eat turkey breast like that all the time!
    - 12/12/2011 10:14:54 AM
  • These are all great ideas. The only thing I would add is that while dark meat turkey may be higher in fat, it is also higher in flavor and juicier. Yes, the white meat is a healthier choice, but some dark meat is fine as well. And sweet potatoes - OH YUM. I totally agree, they are so good on their own they need nothing. - 12/26/2009 5:59:48 PM
  • BETWEENUS
    Some of these ideas wil be quite helpful on my second holiday dinner at the in-laws. They aren't as "aware" of their holiday offerings as my household. But their hearts are in the right spot. So, I can make a couple of suggestions for their upcoming party/dinner. - 12/17/2009 3:28:38 AM
  • I used to always provide a sweet potato casserole for the big meals. This year I found a great mashed sweet potato dish with thin apple slices on top & a few pecan pieces. I soaked the apples & nuts in maple syrup, add a little pumpkin pie spice & it turned out Great!!

    Thanks for the other ideas! - 12/15/2009 4:47:58 PM
  • usefull ideas I mean to try them - 12/15/2009 2:42:13 AM