5 holiday food shockers (and what to eat instead)

'Tis the season of eggnog, Christmas cookies and decadent holiday drinks from Starbucks-at least in my house. 'Tis also the season when Americans put on half of our annual weight gain-two pounds a year-so give or take a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's. (Find out my secrets to putting off the holiday pudge here.)

It's no wonder our waistlines expand when you see just how calorie- and fat-laden some of our favorite holiday foods are (check them out below). And for those who refuse to give up those holiday favorites (for my husband, it's eggnog and for me it's holiday cookies!), try some of the healthier versions I suggest below.

1. Eggnog: One recipe I found online had 600+ calories and about 40 grams of fat in just half a cup. A Starbucks 16-ounce eggnog latte has 500 calories-that's almost twice the calories of a regular-size (2-ounce) Snickers bar. Instead, try this eggnog recipe for just 142 calories and 4 grams of fat.
2. Pecan Pie: Pecans are chock-full of vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy fats. But a single slice of pecan pie can boast upwards of 500 calories and 30 grams of fat. Try these pecan tartlet cookies instead-they have all the flavor of pecan pie at a fraction of the calories.
3. Creamed Onions: A few co-workers of mine grew up with creamed onions on their holiday table. I tried them for the first time this year-and they're delicious-but "traditional" recipes often have over 200 calories and 10-plus grams of fat. Fortunately, these creamed onions have half the calories and fat, but they're still big on flavor!
4. Champagne Cocktail: Depending on the "recipe," this is another holiday treat that can contain 200-plus calories. Keep your party festive without tipping the calorie scale with this refreshing Pomegranate Champagne Punch for just 128 calories.
5. Latkes: It's a Hanukah tradition to fry latkes in hot oil, but I don't know anyone who wants 10 grams of fat in a single latke. These 100-calorie potato latkes contain only 4 grams of fat.

Crispy Potato Latkes


  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, (about 2), shredded
  • 1 medium white onion, shredded
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 pieces whole-wheat matzo, (6-by-6-inch), broken into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil, divided


1. Toss shredded potato, onion, shallots and salt in a medium bowl. Transfer to a sieve set over a large bowl; let drain for about 15 minutes. Squeeze the potato mixture, a handful at a time, over the bowl to release excess moisture (don't oversqueeze-some moisture should remain). Transfer the squeezed potato mixture to another large bowl. Carefully pour off the liquid, leaving a pasty white sediment -potato starch-in the bottom of the bowl. Add the starch to the potato mixture. Stir in egg.

2. Put matzo pieces in a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin into coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs and pepper over the potato mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until the matzo is softened, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir the potato mixture. Cook 4 latkes per batch: place 1/4 cup potato mixture in a little of the oil and press with the back of a spatula to flatten into a 3 1/2-inch cake. Cook until crispy and golden, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the latkes to the prepared baking sheet. Continue with 2 more batches, using 1 tablespoon oil per batch and reducing the heat as needed to prevent scorching. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Makes 12 latkes.


Per latke: 100 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 18 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 204 mg sodium; 278 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (20% daily value).

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.

Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.

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