It's the same struggle every year. You walk into a holiday party and you're greeted by the hostess, who encourages you to dig into the huge spread of tasty hors d'oeuvres. But how can you enjoy the evening without going overboard? It is possible! By focusing on popular party snacks that have health-boosting benefits, you can savor the season and drop pounds. Photo by iStock.
Cheese Full-fat cheese is packed with protein, so a small amount will satisfy you quickly, which means eating some of the real deal (versus lowfat or fat-free) may actually help you lose weight. Choose hard, full-flavor cheeses like Parmesan or aged Gouda, because their sharp taste helps you conquer cravings fast. These cheeses are slightly higher in calories than soft ones like Brie, but they have more protein. Stick with 1 oz-or four to five small cubes-per day.
Champagne At 100 calories per 5-oz serving, champagne is one of the few naturally low-calorie beverages you can always reach for without counting calories in your head. But stick to just one glass per evening: Because of the carbonation, your body will absorb champagne faster, which means you'll feel the effect sooner than with other alcoholic beverages.
Roasted Nuts The ideal pairing for a happy hour cocktail, nuts are full of fiber, which can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. They are high in calories, so use this rule to avoid overdoing it: Take a small handful and put it on your plate at the beginning of a party. Munch on that amount instead of grabbing nuts throughout the evening.
Festive nuts (16 servings)
Toss 1 cup each of almonds, walnuts and pecans + 3 Tbsp olive oil + 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce + 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary + a pinch of red pepper flakes, sea salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350°F on a baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes.
Dark Chocolate Truffles Dark chocolate is loaded with blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering antioxidants. And new research finds that those antioxidants can also boost your mood and calm your body's stress response (helpful for those frustrating in-law moments!). Aim for one truffle-or two squares of dark chocolate containing 70% (or higher) cocoa-per day.
Red Wine A recent study found that moderate consumption of red wine (one 5-oz glass per day for women) may help ward off weight gain thanks to piceatannol, a compound that experts think might slow fat cell growth. So if you prefer wine to bubbly, stick with one glass per evening and sip slowly.
Shrimp Cocktail This seafood appetizer is high in protein and omega-3 fats, which means it can help you stay fuller longer and help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. The best part: It's also low in calories. You can fill up on nine medium shrimp for just 50 calories.
Spinach-Artichoke Dip A small portion of a rich dip that contains fat can help boost satiety and curb hunger hormones, which means you'll fill up quicker on less. Also, consider what you're pairing with an indulgent dip: Load an appetizer plate full of low-calorie and fiber-filled vegetables. Cap your intake at two medium-size spoonfuls of dip per party. Try this spinach-artichoke dip recipe.
Related: See the best peanut butter brands.
3 Rules to Stay Slim This Holiday Season
1 STOP SKIPPING MEALS If you forgo food during the day to save up for a big party in the evening, think again. Skipping meals (or even just an afternoon snack) slows down your metabolism and may actually encourage you to overeat by sundown.
2 BALANCE WITH LIGHTER CHOICES If you know that dinner will be heavier than usual, keep your day's food fresh and healthy. Try this ideal menu: a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and diced apple for breakfast, and a filling salad with grilled chicken at lunch.
3 WATER, SLEEP AND EXERCISE Sounds simple, but these habits are extremely important to keep you on track throughout a hectic season. Less of any of them can lead to unwanted weight gain. Your goal: Aim for six 8-oz glasses of water per day, 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night and 30 minutes or more of exercise at least three times a week.
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