The Hidden Calories in "Healthy" Party Food

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockBy Corrie Pikul

There are nutritious snacks at a holiday party, and there are foods that only seem nutritious. We sort the naughty from the nice.


At every party you attend this year, there will be cheese. And around every cheese plate, there will be guests who don't realize how much of it they're eating. Tracy Gensler, a Best Life nutritionist, says this is one of the most common party mistakes she sees. An 80-calorie portion of cubes, slices or a spread is only about the size of two AA batteries, she says, and most people eat three to five times that amount (in case you're wondering, the calcium benefits are outweighed by the high fat content). The truth is, Gensler says, a once-a-year splurge probably isn't going to cause too much damage. But given the number of parties you'll attend this year at the homes of fromagophile hosts, it's best to be Cheddar-aware.

RELATED: Ways to Avoid Stress Eating During the Holidays

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockVegetable Platters

We park ourselves next to the crudités thinking: "Vegetables. Plain, naked vegetables. This is what we shall eat-and only this." But before we know it, we've consumed hundreds of calories of dip. "Party dips are never low fat," says Gensler-unless you make them yourself using a healthier recipe (like one of these). When you're at someone else's party, fill your plate with bell pepper strips, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks. Now add a scoop of dip the size of an ice cube. Your plate can literally overflow with vegetables (and you can go back as often as you'd like), says Gensler, but you're stuck with one serving of dip, so ration accordingly.

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Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockMixed Nuts

The nuts you come across at parties shouldn't be confused with the good-for-you almonds you snack on at home. Those nuts on the bar have probably been roasted in oil or doused in salt, or they've been candied with lots of sugar. Gensler advises limiting your portion size of all nuts (peanuts or cashews, gussied up or plain) to about two tablespoons, or the amount that just covers the palm of your hand.

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Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockPetite Vegetable Appetizers

Miniature spinach-and-mushroom quiches seem healthier than miniature Cheddar-and-bacon quiches-look at all those green flecks!-but Gensler says the nutritional value of the vegetables is low compared to the mega-fattening butter, eggs and cheese. Here's another factor to keep in mind: A recent study showed that foods we consider to be sensible diet choices seem less satisfying than those we think of as decadent. This has the effect of making us eat even more of the "better" choice (i.e., the veggie apps) than we would of the indulgent ones. These mini quiches are 80 to 120 calories each, and that can quickly add up if you're eating them like carrot sticks. If you really want the Cheddar-and-bacon version, have one or two-and make it a point to savor those bites.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Survive Holiday Parties Without Gaining Weight

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockBruschetta

A tiny piece of bread, some tomatoes, some olive oil-sounds like a something a fit Italian would eat, but this appetizer may be much higher in fat than you realize. Gensler suggests checking for a telltale shine on the top and bottom of the bread; that will give you a sense of how oily it is. A teaspoon of olive oil has about 45 calories, and the bread is another 40-that's over 80 calories before you even get to the toppings.

RELATED: Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockChicken Skewers with Dipping Sauce

Gensler says that chicken skewers are an excellent source of lean protein. It's the condiment you need to use sparingly. The peanut dips at parties can be excessively oily and very high in fat, and teriyaki or soy sauces are loaded with sodium. She suggests dipping a quarter of the skewer in the sauce (no double-dunking!) or eating the meat plain.

RELATED: Stir! Mix! Bake! Give! 13 Easy, Homemade Holiday Treats

KEEP READING: 3 More "Healthy" Party Foods That Have More Calories Than You Think

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