10 High Calorie Holiday Foods to Watch Out For

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 11:36am

By Erica Lesperance, RD, LD

Traditional holiday recipes were originally made from the most delicious ingredients as a way to celebrate the special holiday season. These ingredients include butter, heavy cream, nuts, meats, and preserves. The creation of the recipes predated the American obesity epidemic, but today people are more aware of the sometimes shocking calorie and fat content of these dishes. Some people choose to ignore this information and deal with the consequences of their consumption after the first of the year. However, pounds gained during the holiday season are often never lost, so it is worth being conscious of the following high-calorie holiday dishes so you can practice some waistline damage control.

10 high-calorie holiday foods

1.   Turkey- Dark Meat and Skin - moist due to fat content

The moist texture of a turkey's dark meat and the intense flavor of its skin are due to the high fat content in both. Just 4 ounces of dark meat turkey with some skin provides 250 calories and 13 grams of fat, while 4 ounces of white meat without skin only has 150 calories and 1 gram of fat.

2.   Mashed potatoes can be loaded with fat

Despite the claims of low-carb dieters everywhere, potatoes are not the enemy. Standing alone, potatoes are actually a low calorie, fat-free food. However, traditional holiday mashed potato recipes call for generous amounts of butter, cream, and sometimes even cheese. Loaded up with these heavy ingredients, mashed potatoes can reach a whopping 470 calories per 1-cup serving.

3.   Gravy made with fat drippings increases your calorie intake

As if the mashed potatoes and turkey didn't do enough damage, we often like to top it all with gravy made from the bird's fat drippings. Pour ¾ cup of gravy over your plate, and you'll add 375 calories.

4.   Candied sweet potatoes equal a high-calorie sweet

Sweet potatoes are an extremely nutritious vegetable that needs very little interference to make it taste heavenly. But the tradition of candying sweet potatoes, which means adding brown sugar and butter, turns this nutritious treat into a high-calorie sweet. And when we top it with marshmallows, we increase the calories to an incredible 400 calories from just a ¾ cup serving!

5.   Stuffing - absorbs the fat

Traditionally, stuffing is cooked inside the turkey where it absorbs much of the fat from the bird. Whether made from corn bread or white bread, it often contains high-fat ingredients such as butter, sausage, and nuts, averaging about 340 calories per 1 cup serving.

6.   3 potato latkes can be as much as 400 calories!

A traditional Hanukkah dish, potato latkes are patties of shredded potato held together with matzo and egg that is fried in a generous amount of oil. They are often served with applesauce and/or sour cream. Three latkes with 1 tablespoon of sour cream on each pack over 400 calories.

7.   Eggnog - not good for weight nor your arteries

This rich and creamy holiday drink is not for the weak of heart. At 350 calories and 19 grams of fat (11 of which are saturated) per 8-ounce serving, over-consumption of this holiday treat packs on pounds and clogs arteries.

8.   Prime Rib - the prime means fat!

While ham is a more traditional choice for a holiday dinner, those opting for something more upscale may choose prime rib. Unfortunately, this cut of meat is called "prime" because it contains 35-45% fat, which is the highest of all cuts. A 4-ounce serving of prime rib contains about 425 calories. But let's face it - nobody eats 4 ounces of this succulent cut of meat. A more common serving size is at least 8 ounces, which delivers a hefty 850 calories.

9.   Peanut brittle in moderation to avoid weight gain

While peanuts contain good fat, they are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation. Add butter and corn syrup (sugar) to peanuts and you have peanut brittle, which packs 485 calories into a 3.5 ounce serving.

10.   Pecan pie - a generous serving can be 800 calories!

Same story as the peanut brittle with the addition of a flaky, buttery crust. A generous serving of pecan pie can top out at 800 calories!

Minimizing the holiday food damage

Indulging in even moderate quantities of these high-calorie foods regularly throughout the holiday season can wreak havoc on your waistline. Of course it is possible to purchase or prepare healthier versions of the above foods, but you may not be involved in their preparation. Even if your host doesn't take any calorie-cutting measures, just being aware of the dishes that are highest in fat and calories will help you make better choices and eat smaller quantities.

Four tips to keeping calorie intake down at the holiday table

To make sure you do not go overboard, first pick your favorites and skip anything that does not look amazing. There are always too many options-you do not have to eat one of everything.

Second, take smaller portions than you are used to since these are rich foods and it will certainly not take much to fill you up.

Third, limit yourself to one helping. If you are tempted to go back for more, wait 20 minutes, by which time you will probably feel too full.

Finally, eat slowly and savor every bite. The holidays are a time of feasting and celebrating, and you should be able to enjoy some special treats with your friends and family. Just enjoy them mindfully.

For further tips on eating sensibly during the holidays to avoid weight gain see the following article from TheDietChannel: 10 Tips for Preventing Holiday Weight Gain, 10 Ways to Prevent Thanksgiving Weight Gain, Holiday Parties: How to control eating?, Savvy Eating at Holiday Parties and Holiday Eating: How To Avoid Gaining Weight during the Holidays.