Simple holiday diet tips for when it matters most

The holiday season can be one of the most challenging times of the year to stick to a healthy diet. With endless holiday parties and family get-togethers, it’s a question of will power, for sure, but it’s also about making small, yet effective changes to cut calories when you can. Joy Bauer, nutrition and health expert for the TODAY Show, stopped by The Shine to give our viewers realistic diet tips for the three holiday sweet spots: hors d’oeuvres, beverages, and dessert. Joy’s general rule of thumb is to follow her “rule of one” meaning enjoy one of each delicious appetizer, one plate of food, one alcoholic beverage, and one dessert. Harder said than done? If so, adhere to her advice below for more simple ways to curb calories at your next holiday soiree.


Dessert, especially for ladies, is a real treat, and it’s very hard to pass it up no matter how full we may be (right ladies?). It often feels like there’s a separate compartment for dessert, but to get our sweet fill, doesn’t mean we have to down a giant piece of cake. Follow Joy’s simple dessert tips:

  • Cut off the end of the pie crust and save 100 calories
  • Leave the top layer of frosting and save 150+ calories
  • Opt for a hot cappuccino instead – lasts longer than a slice of cake, and fewer calories
  • Skip the fudge – it’s one of the worst options! A tiny 1.5-inch square has 220 calories!
  •  A frosted holiday sugar cookie is a better choice at around 150 calories
  • Be selective with your splurges. Save them for delicious homemade treats or traditional favorites – and skip the stuff that isn’t extra special


Ladies love their festive, sugary cocktails but those can be packed with sugar. Treat them as a dessert instead of just a cocktail. Joy recommends alternating every other alcoholic drink with a club soda with lime. Not only will it help pace you, it also looks like a cocktail so you feel like you’re being social. Joy suggests any of the following options for 120 calories or less:

  • Glass of wine/champagne, light beer, shot of liquor with club soda and splash of fruit juice (i.e. vodka with club soda and cranberry juice, or, gin with club soda and grapefruit juice & lime)
  • A 5oz glass of wine actually has less than 4 grams of carbs and only about 1-gram sugar, which surprises most people.
  • A light beer only has 6 grams carbs (the lower calorie count in light beers comes from slashing carbs, not alcohol)

[Related: Healthy Options For Holiday Comfort Foods]


Joy emphasizes to look for options with produce or lean protein. For instance, if you see a veggie platter, gravitate right towards it, but watch out for the dips. Spinach and artichoke dip is one of the worst – it may sound healthy because of the vegetables, but it can have up to 200 calories in a measly ¼-cup scoop. The best dips are spicy mustard and salsa and a close second is hummus, guacamole, and bean dip.

Other appetizers to grab include chicken skewers, shrimp with cocktail sauce, sushi, or cold salmon (enjoy with produce like on a cucumber round or wrapped around bell pepper stick instead of on high-cal crackers/toast).

Some appetizers that pack a calorie punch, but that may surprise you, are a single cheese and cracker which has 150-200 calories. The same goes for mixed nuts, which are healthy but easy to overeat; a 1/2 cup of nuts, which is about two handfuls, is 340 calories!

Do you have any diet secrets for the holiday seasons? Let us know in the comments below.

For more great nutrition and diet tips from Joy, keep up with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at

In this episode Allison's Wardrobe is provided by:

Sweater, A Pea In The Pod
Pants, Hudson Jeans
Ring, Melanie Auld Designs -
Shoes, Aldo

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